From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Portrait of Antonietta Gonzales (ca. 1594-1595) by Lavinia Fontana
Portrait of Antonietta Gonzales (ca. 1594-1595) by Lavinia Fontana

"The true freak, however, stirs both supernatural terror and natural sympathy, since unlike the fabulous monsters, he is one of us, the human child of human parents, however altered by forces we do not quite understand into something mythic and mysterious, as no mere cripple ever is. Passing either on the street, we may be simultaneously tempted to avert our eyes and to stare; but in the latter case we feel no threat to those desperately maintained boundaries on which any definition of sanity ultimately depends. On the true Freak challenges the conventional boundaries between male and female, sexed and sexless, animal and human, large and small, self and other, and consequently between reality and illusion, experience and fantasy, fact and myth." --Freaks: Myths and Images of the Secret Self (1978) by Leslie Fiedler

Women are versatile, tough, and contain within their variability all that fall within the range of normal; men are freaks of nature, fragile, fantastic bizarre."--The Whole Woman (1999) by Germaine Greer, p.340

Baby, she turns out to be a natural freak
Popping pills and smoking weed

--"There but for the Grace of God Go I" (1979) by August Darnell

Blemmyes from Hartmann Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
Blemmyes from Hartmann Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)
The Ugly Duchess by Quentin Matsys
The Ugly Duchess by Quentin Matsys

Related e



A freak is a person who is physically deformed or transformed due to an extraordinary medical condition or body modification. This definition was first attested with this meaning in the 1880s as a shorter form of the phrase "freak of nature", itself a broader term attributed at least as far back as 1847. The term's original neutral connotation became entirely negative during the 20th century; therefore, freak with its literal meaning of "abnormally developed individual" is viewed purely as a pejorative today. However, the term is also recently used playfully to refer to an enthusiast or obsessive person.

Tod Browning's film Freaks tells the story of a traveling freakshow.



Freak saw usage as jargon by promoters and performers of freak shows, though its use in this sense has decreased along with the popularity of freak shows. One well-known example of this word was in reference to Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man." A natural freak would usually have been born with a genetic abnormality, while a self-made freak was a person who was altered artificially (with methods such as surgical implants).

The term has a variety of much more recent meanings. An example is something strikingly unusual about one's appearance or behavior. This usage originated from "freak scene" during the 1960s and 1970s, most famously promoted by the album Freak Out! made by the rock band The Mothers of Invention.

A recent usage of freak is as a synonym for enthusiast, such as a health freak; or referring to obsessive behavior, such as control freak.

In science

Freak is used in science to describe plants and animals with a genetic mutation.

In early science, there were many theories concerning the existence of natural abnormalities. Many of the theories led to pseudo-sciences that are still supported by some. One persistent pre-19th century superstition is that, if a pregnant woman is scared by someone or something, the child would be born with the quality of the source. (The widely accepted scientific theory regarding inherent qualities is that of mutation).

In religion

In some religions since ancient times, the birth of abnormal offspring has been associated with astrological events. Rues cited the recent solar eclipses as reason for the increased number of mutated infants born at that time. Karma is also believed in some eastern religions to be a cause of abnormalities. In other faiths, the cause is attributed to direct intervention by the will of God. Example of the usage of this term include, "smita you're a freak" and "smita you don't sleep so you're a freak."

Frank Zappa and the freak subculture

freak scene

The term "freaks" became much more widely and generally used in the late 1960s and early 1970s, often as a synonym for "hippies".

"Made freaks"

The word "freak" is also used these days by people who intentionally choose to alter their physical appearance by artificial means. The motivation for the change may be bravado, a lifestyle choice (an example of this is The Enigma, rockstar Marilyn Manson or the band Murderdolls), a reaction to a disfiguring accident, an attempt to stay young, or a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder. There are various types of "made freaks", each of which may be used to create an effect which would make the person a freak.

Pages linking in as of Nov 2021

A Temple of the Holy Ghost, Aachen Open Air Pop Festival, Albinism in popular culture, Angelo Faticoni, Anti-Romany sentiment, Bang Bang Machine, Big Questions, Captain Marvel (M. F. Enterprises), Carnival of Lost Souls, Charles Byrne (giant), Daniel P. Mannix, Facial hair, Freak (disambiguation), Freak of Nature (disambiguation), Freak scene, FREAK, Freaking, From Nine to Nine, Geek show, Geek, Gregory Mosher, Horace Ridler, I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha, Ilya Mikhalchuk, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, LaVeyan Satanism, List of disability-related terms with negative connotations, List of Disney's Hercules characters, Monster, Nathan Petrelli, Out from Under: Disability, History and Things to Remember, Passion Play (film), Patron the DepthMC, Peter Crouch, Phreaking, Pop music in Ukraine, RE/Search Publications, Resurrectionists in the United Kingdom, Robert Wadlow, Sealo, Spangle (novel), Swedish profanity, Taxidermy, The Big Book Of, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, The Twin (EP), The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, Un-Men, Velocity (novel), What It's Like Being Alone, X-Rated: The TV They Tried to Ban, Yertward Mazamanian

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Freak" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools