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Doug Centers
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Posted: 03 October 2017 at 4:54pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

My daughter went to see the movie IT last night.
Sometime before she left she asked me if I or any of my friends were frightened of clowns when we were young. I told her no, in fact clowns brought smiles and laughter.

I explained to her that we had Bozo the Clown 5 days a week and ,here locally, Oopsy the Clown on Sundays. All was fun and games.

So I started to wonder, what started the decline of the "fun" clown in pop culture? After all, scary, is the only way my daughter's generation sees them.

The earliest thing I could come up with was that toy clown from POLTERGEIST. But I dunno.

So what do you think?
What took the clown to creepy factor 10?
The IT tv movie
KILLER kLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE
John Wayne Gacy
Red Skelton?



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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 03 October 2017 at 5:58pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

So I started to wonder, what started the decline of the "fun" clown in pop culture?

***

Gotta wonder what part the Joker played in it.

But I'd say the 80s. We had films like POLTERGEIST, CLOWNHOUSE and KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE. I can't think of any 70s movies where clowns featured prominently, or were as ubiquitous, so I'm going to "plant my flag" with the 80s. 

Good question, Doug! 


Edited by Robbie Parry on 03 October 2017 at 5:58pm
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David Miller
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Posted: 03 October 2017 at 7:30pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I fucking hate clowns, and have as long as I remember. In fact, one of my earliest memories is from kindergarten in 1980; I was supposed to play a clown in my school's Spring program, but when the teacher tried to apply the makeup, I freaked the shit out and fled the room crying. Cause clowns.

My parents never hesitated to let me watch absurdly age-inappropriate entertainment, so I may have picked up my distaste from something I saw and subsequently forgot, but I have a clear memory of a lot of trauma-forming moments from that age, such as watching a bullfight, or ten terrifying minutes in the middle of THE DEMON PLANET, so I think there's just something primal about my repulsion.

It may have something to do with the way masks reveal an inner self; perhaps I did not want to unearth my secret, pale, surreally grinning predator.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 03 October 2017 at 9:19pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I remember finding something a bit creepy about clowns when I was a little child -- their silence and painted faces. This was not something I got from pop culture.

Could John Wayne Gacy have somehow played into it on the mass media side? (edited to add, saw you already mentioned him in the original post. So, I think yes this could have been a partial cause).



Edited by Peter Martin on 03 October 2017 at 9:19pm
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 03 October 2017 at 11:04pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

I think the default state is for children to fear clowns. One hypothesis is that clown faces reside in the "uncanny valley", resulting in unease. The repeated exposure to clowns due to the popularity of characters like Bozo probably helped a generation of children get over those fears. Once that went away, kids went back to fearing them.

Clowns made me cry as a child, long before my exposure to pop culture. I still don't like them. 
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 03 October 2017 at 11:24pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

One of the earliest evil clowns... The Joker!

I never had a fear of clowns,  but I get small children being freaked out by weird-acting adult figures painted up ghostly white with garish features.


Edited by Matt Hawes on 03 October 2017 at 11:26pm
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Doug Centers
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Posted: 04 October 2017 at 5:19pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Great insight all!

Matt, I didn't even think about the printed page, but your probably right about the Joker having an impact on some kids. My first exposure to the Joker was thru Batman '66. Romero's version didn't frighten me at all. Some of his facial expressions softened him up quite a bit.

I'm with Robbie, I think the 80's started the to really get creepy with the clowns and has carried on to now.

I must say though, whenever I used to see old pictures of Clarabell from Howdy Doody he kind of freaked me out. I think it was that tuft of hair, not sure.
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 04 October 2017 at 6:39pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

The 1st version of Ronald McDonald was not evil, but he was pretty scary:

LINK!


Trivia: That was Willard Scott, former "Today Show" weatherman as Ronald.
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