Ring the alarm! I wish I were joking, but clowns have taken over America.
It continues to kill it at the box office, a cult of clowns run loose on our TVs in American Horror Story, and Juggalos marched through the streets of Washington. This generation’s most iconic character is a clown, Heath Ledger’s sadistic Joker, but the scariest one of all lives in the White House.
Is this clown invasion a coincidence? No, of course not. If it were, then this article wouldn’t make for a very effective think piece, now would it? The answer is that clowns are emblematic of our national psyche. These days the joke is on us.
How did this happen? Jesters, jokers, and clowns step on rakes, their cars are too small, and they try to make a living off stealing people’s noses. They’re supposed to be the butt of the joke, the side characters, there to serve us. That’s how the world has worked since Shakespeare. Clowns were the fools. They’re not supposed to be king, never mind president.
But something has changed. We’ve changed. Where we once sought bravery, heroism, and leadership in public figures, we now cherish being entertained over all else, eager to chase whatever the shiniest object is in front of us, and there’s nothing shinier than the silver bells on a jester’s cap.
Despite willfully allowing a three-ring circus to take up shop in the Oval Office, there has been some recognition of the danger we’ve put ourselves in by becoming addicted to the mindlessness of entertainment. Unfortunately for us, we’ve become so reliant on entertainment that it’s all we’ve come to understand, so entertainment must fight entertainment. That’s where The Dark Knight, It, and American Horror Story Cult come into the picture. These stories detail how clowns, when given power, turn to evil. How they feed on fear, manipulate chaos, and aren’t bound by logic, all qualities that can be ascribed to President Trump and other real-word killer clowns such as Kim Jung Un and Carrot Top.
It, the movie of this moment, is especially instructive in its critique of our culture. In a change from the source material, the story is set in the late ’80s, at the height of Reaganism, and illustrates the perils of nostalgia, demonstrating that evil still lurked behind the white picket fences of the white middle class. With Pennywise terrorizing the town of Derry, Maine, America was never truly great because Pennywise can only grow strong if we are weak. His power is to mimic his next victim’s greatest insecurity, feeding on their fear, not unlike how Trump appeals to the xenophobic, racist, and transphobic people of our country. A better President once said this and it’s true: “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”
Normally, I’d conclude my articles like I begin them – with something snarky, but not this time. Oh no. Our situation on Earth is no longer a laughing matter. The climate is changing. Nuclear weapons are proliferating. And the Kardashians are reproducing. The end is neigh. And it’s high time we heed the warnings of It, or else. Seriously.
So long as we, as a society, remain divided and continue to treat entertainment as king, the clowns will continue to reign over us. We have to change the culture, come together, and reemphasize the seriousness of life. If we don’t, then we’ll continue to be at the mercy of our red-nosed overlords and all we’ll be able to do is laugh through our tears. Sorry to be all doom and gloom, but it’s true. However, if there’s any hope then there’s this spoiler alert: It ends with the children of Derry defeating the clown, but they were only able to do so if they joined forces, once they became stronger together. No joke.