I already know what my boys would say. I don’t even have to ask them. “Clowns are EVIL.” They would site this excellent art as evidence. See it here.
When I was a kid, clowns were great. I’d go to the circus specifically to see the clowns. They rocked. Funny. Goofy. Oddball. They did tricks and capered about, their ONLY JOB to make me laugh and they did! Even now I love me some clown action. It’s delightful.
Stephen King did a lot to change people’s perceptions about clowns with his book It and his inimical character Pennywise. Of course, many people who fear Pennywise, fear Tim Curry’s version from the movie. It’s only when you’ve read the book that you learn it’s not the clown you should be worried about, it’s Derry. Or more specifically, the alien awful that lies beneath Derry. One could argue that Derry, in all its malignant glory, rose from the alien thing that fell to Earth millions of years before even humans existed. So anyway, Pennywise isn’t a clown, it’s a projection of It. A puppet, if you will, or a disguise. Interesting, isn’t it, that the clown, which is a disguise in and of itself, is itself a disguise for a monster.
Phew. Too complicated.
The real face of horror: parasitic wasps. Eek!
Perhaps it’s my horror loving self that doesn’t get why clowns are scary. Even with Pennywise I don’t get it. Pennywise wasn’t a real clown. Real clowns spread joy and laughter wherever they go. Come on, surely they aren’t that bad? Horror is spiders emerging from the top of a human’s head. Horror is the taut, white-hot chain of suspense as the victim waits to be brutally murdered by the monster. Horror is the milky, vacant gaze of a zombie as it lurches toward you.
Horror is not a cute white face, round, red nose, and puffy hair. It’s just not. IT’S NOT! 🙂
Terror lurks under white paint and red nose:
Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. There is an actual, specific word for being scared of these wonderful entertainers. I don’t understand! I mean, arachnophobia makes sense. Spiders can be deadly, after all. And if you’re both coulrophobic and arachnophobic, have I got a picture for you. Go see the horror!
Did you survive? Good on you.
Banking on the public’s fear of clowns:
Insane Clown Posse plays with the fear people have of clowns. When I see them, I think, “Boy, I wonder when they are going to honk each other’s noses and climb out of a tiny car?” Their alleged creepiness goes over my head. It’s hard to take grown men in face paint seriously. See? Whoops. Wrong grown men in face paint. Here, try this link. Heh. (For the record, I loved KISS when I was a kid. I insisted on being Gene Simmons for Halloween when I was four. I wore a dyed black sheet, chains, and I remember sticking my tongue out a lot. You know, I was in character!)
A messed up reason to fear clowns:
Did you know John Wayne Gacy was also known as the Killer Clown? Why? Did he kill people whilst wearing a clown suit? No. He did a lot of charitable work at fundraising events, dressing as Pogo the Clown. He didn’t kill people in his clown suit but coulrophobics latched on tight to that association and the Killer Clown was created in the hearts and minds of the masses.
Are clowns oogy monsters or just much-maligned childhood friends?
Back to the question at hand. Are clowns oogy monsters or maligned childhood friends? My vote is they are monsters and I’ll tell you why: from the point of view of a horror writer, built in fear is gold. We’ve whittled away the terror around vampires and werewolves now, haven’t we, by making them sex objects and emo brooders. Zombies have gone from drooling, mindless, (irony?) brain eaters to sexy leads in not-too shabby movies. Had you asked me ten years ago if I thought zombies would be sexy heroes I would have had you committed. Now? All righty then. But if you ask me now if I think that someday clowns will be sexy heroes I will laugh and laugh and laugh and then die from laughing because I will run out of breath. And if they never become sexy heroes, they will never leave those dark spaces of the mind where terrors dwell and that is delicious indeed.