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Beneath the rotting flesh lived a human being
on 13 August 2001
A classic tale of life in Victorian England, where deformed people such as Joseph Merrick were cast aside. This is the heartbreaking true story behind the film, which inspired so many of us to re-evaluate our own imperfections.
Joseph Carey Merrick was born in Leicester, into Victorian standards that did not and could not tolerate the astounding abnormalities of his features. Cast aside by his father after his mother died, and Joseph's new stepmother (who could no longer accept him), he reluctantly and eventually ended up becoming the main attraction at the local fairs. He would show all his corrupting flesh for those who paid the entrance fee, listening to the gasps of horror from the audience, witnessing the women fainting from the horrendous sight before them. In time, Joseph would be saved from this degrading humiliation by an eminent doctor, who later came to realise that beneath the corrupting foul smelling flesh of Joseph Merrick's body lay a most humane person. For Joseph loved to read, enjoyed the theatre, had a thirst for knowledge, and above all asked for nothing more than to be accepted for a human being with feelings and emotions.
It is true to say that it would be hard for most people in today's society not to turn away from such a sight as Joseph, ambling along the street, covered from head to foot by cape and mask, unable to communicate effectively because the disease has made it virtually impossible for him to talk. But today's society has a greater understanding of the tragic "freaks of nature" as they were known, and this is what makes this true story so heartbreaking to try and understand today.
Joseph Merrick never asked for anything in his entire life, only maybe enough time for people to realise that underneath his gut wrenching exterior appearance, there lived a decent human being.