Pennywise the clown. That fucker haunted my dreams for years. He lurked in the shadows of my bedroom, hid between the cracked alleyways that dotted my hometown. He was everywhere I feared and many places I didn’t. I should never have watched that fucking movie: Stephen King’s “It”. I begged my Mother to let me rent it. I promised her it wasn’t that scary. “It’s about a clown, Mom,” I urged, “how scary can it be?” “It’s about an evil clown.” She countered. “A rogue clown, Mom. A clown who’s been chewed up and spat out by society. A misunderstood clown who’s made some wrong turns in life, and is trying to find some semblance of normalcy in his baggy-panted, white-faced, red-nosed existence.” Twelve year-old me probably didn’t say that, but either way she bought it. In reality, it was about an evil clown – one who feasted on the dreams and also the flesh (an important detail) of children.
Being a child myself, and knowing first-hand that clowns existed, and that any adult man, who painted his face and traveled around with a circus under the guise of entertaining kids, was almost certainly pure evil, I found this movie somewhat unsettling. Or put more succinctly: I didn’t sleep for almost a year.
Let’s cut to the fucking chase: clowns are weird. Anyone who aspires to be a clown is fucking weird, and anyone who has made enough poor decisions in life that they find themselves employed as a clown, is fucking weird. At face value, the concept of a clown is to entertain children. But let’s look a little closer at this supposition: The modern clown began as vaudevillian characters in French theater. You had the whiteface or ‘blanc’ clown, who would essentially abuse the lower class, or ‘auguste’ clowns. They did this with their faces plastered in colored face-paint, because, y’know, that’s hilarious and all. Later, common to North America, came the ‘hobo’ clowns, these are the guys who look like they’ve just murdered and raped some kids, and smell of piss. They’re usually sullen and grumpy and derive much pleasure from the physical (and one would imagine mental) abuse of their peers. Obviously anyone who can’t see the hilarity in that is lacking in the very basic tenets of a sense of humor.
Somewhere along the lines, people realized that these guys weren’t so much funny, as freaky-looking fuckers, and that rather than tickle the funny bone, they instead stomped all over their fear receptors. Horror writers, such as the aforementioned Stephen King, began to write clowns as the horrible, monstrous beings they are. Over the past twenty years there has been a flurry of terrifying clown movies. Clowns, as a source of joy, entertainment and gaiety, have virtually been wiped off the map (which is a good thing). Of course, many of these clowns have freaky-ass evil faces, as you can see on thiswebsite. But this isn’t even necessary. If, like me, you have a true fear of clowns, you’ll agree it’s the regular old middle-aged men with sad expressions and painted on grimacing smiles that are the most sinister. Except for Pennywise – the granddaddy of them all – who flips with consummate ease between creepy regular clown guy, and soul-petrifying monster, whenever those meddling kids piss him off.
Of course, it wasn’t just clowns I was afraid of: Gremlins scared every shade of shit out of me. And a question: WHEN THE FUCK DOES “AFTER MIDNIGHT” END? 6am? 9am? Fucking when can I feed my pet, without him attempting to murder me and everyone I love? And I accidentally saw “Aliens” when I was eleven. I vomited that night, and every day for about six months I went to bed with anxiety that I had an Alien hitch-hiking in my chest. In fact, as a kid I was afraid of fucking everything: vampires, aliens, banshees scared the living bejeesus out of me (If you see one you die? How fucking unfair is that? Gimme at least a chance of escape, for fuck sake). On top of all these grotesque creatures of the night, I also possessed a vague fear of just your random, garden variety, amorphous type of monster; the ones that you never did see, but you knew looked all kind of monstery – a bit like the ones you see in “Monsters INC.” but less cute and more terrifying.
And then it stopped. All of it. I realized that the really frightening things in life were real. There were no Bogeymen hiding under my bed. There were actual real-life terrors waiting to strike at any moment. When my Dad was diagnosed with Cancer, just after my eighteenth birthday, I realized that adult life was a hell of a lot fucking scarier, than my childhood imaginings. Fears didn’t hide in the shadows; they jumped out and face-raped you in broad daylight. By the time my dad died, and I dropped out of college, got myself in debt, had my heart broken a couple of times, and been diagnosed with depression, I was no longer frightened of things that go bump in the night. I’d lie in bed at night willing them to come take me away.
Nowadays, things are much better for me: I have a beautiful wife; two amazing kids; a good job; depression still rears its head sometimes, but never for long; debt … debt still sucks, but I can handle it. I’m still afraid, of what the future holds for my kids, of how they’ll navigate school and the lure of sex and drugs in their teens, of their job prospects twenty years from now. I sometimes worry about my wife’s health, about my health – was my Dad’s illness genetic, or just bad fucking luck? But these fears don’t paralyze me; I still wake up in the morning and go to work, or make my son breakfast and watch cartoons with him. And I’ll be there for both of my kids when they get scared that there may or may not be an evil child-murdering clown in their closet. I might even check it out for them. Either that or run screaming for the door.