General Discussion

What is it with clowns
ayesinback at 1:50PM, Feb. 20, 2011
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I really don't have a stand one way or another with clowns — not clowns as in “you clown, you” or a class clown, but the people who put on white face and a red nose for a living.

But most people I know Do have a stand, and it's anti. Whether it's Xander from Buffy, or Stephen King's It, the sentiment I commonly run into is that clowns are creepy, if not downright frightening.

How do you feel? Can you remember feeling differently? If so, what turned the tide?
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last edited on July 14, 2011 11:14AM
crocty at 2:30PM, Feb. 20, 2011
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I was never bothered by clowns one way or the other. I laughed at people who were scared of clowns. HAHAHA!

But then…


But then that made no difference, clowns are stupid.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 11:54AM
Castle Pokemetroid at 5:22PM, Feb. 20, 2011
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They do wear an eccessive amount of makeup and dress funny.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:37AM
Product Placement at 6:07PM, Feb. 20, 2011
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This might be related to the hypothesis that is the uncanny valley.



The uncanny valley is best described that when you give something human characteristics, you start noticing those features first and identify with it. Disney and various animation studios does that to their cartoon animals, in order to make us like them more.

However, the more human characteristics you give something, the less likely you are to notice those features and are instead more likely to pay attention to what doesn't look like you. You're now paying attention to the things that makes it different and are far more likely to be crept out by it. This is what is called the uncanny valley. The only way to get out of it is to make it look less like a human or work that much harder to make it look as identical to a human as possible.

Some have suggested that the reason why we react like this to “nearly- but not quite” humans is because it's a built in warning system against sick people. When we see someone horribly sick, disgustingly dirty or disfigured we tend to react with repulsion and prefer staying clear. The reason is that we identify potential hazard to our own well being and respond by protecting ourselves.

Seeing how clowns tend to look human but really not quite, it could be attributed that their scary factor spikes up.

It's also dependent on context. Seeing a happy clown on a stage, acting goofy and slapstick, while you're sitting far away amongst audience that's laughing and carefree helps you realize that this clown is entertaining. Take him out of that context and put him anywhere else where he doesn't belong and he becomes that much more creepier. There's nothing funny about a clown in a dark alley, for example.
Those were my two cents.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 2:53PM
ozoneocean at 8:39PM, Feb. 20, 2011
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Clowns have always been borderline creepy. That was part of their shtick.
If you look at older cultural practices involving clowns you'll see a pretty constant thread:
Being dressed up with face-paint and an exaggerated disguise means they can act outside of what's considered normally socially acceptable… So they would often pick on certain people out of a crowd to make fun off for example, often children.

Clowns come from a variety of sources- religious/cultural practices being a major one. Indeed, our own modern Santa Claus comes largely comes from the English midwinter plays, as Farther Christmas where he originated as “the Fool”. A troop would go from door to door in medieval times, playing out the end of year, rebirth of the new year, with “The fool” playing all sorts of pranks.
Of course fools and jesters had a lowly but protected role in the royal court where they could safely satirize the fortunate folk. People employed in that position were often deformed in some way.

In Italy there were the famous travelling troops of characters all in their make-up, playing out the typical comic tragedy… the Commedia dell'Arte, freaky harlequins, sad crying Pierrot, roguish Scaramouche etc.

I think the idea that clowns were ONLY meant to be funny and not scary, creepy or tragic as well was a fairly recent thing…? Perhaps that came in during the 19th century where travelling circuses started to really take off and people found anachronisms like clowns too bizarre to look at them for what they were?
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:37PM
bravo1102 at 11:07PM, Feb. 20, 2011
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What if you met someone who acted like a clown and looked like one but wasn't? Instead she was a mentally disabled deaf-mute?

THat is a very disturbing experience and gives one insight into what clowns represent.

