Clown Panics

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Clowns have slid from being a universal symbol of mirth and laughter for children into sinister figures in contemporary lore. Perhaps it is in the rictus grin painted onto the clown's face that hides his true emotion (thank you, Smokey Robinson) or his status as a 'trickster' figure in popular culture - spreading uncontrolled anarchy from behind his mask. Others could point fingers at the deployment of the clown in popular culture and fiction. Stephen King's "IT" famously took human form in the shape of Pennywise the clown - mirthsomely dressed with carnation and huge clown shoes, but actually a demonic force from beyond the human world. Seemingly no horror film from recent years is complete without a child forced to sleep with a wooden clown at the foot of their bed.

In the real world, American serial killer John Wayne Gacy was a child'e entertainer, and dressed as a clown for parties in between killing boys. While in prison he painted an eerie series of self portraits of himself in clown regalia, serving further to embed the image of the evil clown. Less outrightly sinister is the figure of Ronald McDonald - the smiling, curly-haired emblem of McDonald's. As McDonald's has become a proxy for people of a certain political persuasion who believe that the world is being defiled by faceless corporations, so Ronald McDonald himself has become the focus of hate. If clowns hide their true nature behind a painted smile, so McDonald's uses a clown to entice children into its happy world of make-believe which overlies a monolithic, destructive corporate structure. Thus, on days of protest, burning effigies of Ronald McDonald are as commonplace as the wearing of Guy Fawkes masks - both potent comments on the use of masks to liberate the individual for good or for evil.

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Author: Ian Freud   |  Last updated: 23rd November 2013 | © Weird Island 2010-2020
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