Art always responds, deliberately or subconsciously, to the climate in which it’s created.
Since people are products of their environment, and since art is a product of people, then by the transitive property (thanks, high school!), the products of artists are products of the artist’s environment. But usually, the relevancy of a piece of art does not justify its existence alone, because there’s another aspect to these exterior connections too rarely considered, especially when it comes to the copycat-success nature of Hollywood:
The amount of other art that has and is responding to the same parts of the climate, in similar ways.
As much as art about how society discriminates against those perceived as “others” could theoretically make a difference, and as much as we never know how a piece of art will turn out when it’s greenlit, Freaks’ “mutant as allegory for outcasts” premise retreads thematic territory traversed by damn near every superhero movie nowadays, and that’s a metric fuckload. Since Freaks sheds no new light on the matter, and since even the positives of the manner in which it does so — a limited scope (yet again, creative restrictions — in this case, budgetary — can be a boon to creativity); minimal exposition explaining the supernatural; Emile Hirsch and Bruce Fucking Dern (both in the midst of prolific years); the imagery of the bleeding eye; the pared-down spectacle — has been executed better elsewhere, there’s little to see here. Sociopolitical resonance only means something if the movie actually resonates.
And Freaks isn’t even the first flick THIS YEAR with these traits; it’s basically a companion piece to the mildly-superior Brightburn, whose novelty of leaning into supervillainy is its sole significant saving grace (more on that tomorrow).
Both movies feel like cheap cash-grabs clutching onto the coattails of the caped-crusader craze.