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“We Accept Her One of Us”: Family of Choice in *Freaks*

by Steven L. Berg

In Marriage, a History, Stephanie Coontz argues that the one thing that marriage provides that we cannot get any other way is in-laws. We marry into our partner’s family and increase the network of relatives on whom we can rely. Some families even welcome non-biological, non-married relatives into their circles of kinship. Often called families of choice, these kinship relationships are as strong as or sometimes even stronger than the network of relationships one obtains through one’s biological in-laws.

Although circus people have traditionally lived on the margins of society, those who were sideshow performers were on the margins of the marginated. Browning shows them as a closed society who are rightfully suspicious of the outside world. When Cleopatra marries Hans, she realizes that the one of the implications of a legal marriage is that she will inherit Hans’ money once she becomes his widow. What she does not fully appreciate are the benefits and responsibilities of become part of his larger kinship circle of choice.

Analysis continued at http://filmstudies.info/reviews/manuscripts/berg-steven-lorain.html

“We Accept Her One of Us”: Family of Choice in *Freaks*

by Steven L. Berg

In Marriage, a History, Stephanie Coontz argues that the one thing that marriage provides that we cannot get any other way is in-laws.1 We marry into our partner’s family and increase the network of relatives on whom we can rely. Some families even welcome non-biological, non-married relatives into their circles of kinship. Often called families of choice,2 these kinship relationships are as strong as or sometimes even stronger than the network of relationships one obtains through one’s biological in-laws. Although circus people have traditionally lived on the margins of society, those who were sideshow performers were on the margins of the marginated. Browning shows them as a closed society who are rightfully suspicious of the outside world. When Cleopatra marries Hans, she realizes that the one of the implications of a legal marriage is that she will inherit Hans’ money once she becomes his widow. What she does not fully appreciate are the benefits and responsibilities of become part of his larger kinship circle of choice.

Freaks (1932)--Loving Cup Scene

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The scene takes place at the wedding of Hans and Cleopatra where the circus performers perform a ritual to make Cleopatra one of them; an offer that Cleopatra rejects.

from Freaks (1932)
Creator: Tod Browning
Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios
Posted by Steven L. Berg
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