We all have our prejudices. Me, I don’t like clowns. Never did. I was afraid of them when I was a kid. You know the axiom about how bigots tend to dehumanize members of the groups they don’t like? Well, that’s what I did. Sort of. Actually, it was the other way around. It’s not that I didn’t like them, therefore I thought of them as not being human. It’s that I really didn’t get that they were humans, and I didn’t like them.
In fact — and I was right on this point — they didn’t seem like anything natural. They weren’t dogs, or cats, or horses, or cows, or any other species that I found totally nonthreatening. They were like something from another world, and a pretty freaky, inexplicable one, too. (Later, I was to see “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” — or some of it, anyway — and it made a lot of sense to me.)
Funny thing is, I don’t remember being afraid of much as a kid. At least, not of real things. I never had the fear of nuclear war that so many who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis shared. I do recall having an unreasoning fear of that Snidely Whiplash guy who was on the kiddie show on WIS… when we lived in Shandon back around 1957, I was convinced that that guy lived in the bushes behind the duplex we lived in. Not the one on Heyward Street, the other one we lived in… But I wasn’t afraid of much else. Except clowns.
I have this early memory — this was probably the mid-50s, ’57 at the latest — of being in the Colonial store in Bennettsville (remember Colonial stores, you oldsters?) and there was some sort of promotion going on, and there was a clown giving out popcorn. I remember wanting to check out the popcorn, but not wanting it badly enough to go anywhere near that clown. I did my best to keep at least an aisle between him and me. Or rather, between it and me. This seemed to me a completely rational response. Still does, looked at from a little kid’s perspective.
I don’t know when it was, but I remember that eventually I did finally realize that they were people, only with makeup. I think it took awhile because the premise seemed unlikely. Why would people want to make themselves look so FREAKY?
Anyway, I got to thinking about that again when I read that Ronald McDonald is in trouble:
The 48-year-old, red-haired mascot has come under fire from health-care professionals and consumer groups who, in recent days, have asked the fast-food chain to retire Ronald McDonald. But McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner staunchly defended the clown at the company’s annual meeting on Thursday, saying, “Ronald McDonald is going nowhere.”
He kept his job, and I’ve got mixed feelings about that. I hate for anybody to lose their job in this economy, but… well, you know… he’s a clown…
Anyway, somewhat more seriously… I’ve always sort of wondered about this concept that clowns are a great way to appeal to kids. Because they certainly weren’t in my case. So I put it to you: Do you like clowns? And more to the point, did you ever like clowns?