I have a confession to make. I paid a dollar to see Bat Boy this summer. Some friends invited me to the Monroe County Fair, and I willingly attended.
What I thought would be a harmless, family oriented, American pastime, filled with demolition derbies, puke-inducing rides, and lots of greasy food, turned out to be a personal moment of shame.
It wasn’t my fault though. I didn’t honestly think that freak shows were allowed anymore.
When my friend, Angie, and I saw the sign, laden with hand-drawn pictures of a bat-like creature, we quickly paid our dollar. I didn’t know what to expect.
I thought maybe there would be a coffin with a mummy-like doll with bat wings stitched on ? maybe a jar with a bat-like fetus inside that was molded from clay.
I was sincerely looking for something hokey, something to laugh about afterwards.
But when we went around the corner, there was a human being. I was dumb founded and embarrassed. I didn’t know what to say to the man sitting there. Neither did Angie. I think the first timid utterance from my mouth was something like, “I don’t get it. Why are you Bat Boy?” He looked at me, embarrassment oozing out of his forced smile, and said, “Well some people think” He didn’t have to finish.
Standing three feet tall, with ears a bit longer and pointier than usual, sporting dark circles around his eyes, he admittedly appeared bat-like.
I wanted to ask him, “Why do you do this for a living? Aren’t you humiliated by selling yourself as a freak?”
But I didn’t. Instead, Angie and I went on to talk about the demolition derby we had just seen, while trying not to look him in the face.
After saying good-bye, we sadly walked out to report back to our waiting friends. We didn’t have anything funny to laugh about.
This experience has made me question some things about humanity, especially after reading articles like “Q & A with Bat Boy” by T.H. Metzger, from “The City,” in which he commends the Monroe County fair for “rescinding the no freak rule” and uses “delight” as an adjective to describe the display.
While it was Bat Boy’s own idea to make money off of his “freakishness,” it’s still wrong, especially where the prime audience members are children.
The display of human beings as things to be gawked at is not an amusement that should be condoned by our society.
This practice teaches young developing minds to look at people in a humiliating and distant light, perpetuating prejudice against people who differ from them. Every human being deserves dignity.
Knihnicki can be reached at email@example.com.