Freak Show and Tell: Avian Flu, Creepy Baby Dolls, and Excessive Cosmetic Surgery
Every week, television documentaries present us with so many unusual people, with so many strange and/or disturbing problems, you might find it hard to keep up with all of them. That’s where I come in! Here’s an unflinching look back at TV’s Week in Freak Shows.
Doomsday Preppers (NatGeo)
Who Is This Now? Bradford Frank.
Why Are We Watching Him? He’s getting ready to survive what he feels is a coming pandemic of avian flu.
How Did He Get Here? He’s a psychiatrist who studied infectious diseases (at YALE, he makes a point of saying), so he’s developed what he describes as a “productive paranoia” regarding the collapse of society in the wake of a global flu pandemic.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Under Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia, Frank’s wife, Narin, escaped from a prison camp; all her other family members were killed. So when Frank introduces Narin and their daughter Alexandra to their “bug-out location,” a subterranean cave, and Narin explains that she’s not on board because she already lived in a cave for two months during her non-hypothetical survival situation. It’s pretty tough to watch.
What Have We Learned? Unbeknownst to you, your shrink could be spending his sessions with you daydreaming about how his having been carjacked could convince his reluctant loved ones that his apocalypse survival plans are actually pretty reasonable after all.
My Crazy Obsession (TLC)
Who Is This Now? Lynn Katsaris.
Why Are We Watching Her? She’s obsessed with reborn dolls, and has made around 1,800 of them (most of which have remained in her collection, but a few were commissions for others).
How Did She Get Here? Her mother initially sparked her interest in collecting dolls when Lynn was younger (though her mother probably didn’t intend for her to get to the point where a narrator would ever say of her, “Lynn spent so many hours at the local maternity ward, looking at newborns, she’s not allowed back”).
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? A neighbor asks Lynn to make a doll doppelganger of the neighbor’s grandson, so that she never has to forget what he looked like as a baby. OK. Then this woman puts the doll down for a nap next to her actual live grandson. Less OK. (The shot of the baked baby doll parts coming out of Lynn’s oven is pretty rough, too.)
What Have We Learned? There’s such a thing as high-end European … vinyl. Reborn baby dolls are made out of it, as are other dolls too, probably.
My Mom Is Obsessed (Discovery Fit & Health)
Who Is This Now? Susan (and her daughter, Analise).
Why Are We Watching Her? Her daughter is called in by the producers of this show to intervene with what Analise feels is Susan’s excessive cosmetic surgeries.
How Did She Get Here? After her divorce, Susan started tweaking her face and body, in part to bolster her career as a model (though she also moonlights as a “patient mentor” for a plastic surgeon).
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Even though Susan notes that she is morbidly critical of herself due to her mother’s judgmental nature, she doesn’t make the connection to the kind of damage she may be doing to her 13-year-old daughter by complaining about her own cellulite as she walks into a photo shoot.
What Have We Learned? Susan wasn’t kidding about her mother, Yvonne; we do eventually meet her, and she’s a real B. But Susan and Analise prove that, with therapy, the cycle of internalized female self-hatred can be broken.
Tara Ariano has a bug-out location in case of apocalypse, but she’s not about to tell YOU where it is! Duh!