Sunday, February 5, 2012

What is a "monster"?


Buzzfeed calls this series "ridiculous monsters." Let's excuse BF's lack of historical acumen at not mentioning provenance. 

My problem is that BF takes for granted that these "monsters" did not exist.


Take a look at this (some amongst these "freaks" belong in a prominent list!) *
Josephine Clofullia (the so-called "bearded lady of Geneva")
It boils down to a distorted interpretation of the past, blindspotting our present. It happens by design, i.e., our current antiseptic idea of "normality."

The Swiss manuscript, on the other hand, presents a rational treatment of the issue,

Switzerland, 1557
The title reads "Chronicle of Omens and Portents from the beginning of the world up to these our present times," (Switzerland, 1557). The Chronicon is dramatic & naive in its quasi-scientific approach. We are looking at early anthropology! The shift in perception of how to understand these human types changes, from 16th century "portents" to 19th century "freaks" (i.e, curiosities in the circuses of Europe and America).

Today's political correctness works in a perverse way: we don't call these people "freaks" anymore. In fact, we don't have a word for them. And yet, we think 16th century illustrators were, as Buzzfeed calls them, "fucked up"?   
*Thanks to J. Tithonus Pednaud for The Human Marvels, a formidable research/site!