"You need to remember that clowns are people too.”
Photo via the Thunder Bay Clown Club's Facebook
Some Canadian clowns are painting on a frowny face regarding the soon-to-be released remake of It because the film's main attraction is Pennywise, a child-eating, creepy as all hell clown.
It, the hotly anticipated film based on Stephen King's bestselling novel, is coming into theatres on Thursday night and the Thunder Bay Clown Club will be gathering outside of the town's Silver City Theatre shortly before the movie premieres. Dianne McNicol, who performs in Thunder Bay under the name Dottie The Clown, told VICE that the group will be there for just a few minutes handing out pamphlets denouncing the negative view of clowns.
"We feel that this has done great harm in the business of clowning and for clowns," said McNicol. "A number of clown clubs have actually folded due to the negativity surrounding it."
"You need to remember that clowns are people too."
McNicol said that the gathering really isn't a rally or a protest per se, but more of an "information session." In a press release, Thunder Bay Clown Club President Dan "Daffy" Baxter, said that "our purpose is to provide theatre goers with leaflets about the differences between professional clowns and clowns depicted as monsters and villains in film and media." That said, McNicol told VICE that the it can't be ignored that the resurfaced stereotype of the "evil clown" has done serious damage to the clown's bottom line.
In 2016, an insanely annoying epidemic of "scary clowns" took North America by storm. People were making clown prank videos—some good, the vast majority bad—and clowns were photographed with chains and knives looking menacing as all hell. At one point a man in clown get-up actually stabbed a man in Sweden. In Canada, Home Depot pulled some of their clown halloween gear. The bullshit hasn't stopped either: a week ago a "local prankster" tied a bunch of red balloons to sewer grates a la the opening scene of Stephen King's tome.
It's likely going to get worse as Halloween approaches.
"The financial blow to the clowning industry has already happened," said McNicol. "When I meet my American clown friends, they tell me that business has dropped, people won't invite them to parties, they don't get invited to events anymore."
"It's definitely has hurt the business aspect for people that use it as a business."
Luckily the Thunder Bay Clown Club—who boast 26 members and primarily do charity events—have, for whatever reason, been spared from this hit. "Cooler heads may have just prevailed here," McNicol said.
The fear of clowns is informally known as coulrophobia and is linked to John Wayne Gacy and the original pressing of Stephen King's It. While it's not listed in ICD-10 or the DSM-5 categorisation of disorders, it's a relatively well-known phenomenon. Earlier this year, King tweeted out that "the clowns are pissed at me," saying that kids have always been scared of clowns and to "not kill the messenger."
McNicol said that in recent days, she's hearing the term "scary clown" uttered by children more and more and actually blames this more on "Lipstick Clowns"—the clowns that haven't been trained but just throw on a costume and get in people's faces—than the media. Actual clowns, McNicol explained, have a code of conduct, follow and ethical code, and a clown constitution.
"All of this hurts us because we do such good in the community, but we embrace it, we understand what's happening," said McNicol. "That's what we want to give this information and say: 'Don't promote It, don't go out on halloween and dress your kids as scary clowns, don't perpetuate the idea of evil clowning.'"
All this being said, it still looks like a pretty goddamn great update on the 1990 TV series—so we'll take what we can get.
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