This all started when a few weeks ago I met up with my cousin and we watched IT 2017 and IT Chapter Two. Afterward, I started wondering, how did we get from clowns being the entertainment at kids’ birthdays to a creepy viral sensation, to a stigmatized character for mass audiences to see on the big screen?
At 11:53 ET on Monday, October 10, 2016 CNN published Creepy clown craze sweeps the globe. That day everyone came to school and freaked out and were screaming and this was the first time I truly understood what viral meant.
The dictionary says the definition of viral means “relating to or involving an image, video, piece of information, etc., that is circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another.” This craze truly went viral according to this definition.
There are so many articles from Oct 2016 about creepy clowns from around the country that it created a stigma and a viral sensation that caused mass hysteria among everybody including my 7th grade homeroom.
Then the movie IT came out and it became the highest grossing horror movie of all time and guess what it was centered around, yep, creepy evil clown. Then this September IT chapter two came out and has done super well so far in terms of making $388.6 million after only being out for 3 weeks.This just goes to show you that just because something is creepy does not mean it can’t go viral.
What is it about clowns that make what used to be a childhood cheerer classic into a creepy viral meme? Is it the weird makeup or the fact that there is a 1,138 page book and two movies–including the highest grossing horror film of all time? I think it is interesting how what started out as a friendly form of entertainment at children’s birthday parties came into being known as creepy, crazy pranksters dressing up in October to scare kids.
However, perhaps there is something to be said for what used to be known as childhood toys or forms of entertainment being now used as ways to scare children or adults.
Another example of scaring adults with kids’ toys is the doll Annabelle. There is also the Stephen King novel Pet Cemetery, which is about a pet cemetery with a dark history.
These childhood pleasures consistently get turned into our worst nightmare on the big screen. This is a pattern I’ve seen in horror, and it doesn’t just apply to the things we love in childhood. It applies to things we love and cherish even into adulthood. The Blair Witch Project turns camping into a terrifying adventure. Us makes going to the beach truly terrifying. Rosemary’s Baby turns the experience of childbirth into a nightmare.
I think writers of horror do this to make more of an impact on the viewer or reader’s psyche. This is why I think clowns can be so scary. They are a way to express growing up. At first you have these friendly beings but later you realize they are super creepy.