Sunday, 7 April 2019

Joesphine Joseph - Male or Female ?

Joesphine Joseph - Male or Female? - Freakshow Exploitation


For those that follow this blog you'll know that I have a keen interest in exploitation film and if there's even a hint of gender swopping then I'm on the case. I recently dug out Tod Browning's classic 1932 film 'Freaks'. A film made during the free reign of the pre-code era before sensibilities and censorship took control over Hollywoods output.  For those that are familiar with this vintage curiosity you'll know that what makes this film different is the use of real 'freaks' who were not actors but themselves.  One of these characters was Josephine Joseph, half male and half female, having a body that was split down the middle as half male and half female.



In today's world this film by Tod Browning will initially be seen as a non PC bad taste exploitation piece. However those that are brave enough to watch this film and see and judge the film for what it is will see a film which begs the viewer for tolerance and acceptance.

The film was banned in the UK for thirty years, even then being released in a highly cut down format. The original was released at 90mins but due to censorship issues it was cut down to 64 minutes. Sadly the original version is lost only the cutdown remains. From watching the film I get the feeling that many of Josephine Joseph's (JJ) scenes are now missing. I fear the film was cut as it was thought the film was too upsetting for the general public to view. Disabled people in film was a total taboo and was so for years after this films controversy.



But back to the reason for writing about this movie.  JJ was the character who was playing her/himself within the movie, and in real life made a living from appearing within freak shows at the time of filming. JJ scenes in the existing version of the film are very limited here is one of the team:

 

In freakshow fashion hermaphrodites were usually displayed in the half and half state. One side of the body male and the other half female. An outfit was also also created to help manifest the illusion of half male and half female, which would be a one piece, where one side was male and the other half female.






The illusion was also enhanced by two different hairstyles, one side male the other female. Rumour has it that many who were in the 'freak' scene exercised one side of their body making it muscular and toned whilst leaving the other side soft and flabby to create the 'moob' required for full effect. Some of these performers were male and some were female. I strongly suspect that JJ was actually a genetic born female who was exploiting public interest in the gender bending performances of the freak shows,







In real life JJ was a bit of an enigma. It is not known if JJ was actually male or female or actually perfected a convincing stunt pretending to be a hermaprodite.

JJ  was prosecuted in the United Kingdom at a show in Blackpool for false pretences and conspiracy on account of their "Half Woman-Half Man" circus show. Joseph claimed to be 27 years of age at the time (although in reality she was 33–34). The court alleged that the show was a fraud, and that she was not a true hermaphrodite. 

JJ was married to George Waas. Much of JJ's  personal life, including birth name, date of birth and death, has never be correctly verified.

You can read more about JJ at Wikipedia



The fashion of the half male half female continued to arouse public interest and was also part of the German burlesque scene of pre Nazi Berlin in Germany. As shown so perfectly here in the opening credits of Tinto Brass's Nazi exploitation film Salon Kitty.


Tod Browning's Freaks is easily available.





Are you affected by crossdressing? Do you have cross gender feelings that you find difficult to talk about? Why not try Cross Dream Life at http://crossdreamlife.lefora.com


No comments:

Post a comment