Monday, February 27, 2012

Freaks vs. Spurs: Interpretation of Characters

    In the short story written by Tod Robbins in 1923, Spurs, we follow the dog-riding circus performer midgit Jacques and his love for normal-sized horse back rider Jeanne Marie.  Upon having his marriage proposal accepted by her, he soon discovers that there is really know love from her and that all she wants is his money.  In the end, he finds a way to seek revenge by killing her ex-lover, Simon.  This story was later adapted into a feature length movie entitled: Freaks.

    In the short story, there is an overall theme of seeking revenge.  The reasoning behind why Jacques must seek revenge is clearly adressed within the story.  For one, there is a strong polarity between Jacques and Simon: Jacques is a dog-rider, pretending to be a brave horse-rider, whereas Simon is the real thing.  This point alone showcases an inevitable and innate jealously and hatred from Jacques to Simon.  So long as Jacques can have what he wants (in this case, Jeanne Marie) then there is no need to pursue this hatred of Simon, correct? Well, soon after the marriage proposal, it becomes evident that Jeanne Marie does not really love Jacques as she begins to make fun of him and take advantage of him at each and every moment.  Because of Jacques want coming into conflict, hatred and revenge towards Simon became an inevitable theme.

    In the film, Freaks, we get more of an odd and appalling atmosphere.  This is created by the addition of new characters who actually possess bodily defects.  The theme of the short film seems to revolve more around defending your kind.  In the short story, there is a sense of disconnect between each individual as they, for instance in the marriage dinner party scene, rant on egotistically about how people come to see only them.  This instills a sense that every character is fending themselves in this world.  In the film, we see the freaks come together as a whole against everyone else.  This is showcased in many scenes.  A great scene that stands out, however, is when all of the freaks crawl beneath the wagons, coming after Simon.

    All in all, the short story and the feature length film present new view points.  In Spurs we follow the story of a midgit seeking vengeance, whereas in the Freaks, we follow an even greater group- we follow freaks, as a whole, and their quest to defend one another in this harsh world where no one can understand them.


  1. I loved your point about how Spurs is about the singular struggle vs. Freaks which is more about the struggle of one kind vs. another. Do you think that the wagon scene is where the freaks and the "normal" humans are completely divided? Also, what about the two "normal" humans who seem to bridge the gap between the two groups? Do you think they are an important part of the story or are they just placeholders to make us feel more sympathy for the freaks.

    1. In continuation, I agree that hatred and vengeance is a promenant theme in the film, but I think that most of the revenge is driven by the need to stick up for people that you have things in common with. While revenge is often considered a solitary thing, I think that the film explores more of a dark "David/Goliath" feel than a traditional tale of vengeance story.

  2. I agree with your point about "Freaks" being a much more ensemble story. Your specific examples helped greatly to enhance your point. I found a similar comparison between the two, perhaps these changes are just a reflection of popular storytelling in their respective release years?

  3. Kira - Great short summary at the top. Gives us a quick what's up and throws us into your post!
    I like that you brought up the through lines in the story and the movie and how different they are. Do you think there's a reason that the film director felt he should take the story in a different direction? Do you think he planned this all along? Or do you think it was something the evolved over the course of making the film?
    In speaking about the freaks coming together as a whole--it might be helpful to bring up the direct (and famous) quote "One of Us" chant from the dinner scene!
    Great post!