Got coulrophobia?

I was wondering what to do on this blog in honor of April Fool’s Day. I’m not much into pulling pranks, and I don’t want to deviate too far from my usual fare. (Not that I’d probably be able to, considering I pretty much breathe horror, sci-fi, and the generally absurd.) Historically, April Fool’s Day has either been really aggravating or really boring. I hate being suckered by false celebrity death news, and my friends and I have never been much for pulling pranks. Most pranks seem mean. I guess humor is in the eye of the beholder.

In this same vein, I started thinking about what else is polarizing in terms of humor. The first thing that came to mind was clowns. There’s actually a clinical term for fear of clowns. Coulrophobia. Sounds terminal, doesn’t it? My uncle hates clowns. He was the person that introduced me to Killer Klowns from Outer Space when I was younger. While I don’t necessarily find them funny, I’m not afraid of them. At least not clinically anyway. Circus clowns are alright, not necessarily funny but not scary either. Renaissance Fair clowns, on the other hand, are downright horrifying. I hate the ones that walk around on stilts and don’t say anything. They just leer at you from their height.

Being that it’s April Fool’s Day, let’s take a look at some clown representation in books and movies. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but more a sampling. If you think of any others or just want to join the discussion, feel free to comment at the end of this post!

BOOKS


  • Stephen King’s IT
    – The Loser’s Club of Derry, Maine is terrorized by Pennywise the Dancing Clown. While initally that doesn’t sound like much of a crisis, it turns out that Pennywise is actually a monster straight out of space who capitalizes on children’s fears. When the children grow up they are drawn back to Derry because Pennywise is on the rampage again. They must band together to defeat their old nemesis before it takes the lives of more children.
  • Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes – A carnival arrives mysteriously after midnight the week before Halloween. With it comes death and terror, and it’s up to two friends to fight the dark carnival.

MOVIES AND TV

  • Stephen King’s IT – The 1990 tv mini-series introduced viewers to Pennywise and the Loser’s Club. This project showcased Tim Curry in one of his best roles – as Pennywise himself. The mini-series couldn’t possibly hope to encompass the entire book, but it made sure to get the point across and was suitably creepy. (I’m super excited for the remake, which stars Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame!)
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes – This is an adaptation of the book by the same name. I confess that I haven’t seen this in years, but I do remember thinking it was absolutely creepy when I was a kid.
  • Clown – This movie is both sad and terrifying. Two loving parents have booked a clown for their son’s clown-themed birthday party. When the clown is overbooked, it’s up to Kent to find a replacement clown for his son. He’s in luck, as the house he’s getting ready to put up on the market has an old clown suit in a trunk that just happens to fit him perfectly. The only problem is that once he puts it on he can’t remove it, and he starts to change. As it turns out, the origins of the clown are not so innocent, and Kent and his family are dragged into the reality of the Cloyne, an ancient demon.
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space – This 1988 classic features aliens that come to Earth in a big circus tent. They look like clowns, but not the kind you’d ever want to meet. They set about capturing people and turning them into big light-bulb shaped cotton candy, which they then eat with a straw. Sort of like outer space spiders. A group of teenagers attempt to stop the Klown’s mayhem.
  • American Horror Story (Freakshow) – Twisty the Clown has always wanted to make children laugh. Some of the carnies don’t take favorably to the attention he’s paid by the children and families visiting the traveling freakshow. They start an awful rumor which tears Twisty’s world apart. He is a figure both terrifying and sad, and well worth watching the otherwise mediocre season just to see.
  • DC’s The Joker – The Joker has been interpreted in a variety of ways by not only several actors, but also several authors and artists in the comic book world. In each iteration, he has the typical colorful hair and white makeup. The extent to which he uses humor deviates based on who is doing the interpretation, but in every version he is the clown.
  • DC’s Harley Quinn – When doing brief research into the archetype of the clown, or fool, I found out that in theater it was used as a foil for the archetype of the harlequin. The harlequin was sly, stealthy, devious, and devilish. The perfect opposite of the bumbling clown. Originally introduced in Batman: The Animated Series, she quickly won over fans and has made her way into the comics, movies, and DC Comics merchandise line. Although her costume has changed over the years, a part of the harlequin is always included in her design.

