Entertainment and the media circus which brings it to town, is nothing to clown around with – and I mean that literally! Growing up in the one-horse driven, antenna TV town of Black and Whiteville, I remember sitting thisclosetothescreen, when Bozo the clown made a full facial close-up (later it would be Mick Jagger, but trust me, that was a completely different story). Now past my fiftieth year, I still can see that head shot vividly. However, anything else, such as what I was eating, wearing or bodily functions I lost because of it, are thankfully forgotten. In one single, albeit innocent moment I was left scared to death of clowns.
Coulrophobia, the fear of such garishly painted people, with red bulbous noses and big black shoes, is not just my own personal packet of fear. Bumper stickers, cartoons, music groups, you name IT, all prove these white-faced individuals rein not just supreme, but King, over normal fears such as spiders, snakes or the dark. All in all, the clown often represents a very twisted and sinister side of laughter, one which I personally feared would be waiting for me when I’d least expect it, like sagging breasts or crow’s feet…yes, eventually I knew IT would catch up to me!
That was until American Horror Story, and the increasingly twisted inhumanity of America as a whole.
As a writer and someone lost to the Noir and intrigue of mystery, I’ve never enjoyed blood and gore genres of entertainment. Nightmare on streets or under beds, slashing and squirting for the sake of great FX just never made it to my dance card. That being said, when American Horror Story took us to the Freak Show this past season, I had to give pause. Thinking of Tod Browning’s vision, and his pennywise arcades and barkers, both stark in black and white, I bought a ticket, and found the splatter was far less than anticipated, but the matter was so much more.
Just like the classic Browning film, I found myself attached to characters, more than the limbs they should have been born with. I identified, loved and cared about the struggles they faced, and sadly understood how hearts turned cold, after years of abuse and humiliation. The simple message screaming out, as always was…we are all the same, regardless of the Halloween costume we were born into. Then we met Twisty.
Promotions for this horribly disfigured and homicidal clown made the show a must see for most, just as any vintage sideshow would have hoped, and had me prepared for therapy. That being said, the first episodes did offer brutal murders, happening for no reason, other than Twisty the Clown just wanted to kill…and so he did, as bloody as possible. There was just one small problem for the storyline…the sorrow shown behind the eyes of the clown. No Billboard top fifty with a bullet could have offered lyrics any more poignant…there was damage, and the clown didn’t cause it himself.
For me, that was when entertainment and empathy went for popcorn and changed seats. I knew the look. In the 70’s, growing up as a flat-chested, string bean daughter of a cop, I was rejected by all the cliques. I wasn’t cool enough for the Rah-Rah table; the nerd table let me visit but never accepted me, since there was a distant promise of beauty of my horizon, despite thick glasses and acne. The jock and sport tables also laughed regularly at my expense, whether it was in my polyester issued gym suit, my inability to climb a rope or just the fact I carried a Campus Queen metal lunchbox, complete with thermos. Yes, I had membership…somewhat hunched over…but in good standing, at more than a few freak shows in life.
When you are a card carrying member of the outcast society, you see life differently and hope all the while to make a difference, prove them wrong, and never do to others, the injustice, hurt and pain done to you. That time however, was of course before you could humiliate the face, without being face to face, by holding a cell phone or trolling the Internet, in a nasty world of cameras and intrusion. Suddenly, anyone with a few brain cells has the ability to be a troll under the bridge of compassion.
I am horrified that there is no saturation point, like those found in a scary film, when someone covers their eyes and screams to stop IT, because of the damage and pain inflicted upon hurting youth and adults, that often take their own lives, due to revenge porn, gender hate, dating site lies and stalking, cyber bullying, Facebook bullies, or twitter rants. Instead of anything being stopped, society just watches day after day, while never ending parades of stupid, featuring fake and beautiful people, marshal in another generation of sheep, those who will never understand there is nothing grand at having an empty soul.
Twisty the Clown may have been created as a demonic force of violence, only to draw in a televised audience share at the Nielsen house, but in truth, he was a beacon of honest reveal for those same viewers if they really watched. His facial appearance and unyielding rage were the result of a botched suicide attempt, one made in the darkest moment of his life, after humiliation as blood sport by those thinking they were better than he was. Yes, I know there is no real Twisty, but that character was real, just like those who face bullies and depression, feeling they will never measure up. The same souls that are the confetti of society, left after the show is over and everyone has walked on them, not noticing or caring, self-absorbed and off to another victim.
The true clowns in our world don’t hide behind greasepaint or colorful ruffles, but instead, are sitting at computer screens, carrying platinum cards, looking for agents, or gathered in groups secure behind job titles, caring only about themselves. They take no responsibility for their actions, oblivious to who they hurt, and because society has evolved into what it is, their show and scary laughter will go on!
As a child a real clown scared me, and as a teen nameless faces hurt me. However, now as an adult I see even more twisted and invisible faces, not from inside a television, as much as from a computer screen, doing more harm than imagined. It is then that I find myself again thinking back to Mr. Jagger, and wonder if there will ever be a time when people stop jumping out at each other in faux entertainment, almost untouchable and stop looking for their pound of Satisfaction.