Before Katherine Dunn charmed the world with Geek Love twenty years ago, she had begun establishing a career writing about a different subset of society – the world of boxing. Last month she released an anthology of essays entitled One Ring Circus about this subculture she has come to know and love. Guernica magazine caught up with Dunn this month to discuss both works.
Like most any child of the 80′s, I must admit I do get really excited when I see that say the cast of Goonies was recently reunited or that Cameron Frye’s home from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is up for sale. I will watch I Love the 80′s whenever its on usually, even though I’ve seen all of the episodes already. There is no end to the enjoyment I continue to derive from reminiscing over the pop culture of my childhood.
So of course I was also excited to read about what the cast of Footloose is doing now. I was not so excited to find out there are plans to remake this 80′s favorite, possibly with Hayden Panettiere of Heroes fame, in the female lead. Unfortunately it seems Hollywood has decided that its time to recreate practically every eighties film that still holds a nostalgic flame, cult classic status or was even remotely successful the first time around. We have already seen the beginnings of this trend with the recent remake of Friday the 13th and it continues later on this year with the ressurection of Fame. Oh how I wish it ended there. But sadly the list goes on and on.
With all of the great new talent that has emerged out of Hollywood over the last 5-10 years, do we really need to revisit Arthur, the alcoholic womanizer, with this guy? Or even crazier yet, are audiences seriously begging to peer inside a 21st century Videodrome? If only there were some standards for remakes that everyone could agree upon. It would make my future rounds of “Remember when…” far less painful.
One of us! One of Us! One of Us!
Reading Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love for this month’s Genre X has gotten me thinking about the circus sideshows of the early 20th century. And that gets me thinking about Tod Browning’s cult classic, Freaks.
If you’ve never seen Freaks, you should run right out and add it to your Netflix queue (or your library hold list) right away. Filmed in 1932 with actual circus perfomers, Freaks is the story of a group of sideshow performers who take revenge on some of the “normal” performers after years of abuse. The original film shocked audiences and censors, and its original 90 minutes was cut down to just over an hour. The original footage is now considered lost.
Audiences were initially so uncomfortable with the deformity of the main players that the film was often banned, most notably in the UK where is was banned from viewing for 30 years. Freaks resurfaced as a cult hit in the 1960s and 70s, where it was frequently shown at Midnight Movie screenings. In 1994, the National Film Registry chose Freaks to be selected for preservation based on its cultural and historical significance.
If you’re interested in more film and television looks at circus life, you might also try:
Carnivale: the short lived HBO series about a traveling carnival during the Dust Bowl era.
The Elephant Man: the David Lynch directed film about a severely disfigured man who earns his living as a sideshow performer until a surgeon (Anthony Hopkins) attempts to give him a new life.
La Strada: Fellini’s early masterpiece features a girl who is sold to a traveling strongman by her destitute mother.
Something Wicked This Way Comes: Even though this film adaptation pales in comparison to the Bradbury book of the same name, I couldn’t leave the list without this story of a sinister traveling carnival and the town librarian forced to save the day.
Don’t forget to join us for our discussion of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love at 8pm on Tuesday, June 23 at Molly Malone’s in Forest Park.
This June, genre X is taking a plunge into the world of geeks with Katherine Dunn’s cult classic, Geek Love. Keep in mind, however, that these are not the same geeks lovingly portrayed in Judd Apatow’s darling television series, Freaks and Geeks. Instead, Dunn dreams up a family of carnies who’re at times hard to empathize with but entirely impossible to ignore. A synopsis, from Library Journal:
“Guiding us into the world of the grotesque, Dunn produces a novel of compassion, insight, and macabre humor. At its center are Al and Lil Binewski, carnival owners who breed freak offspring through drug use so that they can perform in the show. Over the years, this ghoulish process becomes the norm; indeed, as we share the experiences of the children, we find that for this close-knit family, a child’s signs of normalcy are seen as a real threat. What elevates this work is Dunn’s controlled, matter-of-fact narrative, her skillful character development, and her relentless insistence that we address these people and their concerns in human terms.”
Please join us on our journey into the horrifying and engrossing world of the Binewski family. And if you’re in the Chicagoland area, we’d love to see you at our discussion of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love at 8pm on Tuesday, June 23 at Molly Malone’s in Forest Park.