Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Evil Clown is Alive and Well in American Culture

Return of the Dark Clowns Blog!

I first became interested in this subject nearly a decade ago, and after much research, published a study of the subject in Trickster's Way: The Journal of Trickster Studies. To date, it appears to still be the only peer-reviewed academic literature devoted to the subject, so I continue to receive many questions as interest in this subject seems to continue to grow yearly. It is for this reason which, after abandoning the Dark Clowns blog five years ago, I have decided to return to efforts to chronicle the weird world of evil clown motifs. Periodic entries from now on will roundup interesting information, news stories and curious odds and ends in a manner much like what follows.

Coulrophobia News in Brief

In wrestling, Doink the Clown returned to the WWE ring in this week's episode of Monday Night Raw. Doink, an evil clown gimmick character, was first played by Matt Osborne from 1992 to 1996 and has been popping up sporadically ever since. I believe this week marks his first appearance in the WWE world since 2010.

If you were wondering how to make yourself up as an evil clown, a pretty good make up tutorial was posted on youtube this week. Also new on the tubes this week is this odd little video of some kids simulating an evil clown attack (is that like Cowboys vs Indians for the new generation?), though the tables get turned on said clown in this followup clip.

In coulrophobic cinema, the much-discussed remake of the grand-daddy of all evil clown flicks, Stephen King's IT, continues to take shape. Two relatively unknown screenwriters, David Kajganich and Chase Palmer will assist young director Cary Fukunaga in drafting the script for the new adaptation, which is planned to be released as two films. The original 1990 television mini-series treatment of King's 1987 novel, with its chilling portrayal of Pennywise the Dancing Clown by Tim Curry, was massively influential in pushing the then-fringe fears of greasepainted villains to the forefront of pop culture.

Looking from another end of the entertainment sphere, Grand Junction Free Press music columnist examines the evolving role of clowns in music coinciding with the change in popular connotation of this figure, from Smokey Robinson's "Tears of a Clown" and Genesis's "Harlequin" to ICP and British 70s band The Klowns (fronted by Rocky Horror star Barry Bostwick!). Worth a read.

Authorities in Montreal are looking to find the source of two clown costumes used in a robbery in May. Stumped investigators are asking the public for any information about where clown costumery can be obtained in order to find two men who stole a large amount of cash during a break-in. Both were dressed in colorful wigs and clown suits, complete with decorative balloons.

A branch of CIRCA, the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, a worldwide group of activists, have been active in Seattle recently. CIRCA clowns were seen at a recent protest of police brutality last week in Seattle, then added their own demonstration to a chorus of Seattle residents who've been protesting
controversial treatment of elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo.

In Arkansas, professional entertainer "Sondance the Clown," aka Thomas Henry Morgan, 47, plead not guilty to four child pornography charges on Thursday. My files are packed full of features in anti-clown and coulrophobic discussion, a perception of sexual similar cases, highlighting one of the most frequently cited deviance and pedophilia in particular. In fact, it's only been about a week since semi-retired clown William Mayo Dunlop plead guilty to sexually molesting a pre-adolescent girl in Oregon. Despite the apparent deluge of such incidents, it remains hard to get any real statistical sense of the issue- as I pointed out in my 2004 paper on the subject in the Journal of Trickster Studies, media sources are substantially more likely to mention the occupation of an offender in such a case if it is a profession directly involved with children. In particular, the sensationalism of the image of the sex offender clown is so attractive to the press that it is virtually unheard of to have the word clown not appear in the headline in such a story, as opposed to if the offender was an accountant, toll booth operator, mechanic, etc. In that research, I suggested that serial killer John Wayne Gacy helped coalesce this, perhaps the darkest coulrophobic association:

"The image of a killer hiding in a clown suit has become permanently etched into the mass conception of the Gacy killings, through a tabloid images and made-for-TV movies. One of the key books on Gacy, as mentioned above, is called Killer Clown. Almost any short bio that can be found on John Wayne Gacy (and there are hundreds on the internet) mention something about him working as a clown, while only a rare few mention his main occupation, as a contractor. "