Monday, June 9, 2014

A Little Clown History

Joseph Gimaldi

"Even the people who are supposed to like clowns — children — supposedly don’t. In 2008, a widely reported University of Sheffield, England, survey of 250 children between the ages of four and 16 found that most of the children disliked and even feared images of clowns."

I mentioned previously at the start of this blog that, as these pages bounded along, there would be the occasional light shed as to some of the reasons why clowns could or might cause concern and uneasiness.

And here we go. The Smithsonian's Linda Rodriguez McRobbie wrote an enlightening article about a year ago, The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary, that's a pretty interesting read. Her piece does a better job than I could do in summation, delving into not only the history of the characters but some of the mindset and disposition of them as well. From Joseph Gimaldi to Jean-Gaspard Deburau's Pierrot to the Italian opera Pagliacci to Emmett Kelly to John Wayne Gacy and even Bozo and Ronald McDonald, there's a lot to absorb and quickly conclude about these painted entertainers.

Jean-Gaspard Deburau as Pierrot

It's a good article. But the information it contains doesn't shine a good light on clowns as a whole. As a matter of fact, it reinforces the their dark sides.

"Adult clown phobics are unsettled by the clown’s face-paint and the inability to read genuine emotion on a clown’s face, as well as the perception that clowns are able to engage in manic behavior, often without consequences."

Most of the information in the piece I've been aware of for some time. Still, reading it as it is, laid out in one big, informative lump, only underlines and bolsters the misgivings and uncertainty
not to mention out and out fear we exhibit toward clowns.

One of Gacy's portaits of his alter ego "Pogo"

If you didn't trust them before, you certainly will take exception to them after you digest the article. 

Or ... simply take heed of the words of David Kiser, director of talent for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus: 

"... clowns have always had a dark side ..."

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