Are clowns oppressed by the media?

Troy Wilkinson

Clowns, to me, have always been an exceptionally twisted concept. They’re almost always unsettling and don’t particularly do anything I find entertaining. I wonder, though, if this is only a derivative of their portrayal in pop culture. It seems like a “chicken and the egg” situation — are clowns just inherently odd and unsettling to the public, or did the media twist their image into something monstrous?

The Clowns of America International believe in the latter, that the media is destroying the public image of what a clown is. Those who’ve tuned into the latest season of “American Horror Story” have seen the grotesque and horrific portrayal of clowns through a serial killer clown named “Twisty.”


First of all, I want to say it’s surprising to me that an actual clown coalition exists. Secondly I’d like to ask again, is it “American Horror Story” that’s perpetuating coulrophobia (fear of clowns), or is it the general image of clowns themselves that just turn people off?

In 1876, a French critic by the name of Edmond de Goncourt said that “the clown’s art is rather terrifying and full of anxiety” and that they are “reminding of a courtyard of a lunatic asylum.” Clowns have been seen as frightening to people for a long time. Their crazy and extreme persona and actions have been unsettling to people throughout centuries.

Not all clowns are crazy, terrifying and unsettling, though; the Clowns of America International’s website describes themselves as “ambassadors of joy.” Take a look at Ronald McDonald — he is one of the most renowned clowns who has retained a positive image for the most part, but he isn’t used anymore and has fallen out of the media spotlight. Bozo the clown was an extremely popular character in the 1960s for American children, too. So there are exceptions to the negative stigma that clowns have.

So though clowns basked in the sun for a period of time, that time has passed. Now clowns creepily roam the streets at night and their image is used to terrorize small towns in France. These stories are beginning to pop up like weeds. Movies like Steven Spielberg’s “It” and shows like “American Horror Story” are not to blame for these actual evil street clowns.

Clowns of America International are wagging their finger at the wrong entity. Instead of pointing fingers at the media, the clown image needs to change. There must be another way to make a comical costume that doesn’t involve distorting facial feature proportions to the point of being frightful. I understand that most clowns set out to be positive, to make children laugh and to brighten people’s days, but their current image is one that’s inherently twisted. Clowns of America International, please stop blaming media from utilizing what is already a terrifying guise.

Collegian Columnist Troy Wilkinson can be reached at