On October 3rd a video was posted to Twitter
. It shows a group of Kent State students jogging through campus, phones held aloft to light up the night. They are accompanied by Kent State Security and they are all searching for a clown. The tone of the video is apparently satirical - the students are smiling and laughing, enjoying the distraction from their studies. It seems more like a large scale game of flashlight tag instead of a man hunt – just replace flashlights with smart phones and tagging with wrestling a clown the to the ground. It’s the same tone as it would be if a group of college kids were out hunting Bloody Mary – no one’s going to find her, but it’s a great excuse to run outside and yell for a while.
This local incident speaks to the clown hysteria that has currently captured our national imagination. People are noticing clowns in public more and more frequently – some are in Greenville, South Carolina trying to lure children into the woods
, some appear in Texas with plastic weapons
, and some just stand under streetlights in Chicago looking creepy as all fuck.
Were these clowns always lurking about? Are we just now noticing? Has our sudden awareness of the possibility of creepy clowns caused an increase in the occurrence of creepy clowns? It’s gotten to the point that we’re freaking out at the mere idea of a clown standing nearby. Elementary schools in Connecticut
have been put on lockdown due to false reports of lurking clowns. And the clown sightings keep on coming
. Why is all of this clown hysteria happening now? What does it mean that clowns are invading our consciousness?
First of all, clowns aren’t real. Clown makeup is real and clown masks are real and clowning as a profession/hobby is real, but all of these clowns are just people in masks or heavy makeup. We know this right? That clowns aren’t a different, hostile form of life? Clowns are people in costumes who, thanks to Stephen King and the collective unconscious, we’ve all decided are up to no good. When these clown have been apprehended they’ve mostly been revealed to be asshole teenagers looking to freak out the norms. Which makes sense, since our clown hysteria has given our idle youth the perfect way to stir up trouble. Buy a clown mask, put it on, stand around for a bit, go home, check the news, and laugh as the adults lose their minds – it’s almost too easy. I’m just relieved that Fox News has yet to prove that any of the menacing clowns are Syrian refugees.
This all feels very Salem Witch Hunt 2016. Once you start looking for evil clowns, you see evil clowns everywhere, even where they don’t actually exist. The timing of this trend also makes a certain sort of sense – we’re entering a creepy time of year. The days are growing shorter, the nights are growing longer, the leaves are turning brown, and that spookiest of all days is fast approaching. I am, of course, referring to the November 8th Presidential Election, which has even the heartiest of us on edge. Is it any wonder that we’re all too eager to be pulled away from the actual problem of the country needing to decide between Hillary Clinton, who is a human woman who many people hate because of email and Benghazi and pantsuits and her insistence on speaking with a lady voice, and Donald Trump, who would be a fascist except he’s too selfish?
We’re all legitimately afraid about an election that seems out of our individual control so these “Clown Sighted!” stories serve as a form of cathartic transference. We get to put our worry somewhere else, on something that actually isn’t an imminent danger to us. It’s the same appeal as watching a horror movie when you’re not sure how you’re going to pay rent – let’s be scared about something far less relevant for a few hours. We get to read the stories of clowns lurking, standing in parks, and experience the thrill of being scared while knowing, deep in our bones, that we’re actually safe. Clowns aren’t going to get us. We need to stop focusing on real and imagined public clown sightings and go back to focusing on the things that are actually going to get us: heart disease, economic stagnation, the disappearing middle class, bad roads, bad schools, and the upcoming October 11th voter registration deadline. Will it help if I tell you that clowns won’t get you as long as you’re registered to vote? Couldn’t hurt: YOU GUYS - clowns won’t get you as long as you’re registered to vote.