They were once a thriving species, roaming the earth in abundance. But today they are all but extinct.
I’m referring, of course, to crippled circus freaks. What catastrophic event led to their demise? Was it a plague? A famine? A sudden, unexpected glaciation? No one knows for sure. And whereas I am not an anthropologist, I do have my theories on what did in the crippled circus freaks.
Theory No.1: They tried to unionize. These things usually begin with outside agitators. Perhaps a disgruntled cripple was rejected by the freak show because he wasn’t freakish enough. Maybe he only walked with a limp or something. So he sought to exact revenge on the circus boss by pumping up his prized freaks with a bunch of commie talk. And soon they formed the United Brotherhood of Crippled Circus Freaks.
Now normally a bunch of cripples threatening to go on strike would only make the bosses laugh. If you’re a cripple assembling Barbie dolls in a sheltered workshop for 50 cents an hour, there are plenty of scab cripples ready and willing to replace you on the job. But if you’re an albino with three noses who can juggle, you’ve got a lot more leverage.
So no doubt the boss responded to any disruption of business as usual such as this with brute force. They probably hired private security goons like the Pinkertons to mow down the striking crippled freaks. I’m sure it was a real bloodbath.
I imagine the circus boss might have been tempted to replace the striking crippled freaks with robots, had such things existed back then. But that wouldn’t have worked at the box office. An albino robot with three noses doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as the flesh-and-bones version because there’s no such thing as a planned freak. It’s an oxymoron.
Theory No. 2: They were the victims of do-gooder protests. Maybe there was a party-pooper group called People for the Ethical Treatment of Differently-Abled Circus Entertainers (PETDACE). And maybe they regularly picketed the circus, denouncing the degrading mistreatment of these noble beasts and demanding that the crippled freaks be released into the wild. This is the same strategy that was successfully employed in the 21st Century to free all the circus elephants. One could argue that the difference between cripples and elephants is the matter of consent. Crippled circus freaks join the circus of their own free will, which is true, I suppose, if you want to be super picky technical about it. But by that same logic, one could also hand a starving person a menu on which the only entrees are a moose turd sandwich or moose turd pie and then argue that the starving person is eating moose turd pie of their own free will.
Theory No. 3: The gimmick ran out of gas. With advances in technology, humans became more interconnected and the novelty of crippled freaks wore off. No longer did people have to leave their homes or spend money to partake of a grotesque display of freaks that scare the hell out of you and make you feel exceedingly grateful that you’re not one of them. Spectacles far more disturbing than a band of crippled circus freaks could be witnessed for free on television. If you don’t believe me, watch the next Republican National Convention.
Well, whatever it was that wiped out the crippled circus freaks, it’s probably a damn good thing that it happened. Otherwise by now there would be a cutthroat underground network of unscrupulous crippled circus freak traffickers. These despicable creatures would troll the darkest, most remote asylums, like talent scouts in search of the most uniquely deformed infants. The traffickers would take the orphans off the asylum keeper’s hands in exchange for a small finder’s fee, whereupon the infant would then be turned over to be raised by a foster family of clowns. Like the tigers of Siegfried and Roy, these crippled infants would be raised from the womb to be entertainers. They’d be riding unicycles by the age of 18 months. And soon they would be sold to the circus.
And if they were ever exposed and confronted by PETDACE, these traffickers would assert that their mission is humane. They would say being a crippled circus freak beats the hell out of assembling Barbie Dolls in a sheltered workshop.