Archive for category Horror

Fears of a clown

Excuse my logic, but aren’t most of the clowns we see, scarier than they are funny?  Now I admit as a former journalist I always find myself looking beneath the surface of things.  Sometimes there isn’t a hidden meaning.  Yet other times… What’s behind the makeup that a clown wears?  We’ll get to that shortly, but first some anecdotes that you will see  properly segue into our analysis of clowns.

 I used to attend group psychotherapy sessions down in Florida.  We had several different therapists and you never knew which one would be running that day’s group. It was about the fourth or fifth session where this young, petite woman walked in and announced that she would be the therapist for that day’s group. The session was moving along without a hitch until this therapist called out one of the more smart-alecky patients on something he said. He exploded causing the therapist to have a mild meltdown.  “Look at all your makeup,” he said derisively. “You look like a f%&@*ng clown,” he exclaimed. The woman therapist who I think was still green behind the ears, perhaps only recently out of grad school, looked mortified. She didn’t call on that guy again that day or at any future sessions we shared. 

 Then there was this young boy we knew because his mother was a friend of our family through our children’s school. One day, my wife and I remarked to the youngster how pretty we thought his mother was.  “Oh yeah?” he began incredulously.  “You don’t know her like I do.  Behind all that pretty makeup she’s a real drill sergeant. A regular beast.”  Needless to say, we all erupted into laughter at the young man’s utter candor.

Look at the picture of Hillary Clinton below, Googled from a Google images sight that shows “scary clowns”.  Incidentally, under that search topic there are 887,000 entries.  Starting to get my picture? Anyway, the photo of Hillary is absolutely terrifying.  She kind of looks like a cross between something out of the 2001 movie “Moulin Rouge”   and the Jessica Walter femme fatale character in Clint Eastwood’s “Play Misty for Me.”

Lastly consider the hideous appearances of Batman’s “The Joker” as displayed by Jack Nicholson and more recently in “The Dark Knight’s” Heath Ledger.  Anyone who watched those movies knows that behind the happy smiles worn by Ledger and Nicholson lurked some very sordid spirits.

Now allow me to promise you that this is not meant to be a sweeping condemnation of clowns.  There are many people who are professional clowns who perform admirably and brighten up peoples’ lives.

However, did Stephen King just dream up out of thin air “Pennywise the Dancing Clown” for his book and later movie “It”?  I believe not.  That character lured unsuspecting children to their deaths. That clown was not funny.  Not one bit. Stephen King, like other good writers, often draws upon personal experiences in molding his characters.   Was this the case with the clown in “It?”

I believe there is a curious relationship between comedy and horror.  And while I can’t put my finger on the exact dynamic at work in these two genres I can tell you that when I first watched “The Exorcist” as well as Wes Craven’s “Evil Dead,” I was scared. However when I watched those movies several times after, I always found myself in stitches laughing.   So here we have something meant to scare us making us laugh.  Could the opposite be true?  Could something meant to make us laugh instill fear instead?  I believe yes.

Furthermore, fear is not always unfounded. Our gut feelings are often right on target. So if we look at a clown and feel a tinge of fear it may be justified. 

Consider just a few of the many stories we found when we looked up “clowns and pedophiles” on the internet.

There was the case back in 2005 in San Diego of “Marty the Clown.”  He had been entertaining kids for a number of years until it was discovered that he was registered on the Megan’s Law website as a registered sex offender.

Then there was the case of “Pon Chin Chin,” a clown operating in the San Antonio area.  In September, 2010, News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Brian Collister battled with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the agency was forced to release information about the activities of registered area sex offenders. It turned out that Pon Chin Chin was a registered sex offender.

If you think I am just on some kind of ill-advised witch hunt, try this on for size.  This past April state legislators in Florida began working up a bill that would make it illegal for registered sex offenders to dress up as or work as clowns.

Now on the positive side, Willard Scott played Ronald McDonald after first having worked as a Bozo the Clown on Washington DC’s WRC TV.  We all know Willard’s a great guy.  So it’s not all gloom and doom. 

Yet let’s face it.  If the clowns pictured here were to show up at your kid’s birthday party, your extreme concern would be justified. You probably wouldn’t even let them in your front door. You most certainly wouldn’t refer them to your friends.  

In the end, I think though that most clowns are relatively harmless. After all, the art of clowning dates back to 2500 B.C. when a pygmy clown performed as a jester in the court of Pharaoh Dadkeri-Assi during Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty. Through the centuries including the era of the Aztec nation in 1520 A.D. and later in Native American tribes clowns have entertained and intrigued their audiences.  In modern times, the aforementioned Bozo became a huge and successful franchise and Ronald McDonald is still going strong 40 years later.

If there really was a clownspiracy going on, there would surely be a public outcry – or boycott.  So to borrow from the popular 1970s introspective interrogatory, “Have you hugged your clown today?”  If not, what are you waiting for?

Copyright 2009, Greg S.

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