Okay everyone we will now sit and watch Todd Browning's Freaks
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:34AM
Adariel at 2:20AM, Feb. 21, 2011
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Ronald Mcdonald creeps me out, i lose my appetite just looking at him, never knew why.
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:45AM
DarkGesen at 2:51AM, Feb. 21, 2011
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The Joker. From The Dark Knight.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:07PM
Ironscarf at 3:47AM, Feb. 21, 2011
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I think the apparently increasing fear of clowns must have at least something to do with the ever growing fear and obsession with paedophiles stalking kids. If you look at Hollywoods depiction of clowns back in the fifties, you'd have Judy Garland and Gene Kelly portraying them as entirely wonderful and unthreatening - a Hollywood depiction is not a real world view of course, but it tends to mirror popular tastes. Sometime later, paedophiles entered the popular consciousness and clowns started to look slightly suspicious.


All the world loves a clown indeed!
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:02PM
ozoneocean at 4:21AM, Feb. 21, 2011
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Ironscarf
I think the apparently increasing fear of clowns must have at least something to do with the ever growing fear and obsession with paedophiles stalking kids. If you look at Hollywoods depiction of clowns back in the fifties, you'd have Judy Garland and Gene Kelly portraying them as entirely wonderful and unthreatening - a Hollywood depiction is not a real world view of course, but it tends to mirror popular tastes. Sometime later, paedophiles entered the popular consciousness and clowns started to look slightly suspicious.
If you look at clown/fool.jester depictions before the 19thC in Western and other cultures you'll see that they always verged on creepy and frequently crossed the line over to cruel and weird.
As far as I can see it was only with the coming of circuses in the 19th Century and later with Hollywood movie romanticism in the eary 20th Century that clowns became gentrified for a little while.

They're really just returning now to their older state.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:37PM
PIT_FACE at 5:30AM, Feb. 21, 2011
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fear of clowns? i wouldnt of survived childhood if i had a fear of clowns. my mom used to collect clowns. well not living ones, but you know, figurines, dolls, they were all over the place. went right along with my dad's clock collection and the fact that i KNEW Freddy Krueger lived in back of my couch. made gettin up for a glass of water in the middle of the night impossible.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:45PM
ayesinback at 5:44AM, Feb. 21, 2011
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PIT_FACE
fear of clowns? i wouldnt of survived childhood if i had a fear of clowns. my mom used to collect clowns. well not living ones, but you know, figurines, dolls, they were all over the place. went right along with my dad's clock collection and the fact that i KNEW Freddy Krueger lived in back of my couch. made gettin up for a glass of water in the middle of the night impossible.

HaHaHa. My Mom still has a gynormous doll collection, with a wall-size display cabinet. Passing by the display in the dark was OK because you couldn't see anything, and in daylight it was OK. But if it were dusk/twilight/dawn and the room lights weren't on — all those eyes. eeeyyeee



This thread isn't going the way I thought it would - I had somewhat expected stories about clown encounters, but it's much more interesting this way.

As far as the white face paint, the statement of setting oneself apart seems especially valid, as this was a device also used by royalty/aristocracy for generations (I'm thinking of Queen Liz I through Marie Antoinette).

Then there are the mimes - I find a good mime Fascinating (check out Jean-Louis Barrault)

and the bad ones hilarious. Maybe they are the inheritors of the classic clown tradition.

As far as the depiction of clowns as I was growing up, definitely along the lines of carefree, silly, gentle shticks, a la Judy Garland/Gene Kelly.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 11:14AM
PIT_FACE at 6:02AM, Feb. 21, 2011
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ayesinback
all those eyes. eeeyyeee

they followed ya….didnt they….
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:45PM
ayesinback at 6:04AM, Feb. 21, 2011
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PIT_FACE
ayesinback
all those eyes. eeeyyeee

they followed ya….didnt they….
in some horrid way, they still do
under new management
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:14AM
I Am The 1337 Master at 6:23AM, Feb. 21, 2011
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I have no problem with clowns.

IT was a terrible adaptation as a movie.

Hmph.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:55PM
Call Me Tom at 12:02PM, Feb. 21, 2011
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Clowns never spooked me, but Dolls scare the living @£$% out of me!
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:36AM
blindsk at 7:01PM, Feb. 21, 2011
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I feel like a large part of today's fear of clowns stems quite a bit from current popculture, deriving from the works that ayesinback mentioned in beginning. Especially that movie, IT.

That movie was one of those films that you weren't supposed to see as a kid, but instead you would sneak into your parents room and watch it late at night. I never had that opportunity, but a lot of people I knew did, and it left them scarred. I'm not saying this is the movie that changed the face of clowns forever, but media such as this do leave you with such an impression that will influence how you react to clowns.

