Outside of the cradles and altars of a little Floridian community, a tent of diversions and oddities beckons people inside. A ticket purchases a glimpse of people with malformed or mutilated bodies, the result of nature or nurture gone off-course: verily, it is an exhibition of helplessness or perversity. The carmel-corn-eating visitor may only visit the attractions once or twice until his curiosity found no more fill from food or freaks. But some others, perhaps a few, might find themselves visiting over and over again in their memories the experience of deep, unshakable inquiry into what people so different in appearance and behavior hold in common. And in questioning whom it was they saw, they would find *themselves* drawn onto the stage and put under the spolight for the pleasure of the crowd's gawks, mumbling, and jeers. Would they have the courage to confront humanity as do the freaks? Would they ever seek out the opportunity to be scrutinized by others? "Not me! I'm no freak!" an understandable protest would cry. "Show business is not for me."
Entertainment is easily commodified. Without a thought, the participant separates him or herself from the activity, product, or service purchased. In such a view, the artist produces some surplus from raw materials and his talent for his clients to consume. The singular trend so easily perpetuated from this view, but so difficult to trace from its beginnings, eventually sets the goal of entertainment as consumption, irrespective of the object consumed. Consumption for its own sake: caramel corn and carrot sticks would have the same value if they drew the same demand from carnival goers. The artist, in all the noble connotations of the word, would compel his audience to ask again the question of what is valuable. And the artist's way is to allow himself a very thin and grey line of separation between his product and himself. He does not talk about himself; but he invests his entire being into making clearer, more communicable, and more relevant the object of his focus. Even if only for a moment.
When a participant himself is so touched by encountering the weird and ugly in life, his understanding of beauty must be challenged as well. The freedom and irrationality of the personal is shown to be co-star with the predictability and cohesiveness of form. In the concrete, beauty is neither limited by the forms of the body or culture, nor free from consequence and order. In the abstract, beauty is shown to be *more* than simply ideal. It is palpable and wholly real. The participant and performer play distinct and unconfusable roles; but both are inextricably a part of show business.
The death of the freak show is the end of shockingly sincere and perhaps profoundly kind way for people to look in the mirror. Our own hearts frequently distort like the fun house mirror, minimizing our own defects and agrandizing those of others. The show of life always goes on: we sing of life and wail of death. The kind of stage and spotlight that we find ourselves under however is certainly less determined. And whether our art is life-invested or mold-cut is a much more exciting question, a personal one.