Sunday, September 02, 2012

Summer Makes the Greasepaint Curdle: What's New in Evil Clowning

This August was a big one for Insane Clown Posse and its acolyte swarm of juggalos and juggalettes. Of course, there were the usual antics at their annual "Gathering of the Juggalos," arguably the country's oddest and most ridiculed yearly music festival. Ten of the painted face ones were arrested before the Faygo-sodden festivities began this year, followed by the usual tomfoolery, toothless public sex acts, geriatric teens, self-styled rappers, eye-damaging nudity, and drug retail blatant even for a festival. Journalist Nathan Rabin produced an excellent account of the madness for AV Club.

The real story for the Dark Carnivalites this year, though, was the group's recent announcement that they have launched a lawsuit against the FBI for its pseudo-gang classification of their fans. Despite the fact that album sales suggest the juggalo fan base is shrinking, in a report on gang activity last year, the Bureau labeled them as "a concern to law enforcement" due to their "general destructive and violent nature." This is preposterous, say the magnet-questioning Detroit dropouts, who have vowed to pursue the suit "no matter what it costs or what it takes."

Meanwhile, in Florida, where coulrophobia-inducing shenanigans seem to be fairly frequent, a man in a "killer clown" mask pulled a brutal home invasion against a couple in Boca Raton. The clown-mask wearing bandit, along with two other men, told the woman to leave the house and zipper tied the man while they unbolted and ran with a safe containing various valuables, including 120 Klonopin prescription pills, 6 Movado watches worth $5,000 and a brown, leather wallet holding $240 cash and credit cards.

Another scary clown made a more overtly public appearance this past month, on the reality TV show Big Brother. Housemates were subjected to disgusting beauty treatments by the show's own recurring evil clown, Mr Snuggles. One ran in terror twice before taking the challenge.

Mr. Snuggles, who can be found on Facebook, has appeared sporadically on Big Brother since 2010, first scaring the bejesus out of housemate Nikki Makosi during his own first home invasion.

"I ripped my dress. I just didn't ant it anywhere near me- I just didn't want it to touch me," said Makosi at the time, proving once again that coulrophobia is either extremely widespread, or at least very fashionable.

Elsewhere in the world, a CBS new report on medical clowning in Israeli hospitals (think Patch Adams as an institutional practice) revealed an interesting insight into the cultural variance of the coulro-phenomenon, with even the head of Behavioral Sciences at L.A. Children's hospital noting the especially American influences and concentration of the thing, this peculiarly loaded relationship our local culture has with the figure of the clown. This is not to say that "evil clown" motifs are unique to it, though, or that these anxieties are in any way limited to the United States, as this article on phobias from India last week proves.

In fictional realms, Cleaver Patterson reviews one of this year's crop of indie killer clown horror flicks, Connor McMahon's UK-filmed Stitches (2012), though I much prefer lead actor Ross Noble's own description in the behind the scenes teaser: "It's like Freddy Krueger has taken the month off and he's said to his daft mate, 'These kids need killing. Do you think you could just turn up, and do a bit of killing for me?' "

As in a majority of the Killer Clown subgenre, it's not just straight humanistic murder, but has a major supernatural factor in that the Stitches is returned from the dead. In my 2004 paper on the subject in the Journal of Trickster Studies, I maintained that linkages of the evil clown to the paranormal are endemic to the subject, and tied to ancient cultural histories and understandings of the archetype of the clown itself.

Finally, as a special treat off the You Tubes this month... I'm sure there was nothing terrifying intended about this by its original creators, but for anyone who cringes at the sight of one of our big-grinned bigtop friends is likely to lose at least an hour's sleep over watching this commercial (aka NSFC).

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