Animal rights activists are crowing this week claiming the decision by the Barnum and Bailey-Ringling Brothers Circus to end their show is a "victory for their side". As if their emails to radio and TV stations in advance of circus stops--or flyers handed out to people going to the show and then just tossed on the ground--were the reason why the company folded up their big tent. The real reason the show won't go on is that Americans have moved on from that type of "entertainment".
You have to give the circus credit, they had a good run. It can trace its roots back to the Roman Empire, when unpopular Emperors would quell uprising with special shows at the Coliseum. That's where the phrase "bread and circus" came from. In America, the circus brought things to smaller cities that most people thought they would never see--like tigers, lions and elephants. And to people who did nothing but work and go to church, death-defying trapeze artists and clowns were some big time entertainment.
But now we don't have to wait a year to be entertained like that any more. I could Google "elephant videos" and get 2.5 million options for seeing pachyderms doing tricks or being cute. Most zoos have tigers and lions. We now recognize clowns for the evil beings that they are. And I could go on Go Pro's website and ride along with daredevils doing crazier stuff than any circus performer could ever hope to do in front of an audience. Not to mention, I can get it anytime I want, anywhere I want and it's free (except for data charges).
Besides, haven't you always felt a little "dirty" going to a circus? You knew it was "low rent" entertainment, featuring people that would be considered a very small step up from "carnies". PT Barnum was the one that coined the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute"--which proved that he knew his shows were a ripoff. He also famously would hang signs inside the tents pointing "This way to the Egress!!!" knowing full well that most people didn't know what that word meant--finding themselves going out the exit--and required to pay full admission to get back in again. I'm sure that today's "Special Snowflake Culture" was making it more difficult to find a bearded lady, the world's fattest man and two-headed freaks.
So weep not for the death of the circus. It will just become a quaint entertainment oddity of our past--like cockfighting, shin-kicking contests, Hee Haw and movies featuring Meryl Streep overacting.