I grew up watching quite a few English movies, and so the term “freak” has always had a negative connotation in my mind. It was mostly used when one character was bullying someone who was different (the freak). To be a freak was to be abnormal. To be a freak was not something one aspired to.
But this view changed (or so I thought) when the X-Men franchise appeared on the screen. Here were people who were essentially labelled “freaks” in their world, going around saving the day. And I had a similar realisation when @karnaanand posted a comment about freakens under one of our posts on Instagram. He spoke of how these freakens are akin to the punk rock movement or the hippie movement in the West. He pointed out that they are a mainstream group going against established tradition, showing the world that one can be anything one wants to be.
It got me curious about who the freaken of Kerala are, and how they came to be.
But first, let’s talk about what makes a freaken. It is quite hard to define a freaken, but a sweeping (and probably unfair) generalisation would be that they are 16-30 year-olds with uncommon hairstyles, loads of accessories, and trendy bright (but sometimes black) clothing. They refer to each other as bro, macha, and buddy offline. And online, they call themselves chunks, popsies, or mwonjans.
Now that I’ve given you a vague idea of who I’m talking about, here are some things that I found interesting.
- Freakens are much older than I thought they were. The movement started more than a decade ago in Kochi
- The word “freaken” is a misspelling of “freaking”
- A freaken is defined not just by what he looks like, but also his attitude. The dress, the look, and the lingo are all part of what it means to be a freaken
- They actually spend a lot of money on their look and follow fashion trends closely
- Many of them adopted the look in their late teens, around 16-17 years of age
So here’s a bunch of youngsters who dare to look different because they want to. They know that they are often made fun of and called clowns. But they choose to ignore all the chatter and choose to be ‘freaks’ – turning the derogatory term into their biggest strength – their identity.
Over time, the freak culture in Kerala also seems to be evolving – colourful wrist bands are making way to tattoos, piercings are taking the place of accessories, and beards are in vogue. While I might not agree with their style choices (who am I to judge style, I wear the same ‘uniform’ every day!), I do agree with the freaken ideal of right to self-expression.
And this post is a reflection of my new-found admiration of these young men in Kerala who refuse to give a damn about what other people think they should look like. Cheers to that!