MEDICAL   DOCUMENTARY:CONJOINED TWINS AS AMEDIATED SPECTACLE        José van Dijck     Media Culture Society            2002
CONJOINED TWINS AS             FREAKS „The freak is an object of simultaneous horror and fascinationbecause . . .the frea...
CONJOINED TWINS AS                FREAKS Ousted from their families, these individuals had little choice butto put themse...
THE ORIGINAL SIAMESE             TWINS Chang and Eng Bunker(1811 - 1874) from Thailand (then knownas Siam) were twins joi...
TRANSITION TO           MEDICINAL FOCUS After 1900 the general public began to lose interest in freak shows Robert Bogda...
USE OF EARLY CINEMA Early filmmakers often filmed things which already fascinatedaudiences, such as freak shows. It was ...
USE OF OPERATION           DOCUMENTARIES Four reasons To train specialists, especially in terms of rare operations. To ...
TODAY Because of this, the separation of conjoined twins becomes amediated event(van Djick, 2002) It is suggested that a...
TODAY Documentaries no longer aim to educate professionals, but toinform the public. Directors and editors focus on exte...
SIAMESE TWINS (1995) Dao and Duan Headly The twins surgical separation is arelatively small part of the program. Instea...
IDEOLOGICAL RELATIONS The program pits the western ideal of advanced tech and socialjustice against the “backwards nature...
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Medical documentaries on conjoined twins van djick

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An overview of the article "Medical documentary: conjoined twins as a
mediated spectacle" By Jose Van Djick. published in Media, Culture & Society2002 24: 537

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Medical documentaries on conjoined twins van djick

  1. 1. MEDICAL DOCUMENTARY:CONJOINED TWINS AS AMEDIATED SPECTACLE José van Dijck Media Culture Society 2002
  2. 2. CONJOINED TWINS AS FREAKS „The freak is an object of simultaneous horror and fascinationbecause . . .the freak is an ambiguous being whose existence imperilscategories and oppositions dominant in social life‟ (Grosz, 1996: 56). Conjoined twins were seen as monsters during the MiddleAges, but during the 19th century, many congenital defects weremedicalised. However, this did not free them from popular entertainment.
  3. 3. CONJOINED TWINS AS FREAKS Ousted from their families, these individuals had little choice butto put themselves on display, and be exploited (Thomson, 1996: 2). Many “Freaks” were, thanks to their contracts, no better thanslaves. Often, freaks would be imported from Asia or Africa and weremarketed using their exotic otherness, defining physical abnormalityagainst western normality(Lindfors, 1996; Vaughan, 1996).
  4. 4. THE ORIGINAL SIAMESE TWINS Chang and Eng Bunker(1811 - 1874) from Thailand (then knownas Siam) were twins joined at the hip. They travelled with a freak show throughout America and Europe It could not be assessed as to whether they shared a liver, and thetwins refused all attempts to separate them They retired in 1833 and married two sisters, with whom they had22 children.
  5. 5. TRANSITION TO MEDICINAL FOCUS After 1900 the general public began to lose interest in freak shows Robert Bogdan (1988)attributed this to an increasing„medicalization‟ of society, where freaks were no longer regarded asmonstrosities, but as disabled people that science could aid. However, van Djick argues that the freak show did not disappear,instead the focus shifted to the surgeon.
  6. 6. USE OF EARLY CINEMA Early filmmakers often filmed things which already fascinatedaudiences, such as freak shows. It was also experimented with for recording medical proceduresand their results. Between 1950 and 1970 television became more dominant thanfilm in this area.
  7. 7. USE OF OPERATION DOCUMENTARIES Four reasons To train specialists, especially in terms of rare operations. To showcase surgical skill to outsiders To inform and entertain an audience And to promote the medical establishment
  8. 8. TODAY Because of this, the separation of conjoined twins becomes amediated event(van Djick, 2002) It is suggested that an element of the growing popularity of theseprograms is the convergence between medical and media technology. The camera and monitor are as indispensable to the surgical teamas they are to the film crew.
  9. 9. TODAY Documentaries no longer aim to educate professionals, but toinform the public. Directors and editors focus on extending the narrative and dramaof the event, as well as the human interest angle. The interests of the surgeon trying to gather interest in theirwork, and the broadcast companies attempts to reach wide audiencesare now the same.
  10. 10. SIAMESE TWINS (1995) Dao and Duan Headly The twins surgical separation is arelatively small part of the program. Instead the focus is on the surgeonsthemselves as heroic saviours. Phrases such as “this is the point of no return” highlight the tension Also, lots of focus on the children and their parents as human beings, their personalities, hopes and fears.
  11. 11. IDEOLOGICAL RELATIONS The program pits the western ideal of advanced tech and socialjustice against the “backwards nature” of the third world. Compares the sisters to the original Siamese twins, Chang and EngBunker and presents their lives as a fulfilment of the AmericanDream. Due to advance medicine, conjoined twins are seen as exotic onceagain.

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