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.
What!? I Think I’m An Animal (Logo)
Who Is This Now? Steven.
Why Are We Watching Him? He firmly believes that he is Shroud, an African leopard trapped in a man’s body.
How Did He Get Here? Since he was very young, he has had intense memories of a past life lived as a leopard on the savanna — before, he says, he even knew what a savanna was. So now he considers himself human only physically.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Steven lives with Timothy, who believes he is a raccoon; the two have been a couple for almost four years. That’s all fine. As they’re telling their story, we get a brief glimpse of a pornographic drawing of Timothy and Steven, in their animal forms, canoodling in bed. Someone at Logo has had to blur out what you can still kind of tell is a tumescent raccoon penis. That’s less fine.
What Have We Learned? There may be a difference between therians, the title Timothy and Steven claim, and Furries. I still don’t want to hang out with either.
Watch the full episode here
Preachers’ Daughters (Lifetime)
Who Is This Now? Taylor.
Why Are We Watching Her? Her parents are requiring her to retake a class called “Passion and Purity,” which is offered by her pastor father’s church.
How Did She Get Here? She participated in a “sexy” (tame) photo shoot for the cover of a friend’s album, and her parents found the photos on her Facebook page and demanded that she renew her purity vow.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? The “Passion and Purity” course is capped with a father-daughter dance, where the girls recite a vow to remain abstinent until marriage (which, per Taylor’s father, Ken, means no intimate touching of any kind — not even kissing, which he terms “shopping upstairs for downstairs goods”), and their fathers put purity rings on their left ring fingers. Yes: Like a groom does at a wedding. Also, even though we see boys in the P&P class, there’s no mention made of any vow they are expected to make.
What Have We Learned? Evangelical Christianity is sexist! Just kidding, we already knew that.
Watch the full episode here
Hoarding: Buried Alive (TLC)
Who Is This Now? Denise.
Why Are We Watching Her? She’s a hoarder who’s made such a mess of the upper apartment of her house, where she lives, that Lalie, her downstairs tenant, has been complaining of foul smells and vermin infestation, and is threatening to move, which would have a dire effect on Denise’s finances.
How Did She Get Here? Denise grew up in straitened circumstances and often dreamed of having material possessions that her parents couldn’t afford. As a result: “Possessions just became so important, so I just wasted the money on things.”
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Oh, the bathroom. The BATHROOM. The first horrible thing we see is a snowdrift of soiled toilet paper that takes up one whole corner of the room; presumably the toilet’s underneath them. But later, when Denise exposes her shame to her friend Barbara, we see something even worse: I don’t know what’s actually in the bathroom sink, but it sure looks like tar. “Denise, are you telling me you actually use this washroom?” asks Barbara. Says Denise: “Not in the sense you would think.”
What Have We Learned? We’ve learned that people can change, as Denise successfully cleans up her apartment and prevents Lalie from moving, for now. (What we haven’t learned are the specifics of how Denise actually does use her bathroom. Thank you for your discretion, Denise. Thank you.)
Wife Swap (ABC)
Who Is This Now? Robert.
Why Are We Watching Him? He’s having a very hard time adjusting as his submissive wife Sabrina has traded households, for two weeks, with Karina, a pagan feminist.
How Did He Get Here? Sabrina says she was raised to treat her husband like a king. Consequently, she has turned him into her “spoiled baby,” as she puts it, and he expects the same treatment from Karina.
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Sabrina wakes Robert up in the morning, makes him his breakfast, and serves it to him. He’s so unable or unwilling to do for himself what most of us have done since we were about 8 years old that Sabrina not only lays out his clothes for him, but she often has to dress him. She literally puts his clothing on his body. Sometimes when he’s still asleep.
What Have We Learned? Even if he behaves like an actual baby, a man may get violently angry at any suggestion that he is not a “grown man.”
Watch the full episode here
Spoiled Rotten Pets (NatGeo Wild)
Who Is This Now? Diane.
Why Are We Watching Her? She is “the proud mother of 10 wonderful rats.”
How Did She Get Here? “I decided to get rats because of animal rights.”
What’s the Grossest Thing We See? Diane transporting several of her rats from one room to another by letting them sit on her shoulders and upper chest, so that they collectively resemble a writhing fur stole.
What Have We Learned? “There are so many perceptions that Hollywood gives to these poor creatures that it’s amazing!” An onscreen chyron notes, “Fleas caused the Bubonic Plague, but rats were carriers of the disease.” Of course we knew that; what we’ve learned is that there is at least one person who thinks the reputation rats have for carrying disease is just propaganda.
Tara Ariano isn’t a cat in the body of a human, but she does like to nap in sunbeams.