Honorable Mention

  • The Cabin in the Woods – A group of teenagers heads up to a cabin for a weekend of sex, drinking, and general youth. Very quickly their weekend is derailed and they are left fighting for their lives. Two of the group, Marty and Dana, find themselves in a vault that houses horrors from the old world. A veritable stable of nightmares. Wouldn’t you know that one of them is a clown? As far as I can tell, it’s a nod to Pennywise, wearing the same garish colors and shock of red hair.
  • Frumpy the Clown – This series of comics from Judd Winick features a normal suburban family who happens to live with a disgruntled clown named Frumpy. Frumpy smokes cigarettes, drinks coffee, and advocates anarchy. The children love him. The parents are largely unsure.
  • Funcom’s The Park – I recently devoted an entire post to this Secret World spin-off game. It takes place in a haunted amusement park after dark. Clown imagery, while not necessarily frequent, is extremely effective and terrifying when put to use. I highly recommend playing this game in pitch dark with headphones.
  • Frightworld – My local haunted house features five themed houses. Almost every year they feature a clown house, which is done up in garish blacklight paint and features distorted carnival imagery and mocking clown actors.

 

 

 

 

As stated previously, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means. Just a sampling from TV, movies, and books. If there’s anything else you’d like to add, drop by the comments section!

Choosing Appropriate Movie Content

When I sat down to blog, I wanted to finish recording Phoebe and my recent movie-spree. However, as I continued, I found myself defending my choices, which took away from the post too much. I also realized that I subconsciously had a rubric I ran the movies through before suggesting them to Dipper. I decided that instead of bogging down the other post, I would make this one separate.

There have been people who have questioned my choices, even though Dipper has approved them all. It may not seem like there is a system at work, but truly, there is. You see, I love Phoebe very much. I don’t think I could love her more if she were truly my flesh and blood. For all intents and purposes, her and Dipper are Family. And I would die for either of them, just as quickly as I would die for Tkout, my husband. I realize that since Dipper and I are so close, and she and I are so close, I’m one of the people she looks to as a role model. When I struggle with my depression and anxiety, she’s told me that I’m a superhero, because she sees me push through and do my best, even if that varies based on how sick I am that day. To that end, I believe the movies and images she’s exposed to now will help shape the woman she’s going to become. My hope for her is that she never forgets her own power and strength, and that she has the courage to push forward and meet her challenges head-on, and take her defeats with grace and no small amount of learning. She’s an amazing girl, and I think the world of her. To me, she’s already a superhero. The challenge is going to be to get her to see it herself.

The movies I show her are meant to entertain her, and sometimes teach her a lesson. Other times to give her positive role models. Every movie that we watch has gone through a checklist, provided below.

Content to Avoid: This obviously will vary a little in terms of what you find acceptable, this is just what I look for.

  • Sexual: I don’t know how much she’s heard from her schoolmates, if anything. I’m also not sure what her mom screens for. Kissing and other PDA is fine. The most sexual scene she’s seen with me was when Alice and Spence are rolling around on their bed in Resident Evil. It’s in a flashback, so it’s choppy, and even though you get the idea of what’s going on, there’s nothing graphic. It’s enough to suggest the nature of their relationship, and easy enough to pass over.
  • Sexuality: I consider myself open-minded. But I don’t want to get into a discussion about sexual identity with a 9 year old who hasn’t hit puberty yet. She’s smart enough to handle it, and her parents are open-minded as well. But unless I’m asked, I’m not going to be the one to enlighten her.
  • Explicit Violence: Here’s the thing, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is vicious and bloody, but much of it happens off-screen. For instance, when Franklin is sawed in half, it’s in the dark. You don’t see it in bright light and CGI effects. I try to keep away from overtly gory content.
  • Rape: Sexual content and violence. This one I stay away from, even if it’s hinted at, because I honestly wouldn’t know what to say. There is never an excuse for rape, it is never justified. NEVER. Also, I don’t want to be the one to tell her that the world is that ugly.
  • Religion: Some of the movies have religious themes, or plot points, but they aren’t overly religious. I will answer any questions she has about my faith, but that being said, I don’t show her movies that are heavily steeped in religion. Dipper has expressed his intent to help guide her in that path as he sees fit, and I willingly agreed to leave it to him.
  • Race: Children aren’t born racists. I’m trying to find content that includes different nationalities, rather than highlights their differences. I in no way deny that racism exists, but I think that going out of my way to point it out is a form of racism. She’s going to see it in action at some point in her life, and that will be a teachable moment.

