Dirty, Dirty Clown
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You know what would make a good story? Something about a clown who makes people happy, but inside he's real sad. Also, he has severe diarrhea.
-- Deep Thoughts, By Jack Handey
The love-hate relationship with clowns has reached a new level-fear-fetish. Yes, those grease-painted, droopy-eyed, big-footed buffoons sure know how to draw a crowd -- be it lynch mob, or orgy.
And the image is everywhere. Just look around -- between the ubiquitous Ronald McDonald, Jack in the Box, funhouses, circuses and memories of Bozo the childhood icon is inescapable. Just walking the streets can be a challenge for the fearful -- and, yes, for the new wave of fetishists.
Coulrophobics, or, folks who harbor an irrational fear of clowns, are just about as common-place as clowns themselves. But why is that? Why has the image of this supposedly happy childhood entertainer turned evil? Flip to the other side -- how has someone had the audacity to turn it into something sexual?
Fears of a Clown
The birth of the clown dates back thousands of years. Cortez reportedly took jesters from Montezuma's court back to the Pope, as gifts. But these were no normal jesters. They're described as Aztec fools, dwarf clowns and hunchbacked buffoons. Yecchh! What a way to begin your history.
Little has changed today. While many clowns, no doubt, mean to bring joy into the lives of kids, the result is not always so positive. Now, we're not talking about the obvious ones like mass murderer John Wayne Gacy Jr., or the pedophiles who have polka-dotted clown history. We're still just talking about your everyday, red-nosed clowns.
Fearing clowns is actually more common than thinking fondly of them, according to Robert Thompson, president of the International Popular Culture Association. And the multitude of Web sites/support groups (e.g., www.ihateclowns.com, www.clownz.com, www.evilclownanimation.com, www.klownkiller.com, among many others) hasn't helped.
"The cliché with a clown now is of course you're afraid of them. Of course they're gross. It's almost as though the horror manifestation of them has taken over the original idea of a clown as an amusing comic figure," he says.
One of the main problems with clowns, is that, besides looking funny, they do things that frighten or embarrass you. They honk things at you. They make loud, balloon-smearing sounds. And you, as a child, get nothing -- save contempt -- in return. It's different than with other funny-looking icons, which at least bring you something. Take Santa Claus, for example.
"Santa has the extra benefit of being domesticated, and of course he always buys his way into your affections by bringing you good presents. A clown, the best they can usually do is an animal balloon and more likely than not it pops in your face while they're making it and makes you cry more," explains Thompson.
Furthermore, clowns have an advantage over kids: They know there's nowhere to hide. Parents think kids should love clowns, not fear them. If the kid turns to mom for protection, she pushes him right back into the arms of the perpetrator. And so adults -- who are usually safe zones -- become clown enablers. And the children are further victimized.
And then there's the scary movies. But, though movies like It, Poltergeist, and Killer Clowns from Outer Space capitalize on this fear, they certainly didn't create it. As Thompson explains it, the plots with the most terrifying potential involve things that seem innocent and harmless on the surface. But once further examined, there are subconscious and psychological fears that are deeply rooted in their essence.
But the fear of clowns is growing tiresome. It's been here for so long, maybe it's time to move to the next level.
What a Big, uh, Nose You Have?
And that new level is clown porn. Yes, you heard right.
Now, to Thompson, clown porn comes as no surprise. "I think you could go on the Internet and you could find porn sites surrounding just about anything. The clown thing has got a couple of added benefits. One, any time you've got a costume and a uniform, a sexual fetish is usually not far behind. And secondly, I think because it's got this association with childhood and horror, there's all the added perverse images that coagulate around these kinds of things that can give it a sexual charge, if you're so inclined, as well," he says.
But for others, it's a more serious problem. There's a fantastic Web site that's attempting to stop this trend from taking off, full throttle: www.StopClownPornNow.org. The Web master, Infozo, is terrified that the clown-porn trend will spread as quickly as the clown-terror trend did.
And just as there exists a clear historical line between clowns and fright, so is there with clowns and sex:
"Clowns and sexuality have been associated with one another since the Greek comic actors, forefathers of our modern Western clowns. These actors are depicted on surviving pottery as wearing padding that emphasizes the size and plumpness of their bellies and buttocks and/or strap-on phalloi that the Ancient Greek audience considered inseparable from comic performance," Infozo writes, in an email interview with Las Vegas Weekly.
He says that the porn industry capitalized quickly on clownsploitation, with films like The Sex Lives of Clowns, Johnny Toxic's Clown F---ers, and New Wave Hookers IV. The Internet helped to further spread the trend, with characters like "Knockers the Klown" and thousands of sites that come up in an Internet search using the words "clown" and "sex."
But for Infozo, the site's not clowning around. "I personally have a problem with clown porn in the same way recovering alcoholics have problems with the bottle. Last year I hit bottom when I realized I was essentially stalking a clown when Ringling Bros. came to town. Having creeped myself out, I decided it was time to give something back to the clowns, the love of whom I had confused with lust for so long," he writes.
His goal is to stop the trend in its oversized shoes before it squeaks too far ahead. "Now it seems you can't mention clowns at a cocktail party without the uprising chorus of the otherwise sound and sensible 'I AM SO SCARED OF CLOWNS.' ... The endlessly recounted cocktail conversation of the Porno Clown and his sexual successes is right around the corner. We're out to stop that."