Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Clowns Are Cute!

Are they?

You remember Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It, don't you.
You will recall the Joker, won't you. We shouldn't need to mention, should we, Pogo the Clown, a true serial killer and rapist who used to entertain children at parties.

Who isn't afraid of clowns?
I haven't met in my whole life a single person who won't find clowns disquieting to say the least.
I used to hate clowns when I was a child, but do other children actually find clowns amusing?
A clown's face is totally covered by a thick coating of white foundation; physically, white is considered a non-color. The whiteness of the face is contrasted by the bright tints of the nose, of the hair, and of the lips (variations on the theme are frequent, of course). The mouth is, through make-up, usually enhanced into a large smile which stays on regardless of whether the person is smiling. But the most disturbing characteristic of a clown's facial traits is, to me, the eyebrows; these are usually also covered and hidden by a dense layer of make-up; a fake pair of eyebrows is drawn exaggeratedly above the original ones, practically on the person's forehead.
We never know whether the clown is actually smiling. The eyebrows, the part of a person's face that, together with the eyes, better reveals our emotional states, are hidden in a clown; his fake eyebrows are, instead, nicely twisted in grotesque arches characterized by an eerie fixity.
A damned mask!
How can anything good and pure lie behind that infernal non-color?

I don't think great directors like Stanley Kubrick, writers like Stephen King, or some among the most famous expressionist artists randomly chose clowns to portray evil, beast-like or, in the best scenario, extremely melancholic characters.
Just think of the historical and mythological beginnings of clown figures. Harlequin was probably one of the first jesters to exist, and clowns derive from him. Harlequin, modern for Hellequin (Herla Cyning, or King Herla, often identified with Woden, a Germanic god of fury and war), is originally an emissary of the Devil in French and Anglo-Saxon mythological tales, an archetype of exquisitely pagan craft.

Clowns and their devilish nature have been the object of psychological studies and a new word has been recently minted to identify the fear of clowns: coulrophobia.

Do you also have coulrophobia, or do you just adore clowns?


  1. After I watched It, I couldn't sit down on the toilet for weeks!

  2. I do like clowns, and never felt anything bad associated to them... Use to see them in circus, and never had bad experience. Friend of mine I lived with for a wild, had a paintings called The Clown, picturing very sad clown with a tears in his eyes.... I use to spend lot of time in front of The Clown, trying to picture his life... Person who is always there trying to entertain others who never cared of anything happening in his life - death, sorrow, illness in family, accidents....

  3. Coulrophics unite! Stock up on the custard pies; it's the only way to stop them!

  4. Their image has definitely devolved over the recent years. My feeling have always been neutral till the recent portrayals.

  5. I so agree with you—I hate clowns! And still more, mimes. I almost couldn't bring myself to read your post, thinking you were going to argue in favor! Clever title and beginning, then.

  6. Oooo... clowns *are* creepy... disconcerting...

    Aren't the words "Clown" and "Adore" an oxymoron? LOL. ;)

  7. Have you seen Killer Klowns from Outer Space? lol

    Clowns can go either way for me. I neither love nor hate them.

  8. Lass,
    You should have tried a laxative!
    Thanks for visiting!

    You had a very happy childhood!
    Well, you find them amusing, which is great! But you have to admit that there are much more cheery and cheerful symbols, right? After all, the clown you mentioned from the painting was sad and had tears in his eyes...
    Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your view!

    Custard pie? Yuk!
    I understand your point, but the Geneva Conventions are clear on that: torture is really not admissible!
    But your comment is much appreciated :)

    And after the recent portrayals?
    Thanks commenting!

    I really wanted to trick some followers. Glad you almost fell in the trap!
    Thank you for visiting!

    They are! Indeed! Glad you noticed it!
    Thanks for stopping by!

    Yes, I've seen Killer Clowns from Outer Space...
    Your biased though! I know you don't like them either, but prefer not to say it just because some of them come from outer space! :)
    Thanks for stopping by!

    I find them a very interesting topic of research instead. Not the actual clowns, but what they represent symbolically and psychologically.
    The actual clowns, personally, I've never seen the point of them either...
    Thanks for commenting!

  9. The history and symbolism yes. I just remember being taken to the circus as a child and finding them kind of weird...and pointless. Ref horror tropes I think clowns could be in danger of being overdone. Soon as the camera pans in on a clown the brain automatically factors in the likely probabilties.

  10. I was never a fan of horror movies so I have missed all the negative implications of clowns. Most of my friends have a fear of clowns but I remain naive and see them in a fun light. That is an interesting history I never knew though.

  11. I have to admit to never seeing clowns in person but I don't think I have this phobia though. I mean Pogo the clown frightened the bejesus out of me and gave me nightmares and I don't think I'd enjoy seeing Pogo the clown for real but I loved James Stewart's clown in the Greatest Show on Earth. It was literally a mask for him - hiding some profound and ultimately tragic history. Then again maybe it's because it's Jimmy Stewart wearing a clown face that makes his clown sad and not frightening!

    Take care

  12. Mike,
    I suppose you're right.
    Personally, when I see a clown I don't think of the person behind the make-up, but just of what that mask represents. That's what makes clowns interesting to me, but absolutely horrid.

    Hi Heather,
    Here are some horror movies you can watch: "It", "The Shining", "The Ring", "The Exorcist", "The Thing"...

    Thanks for mentioning Pogo the Clown. So you see, a clown should be a happy thing right? Something - or someone - supposed to bring a smile, and he smiles and laughs a lot himself. But associate it to something like murder, or blood, or a pair of sharp canines and the oxymoron that is created makes clown so scary!
    If the same person had committed the same type and number of murders but dressed like The Reaper, he wouldn't be as scary to me!
    Thanks for visiting, Kitty!

  13. Hi Jay!

    Clowns inform so much of my writing, from my first film noir play to two short stories and a poem...all inspired by Stephen Dunn's If a Clown, a piece in the New Yorker some years back that speaks to this perception of clowns as macabre. Thank you for sharing the dark side of clowns. Personally, I believe that the traditional clown is a satirical figure and meant to strike fear rather than bring joy. It's that grotesque upside down smile and grossly exaggerated props that make the clown seem nefarious and with a hidden agenda. I'd never hire one for a child's birthday party!

  14. Had to come back to this post. Since I grew up in the frequent presence of clowns they never bothered me and I enjoyed them. My parents used to collect clown prints and figurines and had our house decorated with them. Some of my very good friends have been clowns. Clowns are a part of my history that brings good memories.
    Have you seen the Fellini film "Clowns"? It's a sort of fantasy-documentary-memoir like he often does. It's a wonderful film.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out