Freaks of Nature


I chose this image in light of my topic which focuses on athletes with disabilities who’s goals are to continue pursuing their goal competitively in running.  This image is an ad for the London 2012 Paralympic Games and is promoting these athletes and their abilities to beat the odds and continue to compete.  The focus that I would like to point out, is the term that our culture places on athletes that aren’t the norm for athletes due to their body alterations, which is disabilities.  The image says “Freaks of Nature,” which doesn’t give off a very positive caption especially while trying to promote a positive movement. This image is showing a lot with the man and woman regarding their attire, the lighting, their facial expression, and stature.

We see here in this picture two people in the front and center of the image.  They appear to be standing on ground that we can assume is a road of some sort.  We see in the backdrop of the image some sort of tall structures and buildings that are darker and shadowed.  We are presented with white text across the center of the image, and a white text box in the left hand corner as well.  There is also an icon in the right, bottom hand corner of the image that is pink, turquoise, and blue.

We can see that in the image it is a man and woman both in what seems to be athletic gear with red, blue, and white on their tops.  We can identify these colors and the formation of the lines on the clothing to the British flag by the way the red dominates the crossing lines with a blue backing.  Both the man and the woman are standing in upright positions with specific statures that propose a stand off and strong demeanor.  As we look at these two figures, we start to notice that both of them are missing one of their legs from the knee down.  We are aware of this due to the shiny and colorful pointed looking foot, but we are aware that this is in place of a missing foot.  There is a black, metal like material that is what touching the ground in place of a foot, and it is in a curved like manner that we can assume is for easier mobility.  We can point out how the lighting in this image focuses on the top half of the image and the people from the waist up.  The lighting is almost darker and shadowed as we near the part of the image that shows their legs.

There is also some masculinity that is represented in both of these people in terms of their body types.  We can see both the man and woman are well shaped and their muscles are very apparent in their legs, arms, and for the woman, her stomach.  Even the athletes faces have very unemotional expressions, signifying possibly the desire for no sympathy and representing toughness.  We see a slight sexualization with the woman in her attire with a half shirt or sports bra as her uniform.  There can also be a point made that the woman is in the forefront of the image while the man stands behind her, almost going against the discourse of men being the dominating force towards women and in the media.  We could take the term, body as machine out of context and put it into a literal sense that these athletes literally do have attachments onto their body that can make them almost machine like.

Going back to the text in this image, “Freaks of Nature” we can break it down into companies and ads labeling them as super athletes, in search of being masculine still (mostly men), being dependent on others, not being aggressive and even imbalanced.  In the movie “Murderball” the main character talks about being irritated when people try asking him if he needs assistance after him entering the grocery store and his response is, “I got in here just fine, what makes you think I can’t get back out?”  We have these ideologies that people who have been injured and now rely on a wheelchair or even prosthetics, that they are more fragile and always in need of support.  This ad is trying to imply that these athletes are standing on their own, they aren’t like the rest of the athletes you see because of the odds they have overcome, and that they are just as abled to compete as the person next to you.  I think that this ad does a great job representing these athletes and the Paralympics, but I think the media has a hard time straying away from the desire to receive high revenues and publicity, rather than making these athletes seem abnormal or super heroes, when in reality they just pursued their dreams just as the other runners did in the Olympics.  Producers and consumers loose sight of the negative connotations behind labeling these athletes as “supercrips” or boasting of their achievements in spite of their disability.

Conlan, Tara. “Channel 4 Campaign to Highlight Disabled Athletes’ Abilities.” Guardian News and Media, 09 Aug. 2010. Web. 05 Feb. 2014.

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2 Responses to Freaks of Nature

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    What I thought of when I saw the words “Freaks of Nature” was how often other athletes with normative bodies are called by this title. This ad does some complex work of both normalizing the Paralympic athlete and glorifying them as representing a state of exceptionalism. This tension is what is so compelling to me about the ad. They are simultaneously normalized and made a “freak” of sorts. And yet, the way they are make to stand out is similar to how many athletes are made to appear exceptional. Thus, the very processes that make them exceptional also normalize them. How do you see the phrasing “Freaks of Nature” being made/remade here?

  2. jmaucsd says:

    I see their use of “Freaks of Nature” being made here representing that they are both athletes competing with prosthetics. I see what you mean by their “glorifying” of the athletes who compete with disabilities so in response to your comment, I guess I can say that the way they have the two athletes photographed from an angle that looks up at them like they are of some “greatness.” As if we are looking up to them and their abnormalities compared to our “norm” of the runner type/body. Possibly the nature being represented in the backdrop of the picture which seems to be a type of shipping/manufacturing yard?… Although it’s not technically what we think when we think “nature” so maybe that’s the ironic twist that they being called Freaks of Nature; freaks due to their legs and the confusing nature usage in relation to them still not being in actual nature? I’m not sure if that made total sense but is that what you are asking? I always see more through my pictures the day or two after we post and discuss in class so hopefully I am fulfilling the posts well enough!

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