Last week, we shared the news that the Alamo Drafthouse is hosting screenings of It exclusively for clowns. That’s a nice gesture, though some clowns might already be turned off from the movie. Scary clowns and movies like It can do harm to their profession, apparently.
Stephen King’s 1986 novel, which also spawned a 1990 TV miniseries adaptation, wasn’t the first place we saw scary clowns. There’s a terrifying toy clown in Poltergeist, and going back further is Batman’s arch-nemesis, The Joker, who was introduced in the comics in 1940. Disney’s Dumbo, from 1941, also features some not-so-nice clowns.
Other scary clowns can be found in the animated Beatles movie Yellow Submarine, The Wiz, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Killer Clowns from Outer Space, Spawn, Carnival of Souls and Clown, not to mention tons of cheap horror features in recent years. But Pennywise, the clown form of the child-murdering monster of It, is the most iconic. Mostly thanks to the miniseries.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, World Clown Association president Pam Moody claims the surplus of scary clowns, which helped inspire last year’s wave of “evil clown” sightings, are affecting WCA members:
“People had school shows and library shows that were canceled. That’s very unfortunate. The very public we’re trying to deliver positive and important messages to aren’t getting them.”
She explains that kids are scared of clowns sometimes, just as they’re scared of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. None of the evil Santa movies have killed Christmas, of course, and that’s likely because those movies aren’t generally shown to children. But adults who see movies like It might develop coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) themselves and cancel the gigs as a result of that.
Moody believes it all started with It:
“That introduced the concept of this character. It’s a science-fiction character. It’s not a clown and has nothing to do with pro clowning,”
The WCA has a “Stand On Scary Clowns” statement on their website, to explain the issue to potential clients and to help in the defense of professional clowns. Here’s an excerpt referencing the upcoming movie:
We understand that some people enjoy the “horror genre” of entertainment, but we find that many people are confronted by images of horror characters (impersonating clowns) and are startled by them…which is obviously the goal of these horror characters. In my opinion, these horror characters are not clowns. Even the character in the movie “IT” should be understood to be a fantasy character – not a true clown.
The statement continues to note that the Friday the 13th franchise hasn’t affected hockey players and scary surgeon characters at haunted houses doesn’t hurt the medical industry while stressing that real clowns are about bringing joy and laughter.
The clowns are pissed at me. Sorry, most are great. BUT…kids have always been scared of clowns. Don’t kill the messengers for the message.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) April 10, 2017
For more evidence of why Moody and other professional clowns have a right to worry about It, here are some new clips from the movie:
See It, which is already getting raves from critics, in theaters on September 8.