January 21, 2020
Joseph Merrick was known as “the elephant man” because of his deformity, but his real tragedy wasn’t his hideous appearance but the fact that if only he had been born in current year, he’d have been celebrated instead of ostracized.
Because in current year, we celebrate ugliness.
Plans for an Elephant man statue planned in his hometown have caused a row with some locals saying he was a ‘freak of nature’ and doesn’t deserve one.
Jo Vigor-Mungovin – his biographer – is trying to raise £100,000 for the monument but some residents in Leicester, where he was born, are opposing it.
The Elephant Man – real name Joseph Merrick – was born in the East Midlands city in 1862 and Ms Vigor-Mungovin is a direct descendant of the showman who worked with him.
Artist’s impression of the proposed statue
However, her plans have caused controversy in the city, with locals opposed to the erecting of a statue.
Doreen Jefford said: ‘He was a freak of nature. Our poor city has become ugly enough without a statue of this poor man being displayed.
‘He had a sad life and I do not believe that he would want a statue of himself.’
Kai Higgins said: ‘He had a rare condition and apparently that makes him somewhat amazing.
‘Why does he deserve a statue?‘
He deserves a statue because he existed and he was deformed, which is one of the core values of current year.
If you think about it, the elephant man was way ahead of his time.
Ms Vigor-Mungovin wrote the book Joseph: The Life, Times & Places of the Elephant Man, and used City of London records to trace his resting place to a cemetery near Epping Forest in Essex.
Speaking about the statue, she said: ‘I wasn’t expecting it to be controversial.
‘But I’ve come across the same reaction over and over.
‘When I approach funding sources or venues, people seem interested at first but when they hear it will be a statue of the Elephant Man, they seem a bit shocked.
‘They either say ‘You can’t do that’ or stop answering emails or the phone.’
Yeah, current year promotes deformity but is subtle about it.
You can’t go around telling people that they have to pay to see deformities. Instead, you have to use current year language such as “promoting body positivity and self-acceptance.”
Mr Merrick’s condition, which developed in early childhood, is believed to be due to a rare genetic disorder called Proteus syndrome.
His mother died when he was 11, and he became an object of curiosity and ridicule.
He was confined to a workhouse, which he left in 1884 to join a travelling ‘freak show.’
But he was often robbed of his earnings while part of this show and whether he was beaten or abused is a subject of some debate.
Ms Vigor-Mungovin, added: ‘There is a fear of what the statue would be like – but he was an inspirational figure.
‘I’m a descendant of Tom Norman, the showman who worked with Joseph, and I’ve even been accused of being an accomplice to a ”Vampire showman’s crime”.
‘I think the maquette will put a lot of people’s mind at rest.
‘And I am hoping to get items from the Royal London Hospital for the exhibition, maybe even the full-size copy of his skeleton.’
What a surprise, the whole thing isn’t really about the elephant man but about her, the real victim.
A Leicester City Council spokesman said: ‘Joseph Merrick’s story is a significant part of Leicester’s history, and his story addresses important issues about society’s changing attitudes towards disability.
‘The city council is not responsible for erecting statues, but if other groups or organisations want to raise the money, we are happy to help facilitate the process.’
Yes. Society’s attitudes towards disability are changing.
Disability, nowadays, is something to be celebrated and promoted alongside sterility.
Why? Because those are Our Values.
Why are those Our Values?