Yo Pennywise, drop ur everyday makeup routine.
By Taylor Maschetta
Staff Clown Scholar
It is spooky season, which means that it’s time to send in the clowns… for better or worse.
Clowns are scary. It’s as simple as that. They’re intended to bring happiness into the lives of children, but they actually cause more fear than cheer. Nevertheless, clowns, specifically the murderous ones, are all over the entertainment industry at the moment. Take, for example, everyone’s favorite psychotic jokester – the Joker himself. Anticipation has been building for Joker ever since Warner Brothers’ greenlit the film back in 2018. Fans have been clamoring for a new depiction of the ever-popular clown prince of crime following Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal and, well, Jared Leto’s interpretation.
The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular character, follows failing comedian Arthur Fleck as he struggles to find his place in society. Arthur suffers from a variety of mental illnesses, including a disorder that causes him to laugh at random moments. Joker shows his slow descent into pure madness and clownery as society continues to fail him.
The general consensus, despite its heavy, dark themes and fair share of controversies, has been extremely positive. It is the top grossing R-rated movie in history, making $850 million dollars worldwide and dethroning Deadpool much to Ryan Reynolds’ dismay. Audiences praised Phoenix’s performance and are rooting for him to secure an Oscar nomination. Scenes from the movie have already engraved themselves into pop culture history. One notable scene depicts Joker, cigarette in hand, dancing to “Rock and Roll Part 2” as he makes his way down a set of steps. The Bronx-based stairs became a tourist magnet overnight – cosplayers, fans, and influencers have flocked to the area, skipping down the steps in full Joker getup. TikTok naturally, latched onto the movie too. Thousands of makeup artists have recreated Phoenix’s signature clown getup, and self-described “men” dance away their woes locked away in their bathrooms.
All jokes aside, Joker illustrates the formation of a monster. The tragic arc Arthur faces does not excuse all the atrocities he committed during the film. The film has come under fire for its glorification of a killer, and its potential to inspire more mass murderers.
This isn’t even the first clown inspired movie that took America by storm this year. Less than a month before Joker laughed into theaters in October, Pennywise the Dancing Clown decided to re-enter our lives with the release of IT Chapter Two. The movie is a sequel to smash hit IT, a horror film depicting a group of young kids, dubbed the Loser’s Club, battling an interdimensional, shapeshifting clown that feasts on children. The sequel depicts the grown up Losers fighting to defeat Pennywise, who is played by the beautiful Bill Skarsgård, once and for all. Both films of the IT saga are coming of age stories that happen to have a terrifying monstrous clown wreaking havoc. Pennywise rips kids’ arms off, dances menacingly on multiple occasions, and is homophobic. Naturally, the clown has an adoring teenage fan base that, for inexplicable reasons, is willing to launch themselves into sewers to try to get lucky.
So why do clowns seem to be ruling pop culture right now? Why is Joker loved by millions? Why do thousands of Tumblr girls thirst after a clown that eats kids for breakfast? It seems a clown-caused craze has spread across America once again. Everyone claims that they hate clowns; whether we want to admit it or not, we all have coulrophobia. There’s something about their chilling smiles and terrible jokes that unsettles us to the core. Okay, maybe some clowns have the intention of making us smile, but it still feels as if they want to suck out our souls.
Clown panics have broken out across America before. In 2016, people dressed up as clowns and hid in the woods, ominously strolled down streets, chased people with knives and terrorized innocent drivers. Naturally, America erupted into a frenzy, leading to “clown hunts” and costumes literally being outlawed in some cities.
We may be afraid, but we can’t get enough of this fear. There’s just something intriguing lurking behind the mask. It’s as if we want to feel the fear, especially during the Halloween season. Or maybe these clowns relate to us in a twisted way. Many people do share the same resentment towards society like Arthur: they just don’t go to his extremes. Hopefully no one is considering eating kids like Pennywise, but instead choose to feel inspired by the Losers Club overcoming their fears. Perhaps, watching these clowns gives us a sense of satisfaction that we can overcome our fears of them.
Or maybe we just want to learn where the Joker got his sick moves, or that we’re all secretly horny for Pennywise. The world will never know.