This is part of a series of articles to combat coulrophobia (the fear of clowns), educate the uninformed public about the consequences of masquerading as “scary clowns”, and defend #REALCLOWN. CLICK HERE to read the other articles to help combat the “creepy clown” stereotype.
Scary Clowns – Part 1
Halloween is the time of year that scary clowns crawl out of the woodwork.
I personally believe that the few days around Halloween cause more damage to the art of clowning than we realize. Bad lipstick make-up, tie-up-the-back costumes, ratty wigs, plastic dime-store shoes…you get the idea. These all contribute to scary clowns giving the rest of us a bad name.
Some of these clowns are doing the best they can with little experience or education. They would like to give clowning a try and Halloween gives them a chance to take the risk. Others just want to scare children and adults!
The desire to be a scary clown comes from a part of our society that longs to degrade things that are meaningful or sacred. They are looking for the shock factor. The thrill comes in taking a known figure that is traditionally loved and wholesome, and then twisting it to resemble an evil side that was never there in the first place. And if you take something that is especially loved by vulnerable people (children, the disabled, and seniors), then you get extra points. 🙄
Heck, there’s even a book out now devoted to the awful subject!
What’s so wrong with creepy clowns? I’LL TELL YOU! Click here to read a great argument on this topic.
Frankly I have little time for this kind of entertainment. It serves no lasting purpose; it makes no one’s day brighter, it lifts no one’s spirits. If I want a thrill I can read a good book, watch an old Alfred Hitchcock movie, or try to balance my check book!
When I started my rental costume shop 12 years ago I took a stand. I decided not to indulge people with gore or tasteless sexy costumes. If little kids could not come into the shop and see everything I had to offer without being terrified, then it could be in my shop. Otherwise forget it. And you know what? No one seems to miss it!
A couple of years ago I had to take it a step further. I pulled all the religious costumes from the racks (that I rent to churches and schools the remainder of the year) for October after a man told me he wanted to be a pedophile priest for Halloween. That did it! No hack-and-slash clowns, no drunken clergy, no pregnant nuns. I have enough confidence in my costumes that customers will find something more fun and creative to wear than some derogatory stereotype.
Even good clowns can be scary clowns
If you have been clowning anytime at all, you have run into someone who is afraid of clowns. Sometimes it is a small child inspired by parents who say “be good or the clown is gonna get you!” Nice. Sometimes it is adults or teenagers who had a traumatic experience as a kid with a well-meaning clown. For some they are afraid of the make-up or anyone who is wearing a disguise, not just clowns.
I talked to a grown man with an extensive education, who was afraid of clowns. He had seen me a number of times in my costume and make-up. I got the chance to ask him, –“now that you know it is me, are you still afraid of clowns?” he paused and muttered “Yeah it still creeps me out.”
Those types of fears are deep within a person’s psyche. It would take years of therapy to change their gut feelings! When I was a kid we had a couple of ugly rubber masks in our attic. One was a devil and one was a monkey. I was terribly afraid of them. Just thinking about it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck! Then I laugh about it.
None of us mean to be scary clowns
No, whiteface clowns are not scary. To people who are scared of clowns it makes no difference what kind of make-up you have on. Well-meaning clowns can become scary if they are too loud or boisterous around a tentative audience member. The child who waves and claps at you from a distance at a parade can turn into a screaming crying mess when you cross the street to say hello.
Intent can be what makes a clown scary
I have had people bring me their pictures of their first make-ups and costumes. They were a horror. The comment is often the same. I know I looked like a mess, but the kids loved me! I believe them. Why? Even though their make-up and costume were not award-winning combinations, kids know when someone is fun and friendly. Seriously, have you looked at cartoons these days??? Some of the characters are really grotesque and scary!
Once in my shop I was waiting on a mother with a small daughter. She said that her daughter was afraid of clowns. The girl looked to be about 5.
I said “Really? Did you know that I am a clown?” Her eyes got really big. I showed her a picture of me in my make-up and costume. I said “I will tell you a secret, most clowns are grandmas and grandpas who dress up to be a clown to make people happy.”
She smiled at the thought. I know it gave her something to think about.
What should we do?
With a little extra effort we can all be happy friendly clowns. Keep these points in minds when you are performing:
- Sadly not everyone loves clowns.
- Respect your audience and their feelings about clowns.
- Be totally aware of your audience and surroundings.
- Realize that your volume can intimidate or scare people.
- Take it slow while you assess your audience. Warm-ups that involve audience participation can help you see who is “into” the clown and who is not.
- Approach the audience in a fun, friendly way making as much eye contact as possible.
- Keep your hands in plain sight. Sadly, people expect clowns to squirt them in the face with water!
- Be ready to shift gears if someone is afraid, and leave the area if necessary.
- Need more? Read this article for great responses to “I hate clowns”
If you see a scary clown this season, don’t turn away in disgust or read them the riot act. Ask them if they would like to learn more about the art of clowning and invite them to your next club meeting. You may be surprised at their response and make a new friend!
Here are more articles I wrote about the topic of “Creepy clowns”. Please share these with your fellow clowns, and with those who think dressing up as a clown to scare people is funny: