Under the big top

Under the big top

by Matt Morain

Remember being a young child and going to the circus for the first time?

The excitement of the atmosphere, the smell of the popcorn, the bright paint on the funny clowns’ faces? It was spectacular.

Today you couldn’t pay me enough to take an adolescent to the Big Top. I’d feel guilty for being responsible for scarring them for life.

When did the circus become so scary?

I hadn’t noticed it until the Oscars let Cirque du Soleil perform on Sunday night.

Acrobats contorting in unfathomable positions and jumping on trampolines vertically up a wall while men who apparently had no heads carried around eerie umbrellas amidst the motion and confusion.

It was more disturbing than a Marilyn Manson cross-stitching box social.

I admired the athleticism, balance, and control exhibited by the performers, but yearned for simpler times when the goal was to please, rather than bewilder.

Acts like the Cirque du Soleil and other Cirque-neuvo performers are a new generation of exhibitionists that, although visually appealing, are lacking a few key elements to a delightful Big Top trip.

No animals were used, and this is severely problematic. As a first-time attendee of a circus, half of your amazement is in seeing animals you’d only heard about before, doing feats that held your rapt attention.

Do you remember seeing an elephant for the first time? Absolutely shocking.

Secondly, and possibly almost equally vital, was the absence of a solid freak show. The freak show made the circus.

I could look at the Toe-Thumbs Woman, the Sasquatch, or the Three-Eared Man for hours on end. Nature’s accidents are much more entertaining (and better sports) than a primadonna acrobat any day of the week.

A circus used to be a life-changing event, for the better. You came away with a sense of wonder and joy, carrying your Cracker Jacks and Ringling Bros. pennant with you as you passed under the merry flap of the tent.

Now children are left to question their mental stability after witnessing things that would make Oliver Stone turn his head.

I used to just be afraid of clowns, but now I feel the urgent need to attack one with a prison shiv to quell my terror.

Don’t let this new revolution of “shockrobats” taint an otherwise noble industry.

Support the Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Bros.

I’m calling for a boycott of the Cirque du Soleil until they stabilize their adverse effects on the youth of America.

Join me, and we can return to a down-to-earth circus night, content to throwing peanuts at the happy-go-crazy clowns in the aisles.