“The Last American Freakshow” and the BAFTA Controversy

“The Last American Freakshow” is a movie (still in progress), that follows a traveling freakshow. Disabled film-maker Richard Butchins says in his own words: “I filmed the elephant man, the dwarf, a giant, a pair of lobster people, the half woman, a clown and a jumble of jug band musicians. On tour in a 20 year old school bus, travelling 2500 miles across America, the ‘freaks’ worked their way through the wild west. Laughing, crying and drinking – a carnival of the damned – searching for a home…”

Originally the British Academy of Film and Television Arts was going to show the film at their awards ceremony. After deciding that the film wasn’t “politically correct”, they backed out of the agreement, and chose to show “Lars and The Real Girl” instead. According to Butchins’ blog: “the kicker is this: BAFTA offered to show ‘Lars and the real girl’ as an alternative to my film. For those of you that don’t know ‘Lars and the real girl’ is a Hollywood comedy about an able bodied man who has a life sized doll as a girl friend. It’s a good film but hardly a film that prompts debate or challenges the societal view of disability, let alone highlighting the problems of being a disabled film-maker – talk about insensitive….So, they are trying to use their PR company to stop them looking like the prejudiced tyrants that they are. I really don’t know why they have taken against my film in this way, it sort of defies understanding. I suspect, though, that right now they are more concerned about not wanting to be portrayed in the National Press as anti-minority, than with my film.”

In another post he states: […] “Freak carries, in some peoples minds, a pejorative meaning it means something bad. But is it? To be out of the mainstream isn’t necessarily a bad thing and meanings change over time. At one point in history having a black skin made you a freak and we think of that as ridiculous now. These performers are trying to bring an awareness of their ?normality’ to peoples attention through entertainment (it is, after all a ‘show’) and that’s a valid and worthwhile, if sometimes, challenging thing to watch. They deserve support not denigration for what they are doing. This film documents this and as a result is funny, entertaining and sometimes difficult, it makes you feel uncomfortable on occasion and encourages you to examine your preconceptions about disability and that’s the point. These characters are young and put themselves in your face – mostly people get it – but some figures in the media establishment can’t take it. Do the ?freaks’ have to be quiet little cripples and conform to stereotypical ideas of disabilty to be accepted. It would appear they do, that’s prejudice and prejudice always has a victim…”

They enjoy what they’re doing, and are paying their bills in the process. This should be celebrated. But, I suppose that those in the mainstream and the “politically correct” prefer them bagging our groceries and collecting carts. Or maybe they just expect them to stay out of sight all together. What a load of crap…

(via Cabinet Of Wonders)

(999 Eyes: Authentic Human Oddities Freakshow and their YouTube channel)


  1. Mr Butchins
    was a pleasure to work with, He handled the troupe like a pro, with his camera in his hands he followed us from Portland to LA then Slab City and we ended up in Austin TX where most of the troupe lives now.
    I been put down Most all of my life by rude comments to people pulling there kids away. and treating me like I have something they could catch. I have many true stories what I hope they are in the film.

    Can’t the mainstream Media chill the Freak out ,

    From being told by a National Television Program they wouldn’t interview me because they felt people would have a hard time understanding me

    Is Freak is the New dirty word of the 21 century.
    People should open there minds and don’t look at people who is deformed as a outcast they should welcome them with a hug and not eeew can I catch that. that is more hurtful than any name you can call someone.
    This film should be a lesson that disabled people have the same right as anyone else, and not be put aside in movies TV shows and when they use non disabled talent to play disabled. there is something wrong with that RAINMAN,
    peggo the leggo

  2. peggo my friend. You are correct.
    It couldn’t have been said better.

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