Priority Content

  • Badass women: When I was growing up, you had to kind of pick and choose to find your strong women. Phoebe needs to grow up seeing Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) kick xenomorph ass in Alien, Alice battle hordes of zombies, Marian refused to be Indiana Jones’ damsel in distress (in Raiders of the Lost Ark), and so many others. The occasional damsel in distress is fine. But, she needs to grow up knowing she can be her own superhero, and that being a girl doesn’t mean you are a plot device in someone else’s story. (Not to mention, the behind-the-scenes, such as Milla Jovovich designing most of her Resident Evil gear, which is probably why she gets progressively more badass as the movies go forward. Oh, and her stunts? Most of the time they’re really her.) Not to mention, the Resident Evil franchise is loaded with strong women. There are main characters Alice (Milla Jovovich), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). Even female characters who have supporting roles in one or two films are just as strong. There’s Ada Wong (Bingbing Li), Nurse Betty (Ashanti), K-Mart (Spencer Locke), Crystal Waters (Kacey Clarke), Becky (Aryana Engineer), and Angie (Sophie Vavasseur). Not to mention, there’s representation in the franchise. There are strong women of Asian, Hispanic, and African heritage. Not just Caucasian.
  • Healthy male/female interaction: Look, I know this post sounds a little man-hatery. Rest assured, I don’t have anything against men. My best friend is a guy. But that being said, Phoebe will have to learn how to interact with the opposite sex in terms of earning respect, working together, and living in general. She has plenty of time to learn those things, but I want to combat the idea that she isn’t complete without a man. Or that she always needs a helping hand to get things done. I want her to strap on her own shitkicker boots and march confidently into situations. That’s another reason I love Ghostbusters and Alien so well. In both, the women work alongside men, but don’t rely on them. They work as a team, relying on their own smarts and teamwork. Suicide Squad comes to mind for this criteria too. When you look at the movie, it’s primarily female-driven. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together the Suicide Squad. She gets Harley Quinn and Enchantress/Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevingne), and Katana (Karen Fukuhara). All of whom are really capable and diverse women. The supporting cast is pretty kickass too. Diablo’s wife, Grace (Corina Calderon), casts her shadow from the grave, as the only person who could curb her husband’s gangbanger side. Similarly, little Shailyn Pierre-Dixon shines as Zoe, Deadshot’s daughter.
  • Healthy friendships: Finding a good friend is really difficult. It’s important for her to grow up seeing people take care of each other. Especially women. Most women are raised to fight each other, to compete, to constantly view other females as enemies rather than allies. Again, I look to Resident Evil. Alice and Claire Redfield come to trust each other, and rely on each other as allies throughout the rest of the series. The Ghostbusters reboot, while heavily panned by critics and “fans”, was based on the premise of four women combining their smarts and talents to stop the destruction of the world. They’re not focused on their looks, or having sex with their stupid (and stupidly handsome) secretary, played by Chris Hemsworth.

  • Healthy body image/self-worth: There are a few movies I could site for this, but Ghostbusters is my favorite. The main women are varied in size and shape. Kristen Wigg, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, are all powerhouses. They share the screen and the gags well. Not to mention, the gags aren’t about who’s fat or sexy or stupid. All women are shown with talent, capability, and once Abby and Erin settle their initial differences, they proceed with a healthy and loyal friendship.
  • Life lessons: Yes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is terrifying. But you know what else it is? A life lesson. Don’t pick up people on the side of the road, and in a larger sense, don’t get too friendly with strangers. “Stranger danger” as it was called in my day, is a real thing. Possibly moreso now with the advent of technology that allows us to remain connected 24/7 to people around the globe. Phoebe needs to know basic truths to protect herself.