Monday, 28 January 2013

MAD JESTER EXPLAINS WHY CLOWNS ARE CREEPY


Today the crown prince of clowns brings you a rant about a subject he is all too familiar with: Creepy-Ass-Clowns. It's a "monster" I figured he was more the expert on. So enjoy his rambles readers! I have to go shave some people's...faces. Yeah, faces...


Genre Talk: Why Clowns are Creepy
(Or: “Scare-amouche, Scare-amouche, Will you Do the Fandango?”)


Cole Porter, in 1948, wrote in a song: “All the world loves a clown.” However, in my experience, this is very much not the case. Coulrophobia- the fear of clowns- has become inexplicably widespread of late. In fact, it's so prevalent on the Intertubes that one wonders if there aren't a number of people simply jumping on a bandwagon of hate, the way that Nickelback has memetically transformed into the worst band in history (when they are, at worst, an overly-schmaltzy pop-rock group who take themselves a little too seriously).  To me, clowns are about as scary as a cheese sandwich- it might not be your cup of tea, but it certainly means you no harm, and only wants to bring a little joy to your day. I can understand an 'evil clown' (that is, one of the ones MEANT to be scary) giving one the jibblies- there's an obvious intent to frighten or cause harm there.

 But clowns in general? I find it difficult, sometimes, to not look at people who are scared of 'normal' clowns and howl in derisive laughter. (Which, I imagine, would sound a fair bit like the Joker when he thinks he's pulled a fast one on Batso, and so fairly apropos.)

Now, myself having a greater-than-passing fondness for clowns, as well as a great interest in why the human mind works the way it does (hey, surgical implements are available on eBay, look it up!), I decided to take a good long look at why it is, precisely, that so many people are creeped out by clowns.


Trying- as usual- to take the easy route, I figured a good place to start would be The No-Clown Zone  (http://www.ihateclowns.com) and, seeing that there was a list of 34 reasons to dislike clowns,  thought I'd hit the jackpot. No such luck, Puddle-duck- the list may as well have been compiled by second-graders. Here's a few doozies

They rhyme with 'frowns'.
They have a phobia named after them. (Of course, so do women, water, the number thirteen and having peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth.)
(I shit you not) I sang a sad song about them once.
A clown ate the dog that ate my homework. (Well, excuse me for wanting to grab a quick lunch!)
(Conclusion drawn: people hate clowns, because people are goddamn infants. No help there.)

Pictured: Coulrophobes, according to this.

Still hopeful, I perused the rest of the site, I did eventually get to the reason the author dislikes clowns- it boils down to watching The Wiz in his youth and being traumatized by the growing, creepy clown dolls that chase Dorothy & Co. out of the subway station. Ah! Here, at least, is a reason that makes some semblance of sense! This is something to which I can relate, somewhat- I had a bad experience with bees in my youth, and as such, they still make me pretty nervous- and entomophobia (fear of insects) is arguably the only phobia more laughable than coulrophobia. (Although I put to you this- number of clowns likely to murder you: 1, and he's dead. Number of beehives likely to murder you: FUCKING ALL OF THEM, EVERYWHERE, IN PERPETUITY. Math it out for yourselves.)

“Hi! My homeys and I are here to kill the shit out of you!”

At any rate, it looked like polling the hoi-polloi was getting me nowhere at Mach 2, so it became obvious that I'd have to dig a little deeper- go beyond the greasepaint, so to speak. It was obvious that any real investigation of the subject would require a bit of actual research. Reading through a number of articles in psychiatric journals (I steal them occasionally from Dr. Shaffer’s office) yielded two interesting, divergent, yet closely related theories: one having to do with the clown's makeup-face, and one having to do with what lies beneath it.

First, the clown's face. One article posited that it's the face itself that makes the clown scary; the fact that a clown's face is painted with a fixed expression- often of joy or glee- makes some people feel that they're being subconsciously corralled or coerced into one specific emotional response (that is, laughter), and as such feel resentful and almost emotionally violated. (I suppose there's a certain sense, in that it can be very distressing to feel like one is not in total control of one's mind. I know Kweeny will back me up on that one.) In addition, there's the fact that the clown's makeup simply obscures the face beneath- you can look right at a clown, and never recognize the person to whom that clown reverts when the floppy shoes are beneath the bed. It is precisely that fact on which John Wayne Gacy- aka Pogo the Clown- relied when he committed his murders, and if anything in the world is a case for clowns being scary, Gacy's it. (Even if he was a bit of a one-trick pony.)