And, personally, I didn't watch any of these movies or really see anything that would cause me to interpret clowns as being evil. And to this day, they're alright in my book.

last edited on July 14, 2011 11:25AM
ozoneocean at 8:08PM, Feb. 21, 2011
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blindsk
I feel like a large part of today's fear of clowns stems quite a bit from current popculture, deriving from the works that ayesinback mentioned in beginning. Especially that movie, IT.
As I keep saying:
Look back at the origins of clowns.

There is a reason that people in white makeup with strangely distorted expressions have always been prone to make small children cry.


The 19th Century is responsible for a lot of enduring mythology that we accept without question today and think that's always how things were:
-That clowns are funny.
-The myth of the “old west”
-That parkland in Britain is “natural countryside”.
-The Gentleman explorer.
-The Gentleman inventor.
-The Gentleman artist.
-The idea that all cowboys wore cowboy hats.
-The idea that the cowboy hat was invented in America.
-Ninja and samurai battles and much related samurai and ninja mythology.
-Most pirate mythology.
-Most popular Viking mythology. (all the horny stuff Product Placement hates).
-Vampire and werewolf pop-culture pretending to be myth.
-The myth of Celtic civilisation as a cohesive whole.

lol, this is getting too boring…
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:37PM
blindsk at 8:43PM, Feb. 21, 2011
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ozoneocean
There is a reason that people in white makeup with strangely distorted expressions have always been prone to make small children cry.

I'm aware of all that stuff. I said before, I don't believe media to be the sole reason clowns are perceived as scary - it is obviously predated to theater in many ways.

But I'm sure children didn't pick up a history book and have that scary image of an evil clown burned into their minds. Instead, a movie or modern literature did that.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:25AM
ozoneocean at 9:18PM, Feb. 21, 2011
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blindsk
But I'm sure children didn't pick up a history book and have that scary image of an evil clown burned into their minds.
That's not what I'm saying- Kids never need to see Pennywise in “It” or ICP or anything else related to that genre. People in white makeup with distorted expression and cartoonish behaviour are just naturally freaky and weird. It's always been this way.

PP has a bit of an explanation as to why… The thing is that it's ONLY people who're indoctrinated into the post 19th Century popculture idea that clowns are only funny and harmless are the ones who don't see any issues with them. :)


TL,DR; it's the reverse! ^_^
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:37PM
Dodger at 9:34PM, Feb. 21, 2011
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crocty
I was never bothered by clowns one way or the other. I laughed at people who were scared of clowns. HAHAHA!

But then…


My thoughts exactly. : |
plzstaydeadplzstaydead…

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last edited on July 14, 2011 12:13PM
blindsk at 10:13PM, Feb. 21, 2011
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ozoneocean
That's not what I'm saying- Kids never need to see Pennywise in “It” or ICP or anything else related to that genre. People in white makeup with distorted expression and cartoonish behaviour are just naturally freaky and weird. It's always been this way.

Alright, that makes sense. I guess that's why it's easy to depict them as scary. The only thing that bothers me about them is that they remind me of 80s fashion. And that (to me) is scary!
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:25AM
Chernobog at 9:33AM, Feb. 22, 2011
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It's definitely the stark make up. Some clowns are less scary than others. I mean, take the kind you see at Ringlin Brothers Circus and then walk to the other end of the spectrum, which is J.W. Gacy. Gacy's nightmarish looking even before you know anything about him. In the modern consciousness, I wonder how much he played into contemporary coulrophobia. Personally, I like costume painting a great deal. So even evil clowns like Pennywise appeal to me.

I was at the NJ Clownfest this past summer and rode the old fashioned carousel with some. It was pretty cool.
 
 
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last edited on July 14, 2011 11:41AM
ayesinback at 9:51AM, Feb. 22, 2011
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ozoneocean
blindsk
I feel like a large part of today's fear of clowns stems quite a bit from current popculture, deriving from the works that ayesinback mentioned in beginning. Especially that movie, IT.
As I keep saying:
Look back at the origins of clowns.

