‘Brothers Grim’ exploits deformations

While some visitors to “The Brothers Grim Side Show” dropped their jaws in amazement at the show’s supposed oddities, its collection of human “oddballs” was more a freaky abomination of human compassion than a night of entertainment for the masses.

Owner Ken Harck’s show claims the world’s greatest collection of oddities, strange people and novel entertainers. And this supposed great collection has planted itself in Club Clearview’s corner parking lot in Deep Ellum until Oct. 31. For $8, the urban legend attractions are available to passersby. And despite the side show’s efforts to put physical disability on display, audience members seemed to be entertained.

But what kind of message is “The Brothers Grim” sending?

Answer-the wrong kind.

Featured around the nation on shows such as “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “National Geographic,” “The Brothers Grim” owner Ken Harck masks the show well under the guise of entertainment.

“I always felt that this form of entertainment hasn’t been around in its correct form,” Harck said. “I decided I have to recreate it.”

If Harck’s idea is connected to the historical past of side shows, his mind needs to be recreated.

While celebrating human uniqueness should be applauded, putting humans on display because of their physical oddities or deformities is no cause for celebration. However, in Deep Ellum, a place known for its share of “freaks,” no one seems to mention the negative and backwards message The Brothers Grim carries with it.

Of particular mention was the Lizard Man, who had his tongue surgically altered to look more like a lizard’s and who swung heavy objects from the holes in his earlobes. The crowd gasped and clapped at all the side show’s entertainers. One audience member even claimed she wanted to get her tongue altered.

“Reality” shows have gone too far.

Spectacles reminiscent of days that have passed where exhibitions of eccentric and sometimes physically deformed entertainers traveled in caravans to small towns. Families would gather to marvel at people different from them. One famous attraction involved Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins born in Siam (present-day Thailand) in 1811 and brought to the United States in 1829. Though the twins died in 1874, their liver does not get any rest since it is on constant display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, Pa. And a plaster death-cast of their dead bodies is displayed alongside their liver.

While acts such as Chang and Eng’s enabled otherwise outcast people to do many things despite their disabilities, the side shows they belonged to did not care what it enabled its performers to do. As long as their entertainers made side show owners money, the entertainers were public stars. Once the entertainers did not draw the money and crowds the owners expected, they were dropped from the show and forgotten.

True, these performers did not have to join the side show, but the production’s owners also did not have to create the demand for making an oddity out of physically different people.

At a time when side shows should be considered cruel for their history of putting physical disability on sickening public display, The Brothers Grim is quick to make money, fast to forget what should have already been learned.

Still, the show entertains many and brings families to Deep Ellum. But with this lesson in mind, it is not the “freaks” who are disgusting; it is the owners allowing the show to go on.

“The Brothers Grim Side Show” presented through Oct. 31 in the parking lot at Club Clearview, 2806 at Elm St., Thursdays through Sundays, with shows hourly from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Ages 17 and up admitted. Ticket prices are $8 for Side Show alone, $15 for show and admission to Club Clearview and Curtain Club. For more information contact 214-742-1595.

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