Freak Show

FSSome of us went to this, though not as a group.

I am not a fan of camp.  In fact, I usually detest it. But there was something abut this film that made me want to go and see it.

In a film about stereotypes, there are lots or stereotypes and also unlikely scenarios but you can’t beat the feel-good factor.

Based on the award-winning cult novel by legendary club kid James St. James, Freak Show is a wonderfully queer fish out of water high school comedy/drama about a gay teen. ‘The nail that sticks out gets hammered down’, his father warns him. That does not deter Billy from deciding to run for homecoming queen.

Born to be fierce and fashion-forward, Billy is sent to stay with his dad after his party-loving mother checks in to rehab. His flamboyant Oscar Wilde-meets-Boy George style doesn’t go down too well at his new school, and he makes an enemy out of the self-appointed mean girl when he decides to go up against her (an evangelical classmate) for the crown of Homecoming Queen.

I had to look up Homecoming = an annual tradition in the United States. People, towns, high schools, and colleges come together, usually in late September or early October, to welcome back alumni and former residents. It is built around a central event, such as a banquet or dance and, most often, a game of American football, or, on occasion, basketball, ice hockey, or soccer. When celebrated by schools, the activities vary widely. However, they usually consist of a football game played on a school’s home football field, activities for students and alumni, a parade featuring the school’s choir, marching band, and sports teams, and the coronation of a homecoming queen (and at many schools, a homecoming king). A dance commonly follows the game or the day following the game. When attached to a football game, homecoming traditionally occurs on the team’s return from the longest road trip of the season. The game itself, whether it be football or another sport, will typically feature the home team playing a considerably weaker opponent. The game is supposed to be an “easy win” and thus weaker schools will sometimes play lower division schools.

When others call him theatrical, he takes it as a compliment; when his classmates feel provoked by his drive to be different, it only motivates him further.The storytelling, like Billy’s eye shadow, tends towards broad brushstrokes. Styler is particularly fond of slow-motion sashay shots in which Billy showcases his latest outfits in front of the gawping bigots.

In one strange scene, former bad boy of tennis John McEnroe turns up on screen, playing the school’s PE teacher. “You’re supposed to me a man,” he yells at Billy, who pays not the blindest bit of attention.

Bette Midler did not want to do another film and repeatedly turned down offers to appear in Freak Show. She was finally convinced to at least read the script and immediately said “I’ll do it.”

The narrative of Billy and his campaign to be homecoming queen definitely seems like something that could be based on real events, however it isn’t based on a true story. Freak Show is actually based on the best-selling novel by of the same name by James St. James. A description of the book notes that Billy is gay “but it’s mostly theoretical,” considering he hasn’t had many romantic encounters. In the book, and movie, Billy moves to the south, and as someone in the trailer says, he’s “in a red state now.” That brings about a whole bunch of cultural changes for Billy, and he’s suddenly surrounded by a more stereotypical high school experienced filled with cliques and bullying.

Being different as a teen can be awful. Sticking out like a sore thumb is not really something you want when you have raging hormones, acne, and are trying to discover who you are. Unfortunately, not conforming to the gender binary and not being straight is a good way to stick out. It’s also attracts some of the worst bullying, which is seen in Freak Show’s trailer. In fact, one quote that sticks out in the two-minute trailer is “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”

The teacher who turned a blind eye to the bullying shouldn’t/wouldn’t get way with it now.

‘Being fabulous, no: being relentlessly fabulous is damn hard work. I should know. I’ve dedicated my life to the pursuit of it.’

“I am going to take you on a little ride I call my life”

Dr. Vickers: Your son has multiple abrasions , contusions, concussions , organ trauma and hemorrhaging that we need to keep an eye on.

Billy Bloom: Well, I guess they didn’t like the dress.
Flip Kelly: You look awesome

Billy Bloom: Seriously? Four hours in hair and makeup. I’ve been preened, plucked and bustiered so tightly that my toes are turning blue, and “Awesome”?… No. I look Atlantastic

Flip Kelly: Okay, Atlantastic. Why’d you run away after class today?

Billy Bloom: I didn’t run. I was chased

Flip Kelly: Oh. We’re making progress, right? I mean, you’re not getting beamed in the head anymore

Billy Bloom: Am i not?

 

[First lines] Billy Bloom: Sometimes, I dream I can fly. But I’m *so* exhausted from flapping my wings and the higher I soar, it reminds me of how little I fit in with them on the ground. So, I rise and I rise and… I realize that I don’t wanna fly anymore. They never knew what they were looking up at anyway.

 

William: I’m here.

Billy Bloom: I’m queer.

 

We are all freaks. Yes! Alone in our rooms at night, we are all weirdoes and outcasts and losers. That is what being a teenager is all about! Whether you admit it or not, you are all worried that the others won’t accept you, that if they knew the real you, they would recoil in horror. Each of us carries with us a secret shame that we think is somehow unique…And if we are, each of us, freaks – then can’t we accept what’s different in each other and move on?”

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