There is a reason that people in white makeup with strangely distorted expressions have always been prone to make small children cry.
Very true, which is why it's interesting to me that when I was growing up the pinnacle of kiddie birthday party attraction was having a clown come to perform. How much the kids actually liked the clowns I don't know (like how much they liked cabbage patch dolls, beanie babies, etc), but it was the status thing to do and if you were going to have a birthday party amount to anything, there had to be a clown.

Now, not so much. Most kid parties seem to be held outside the home, anything – Chucky Cheese, laser tag – and clowns are not involved.

No doubt it's natural to be wary of someone dressed up like a clown (and not just the make-up: “pants on the ground. pants on the ground. you lookin like a fool with your pants on the ground”), but is this because kids today aren't “clown-brainwashed” like they use to be?

Just wondering what happened because I don't believe a generation of babies were suddenly spawned more cognizant of the potential danger of peculiarities than previous generations.

I'm curious, Oz, for you are clowns creepy, funny, or a non-event?

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last edited on July 14, 2011 11:14AM
ozoneocean at 11:30AM, Feb. 22, 2011
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ayesinback
I'm curious, Oz, for you are clowns creepy, funny, or a non-event?
When I was a little kid, for me they were just enigmas- Very bizarre looking people.
Clowns seemed to be supposed to be “funny” or to indicate something that was funny, but they weren't.

The only time clowns were ever funny to me as a child was when they were performing- with good performers behind them, doing well rehearsed physical comedy.

There's nothing inherent in the make-up or outfits that's really funny, it's the physical comedy that does it. And the make-up and outfits don't really add to that, they're worn as part of old circus tradition.
Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Jackie Chan are (were) all hilariously funny physical comedians, they'd be funny in clown suits too but not more than they already were.

A person in clown make-up NOT doing physical comedy though, just walking around and acting like a normal person IS weird and a bit naturally creepy because everything is distorted and exaggerated.

————–

I think the dichotomy we have here is this outdated idea that the clown suit and make-up were a symbol, metaphor, or some sort of short-cut representation for “humour”- which was based on and assuming a familiarity with their physical comedy performances- this became confused with the idea that it was the suit and make-up that were the things which actually made them funny- which is not the case.

Without a good familiarity with good clown performances, you don't have the right associations and the symbolism doesn't make as much sense any longer, so you go for then next thing that does: freaky, creepy strangeness. :)

——-
And as for the “clown dolls”, most of those tend to be (not always, but often) Pierrot; who is a completely different sort of figure. He's based on a much older idea of the clown. He's a tragic figure who's generally plain, blank white sad face, often a bit effeminate, with a puffy white suit with pom-poms down the front, with small feet and hands. It's hard for a little kid to know what to make of Pierrot.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:37PM
Call Me Tom at 12:14PM, Feb. 22, 2011
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A friend of mine found this on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvXV8ToZ6e8&feature=feedlik best song about clowns ever!
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:36AM
Sayomi at 4:45AM, Feb. 23, 2011
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I'm scared of clowns, the way they are so towering and creepy-made up and you don't know what kind of creep is under those clothes. they could even be hiding a weapon in those giant trousers.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:24PM
Armagedon at 4:15PM, Feb. 23, 2011
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Killer Clowns from Outer Space…. I think that sums up most peoples feelings of clowns.

I know many people who didn't mind clowns until that movie… or “It,” but I think it works well with the Uncanny Valley thing mentioned earlier.

If people tend to look at something as different, it makes them uneasy. Regardless of whether it's a clowns, alien, religion, etc.

In the case of clowns, they work so hard to look different from the norm, that many people (at least some) tend to believe they hide some dark secret, and that makes them uneasy.


What else would explain stuff like the movies above, the joker, the paintings of crying clowns, and such.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:02AM
machinehead at 6:25PM, Feb. 23, 2011
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I don't think clowns themselves are creepy or scary, but I always wonder about the “real” people behind the make up. What kind of weirdo purposely paints their face and hangs around a bunch of kids. Sounds like a pedophile to me.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:49PM
Sayomi at 9:23AM, Feb. 24, 2011
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machinehead
I don't think clowns themselves are creepy or scary, but I always wonder about the “real” people behind the make up. What kind of weirdo purposely paints their face and hangs around a bunch of kids. Sounds like a pedophile to me.
I know! That's what I said! ;)
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:24PM

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