We’re in the midst of International Clown Week.
Although I’m not surprised that clowns have a week devoted to them, I am surprised they are still a thing. Actually, I’m surprised they were ever a thing.
Indeed, scores of folks are terrified of clowns. There’s even a word – coulrophobia – for people with an intense phobia of them. Many people credit (maybe that’s not the right word) Stephen King’s “It,” which features a demonic clown who terrorizes children, and the movie “Poltergeist,” which features a child’s clown doll who comes to life and attacks said child, with introducing anti-clown fervor. Yet my research shows that clowns have been dark and/or scary for centuries.
They’ve probably also been irritating for centuries. Clowns rank just a notch above mimes on the ability-to-annoy-me meter. I don’t understand why mimes can’t just spit out whatever they’re feeling and why clowns hide behind makeup and those outrageous wigs. Besides, if you have to rely on multiple props, then maybe your antics aren’t as funny as you think they are.
Since I’ve never understood the comedic appeal of unicycles, seltzer water, and horns, clowns have always gotten on my nerves. And the only thing worse than a clown is clown art. In fact, I find artwork of clowns to be creepier than the actual thing. Granted, I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, so I’m not sure what moves an artist to pick up a brush. But even if I could draw, I doubt my muse would wear clown shoes and a big red nose.
According to research I alluded to earlier, even young children who have probably never seen a clown-centered horror film are terrified of them. Experts say this makes sense because kids possess an innate ability to detect when something is off, which supports my theory that clowns are inherently off. Anyway, this is true even when children can’t define exactly what is wrong.
So, that begs a few questions: If scores of people consider clowns scary and/or annoying, then how the heck did they ever gain popularity? Have kids always been scared of them? Or is this a newfangled fear that’s a result of kids picking up on adults’ trepidation? And if this unease is not newfangled, then why have we been tormenting kids at circuses and birthday parties for decades?
Wouldn’t putting them in timeout be more efficient?
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.