This morning, when I traveled to work, I was confronted with a huge billboard displaying a super-sized clown face. Well, at least I think most people would describe the character on the advertisement a clown. It was promoting a film called “It: Chapter Two”, which appears to be the sequel to a 2017 big screen adaptation of Steven King’s novel about Pennywise, a bloodthirsty clown with a red balloon. As I don’t like the horror genre, I’m not a Stephen King fan either. Though I understand that people appreciate his novels. But, honestly, I’d call this poster perverse (as I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, I’m not going to give any appreciation about them). It is showing a horrible mutilation and commercialization of a childhood hero character of mine.
You may call me a sentimental old fool – I’ll gladly accept it as an honorary title, except for the ‘old’ adjective – but clowns rather belong in a circus ring than in a horror movie. They are among us to provide comical and emotional relief. Just think of the cliniclowns or clown doctors that bring hope and humor to thousands of hospitalized children, or the “red nose day” fundraising campaigns in countries around the world.
In The Comic Toolbox (a book on which I wrote in an older post) John Vorhaus says that “every comic character begins and ends with his strong comic perspective – a character’s unique way of looking at his world, which differs in a clear and substantial way from the normal world view.” Clowns, if not by definition then by perception, have this comic perspective. They are well fit to be a prominent character in many stories. There need to be protagonists and antagonists, heroes and villains, characters that make you laugh and make you cry. Or both at the same time. As Vorhaus also writes: “A character’s humanity must be a real part of his character.” As such, I don’t want characters make any audience feel frightened or horrified. Neither with nor without a red balloon.
So, where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns. Send in the clowns. The kind, nice and funny ones, please.