The other part of the clown's visage that potentially makes them frightening, according to another article, was one that calls upon the primal, simian parts of the human brain, the parts that come pre-installed right out of the package. It has to do with the way our brains recognize faces: a clown's face has all the recognizable characteristics of a 'normal' human face- two eyes, a nose, a mouth, two ears, possibly hair- but is very obviously NOT a 'normal' human face. Human faces do not have permanent rictus-grins, nor are they bone-white with blue eyelids, nor do they have huge, bulbous red noses. (Well, maybe Ralph Klein on the nose thing, but still.) A painted-on face that could hide a nigh-infinite number of nightmare imaginings.

“It's kinda my thing.”

And so, it seems I've now got a few decent theories as to why clowns are considered frightening by some. I suppose if there were someone I didn't know, running toward me in a dimly-lit circus tent and setting off my “WHAT THE SHIT ARE YOU?!” alarms, I'd be pretty jumpy as well. This, in conjunction with those segments of the population who harbour childhood traumas related to clowns, could very easily form the basis for a proliferation of coulrophobia. Not to the extent that it seems to have spread, per se, but at least I have some inkling of why it happens at all.

What about you guys? Do you have any fears that might be considered irrational?

“Take a seat and tell me all about it.”

8 comments:

  1. With all due respect, fear, and admiration to Pennywise, it's that damn stuffed doll from Poltergeist that forever ruined clowns for me. Thirty years later, and I still jump every time Robbie turns around to find it waiting . . .

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    1. I can dig it. It'd likely have had the same effect on me, if I'd watched the movie back in the day.

      That said, I watched Squirm for the first time when I was five, and that opening sequence STILL gives me the oogies, so I think I understand. (Only part of that cheeseball that does a damn thing for me, but still.)

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  2. Oh God, Spaulding. Now that's a twisted clown! And I still love the heck out of that bastard!

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    1. Captain Spaulding is the unmitigated shit, full stop. ^_^

      Not my favourite evil clown, not with the likes of Pennywise and Funnyman capering about, but he's definitely one of.

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  3. When I was little, the movie IT would scare the shit out of me. It was the only horror movie besides Child's Play that made me cry. Now, IT is one of my favorite horror movies and clowns don't bother me. Dolls on the other hand is a different story. I will never watch Child's Play again and I will always be scared of Chucky.

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    1. I greatly fear I may be too late, but for Loki's sake don't watch Dead Silence! That movie damn near made ADULT me develop a fear of dolls!

      Ahh, Child's Play. I came to that one at about 10 or so- it was one of the first movies to make me genuinely scared, too, along with Fright Night II (friggin' Bozworth the Bug-eater and Belle the Rollerscating Vampire!).

      I consider myself fortunate that I never picked up any serious fears or triggers from the horror movies I saw when I was young- except for the abovesaid opening sequence to Squirm.
      EEEEGAAAAH! *shudder*

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  4. I used to be afraid of clowns when I was a little kid, now I just simply dislike them. Sometimes I'm still a little creeped out by them, but it's not a full fledged phobia or anything like that. I think what first got me afraid of clowns was that stupid Killer Klownz movie. lol. After that, whenever I saw a clown I would cling to my parents and cry.

    Oddly enough I actually kind of like evil clowns now, normal clowns are just weird. That, and they're annoying. Especially mall clowns, always trying to engage you as you walk past. :( But you hit it right on the money with the painted on face thing. They're also loud and obnoxious in a fake happy way.

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    1. I can see why Killer Klownz from Outer Space would freak a young person out. Having come to it as an adult, it falls- for me, anyway- squarely in the campy, silly Bad Movie Night pile, but for a younger viewer I can see it very easily being nightmare fuel.

      As for normal, non-evil, Earth-bound clowns, I've always felt that any clown who has to fake the 'happy' in order to get into character has probably chosen the wrong career path. Mall clowns are at a severe disadvantage- they're instructed specifically to engage everyone that passes them, which is silly because people in shopping malls are all stressed out and in 'seek and retrieve' mode, which means 'not exceptionally receptive to bright, noisy, distractive entertainment'.

      But you're right- clowns are loud and, subjectively, obnoxious. It's socially acceptable when THEY do it- it's expected of them. I think it's a large part of what I like about them. ^__^

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