During the production of Freak Show in the Fall of 2015, those involved dismissed the rise of Donald Trump. Little did they know it was just in its infancy.
“There’s actually a line of, ‘Make America Great Again,’ that we inserted to reflect Donald Trump, who was only running to be the Republican candidate when we were shooting,” admitted first time director Trudie Styler when I recently spoke to her about the film.
“We were stealing his mantra and putting it into the mouth of our mean girl Lynette (Abigail Breslin). We were like, let’s have her become the voice of Trump. So she would say so much awful stuff, like, ‘It’s not me talking, but all gays are going to hell.’ This fundamentalist bullsh** that Trump says. Never in a million years did we think that he would win.”
That’s exactly what happened, though. And in the wake of Trump’s Presidential victory Styler is deeply concerned at the impact he is already having on the youth of today, as there are likely to be countless individuals that now copy his aggressive and bullying tactics because of his success.
Styler even went as far as to declare, “Donald Trump is the ultimate troll.”
“It is happening all over America. It sort of feels like bullying and living in fear have just become endemic and it is a huge problem.”
“Because it is OK to feel like a freak in your teenage years. It is a time when you are discovering yourself. The world is going to be a tough enough place when you get into it, so support each other. Which is why we have to tell stories that enrich teenagers.”
“Freak Show” is one such tale. It tells the story of Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther), a funny, good-hearted teenager that joins a new ultra-conservative school and is bullied both mentally and physically because of his supposed eccentricities. Styler was attracted to the film because she was bullied in her youth, but she believes that teenagers today have it much worse.
“When we came home you would have someone with a listening ear. But now kids come home, log online, and that’s where the punishment is. And you wouldn’t have a clue.”
“Because kids don’t want to complain about it. Or feel foolish. They want to stand on their own two feet. But when you have this troll culture, and all this aggression coming at you. It’s just devastating. There is an increased in suicide rates because of cyber bullying. It is a very big problem.”
As a result, Trudie Styler is working alongside STOMP Out Bullying in conjunction with “Freak Show,” as “they do some terrific work against cyber bullying.” Unfortunately, because of the current climate, they’re now needed more than ever.
"Freak Show" is available on VOD and screening at the IFC Center in New York from Friday January 12. Trudie Styler will be participating in post-screening Q&A’s at the IFC’s 7:15 screening on Friday January 12, and the 4:55 and 7:15 screenings on Saturday January 13, too.