Evil clown

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The image of the evil clown is a development in popular culture, in which the playful trope of the clown is rendered as disturbing through the use of horror elements and dark humor.



The concept of the evil clown is related to the fear of clowns, known as coulrophobia. The cultural critic Mark Dery has theorized the postmodern archetype of the Evil Clown in "Cotton Candy Autopsy: Deconstructing Psycho-Killer Clowns" (a chapter in his cultural critique The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink).

Tracking the image of the demented or deviant clown across popular culture, Dery analyzes the "Pogo the Clown" persona of the serial killer John Wayne Gacy; the obscene clowns of the neo-Situationist Cacophony Society; the Joker (of "Batman" Fame); the grotesque art of R.K. Sloane; the sick-funny Bobcat Goldthwaite comedy Shakes the Clown; Stephen King's It and the graphic novel Arkham Asylum.

Using Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the carnivalesque, Jungian and historical writings on the images of the fool in myth and history, and ruminations on the mingling of ecstasy and dread in the Information Age, Dery asserts the Evil Clown is an icon for our times. Clowns are often depicted as murderous psychopaths at many American haunted houses.

Popular culture

  • The Joker, the archenemy of Batman, is a murderously insane evil super villain with a disturbing clown-like appearance. The character first appeared in Batman #1 (1940). However, his appearance was inspired by the character of Gwynplaine from the movie The Man Who Laughs, played by Conrad Veidt. Gwynplaine had been a victim of gypsies who had cut off his lips so it appeared as if he were always smiling. Many of the Joker's henchmen in turn dress up like clowns.
  • The Stephen King novel It, as well as the TV movie starring Tim Curry, revolves around seven children who are haunted by an evil shape-shifting creature that primarily takes the form of an evil clown named Pennywise.

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