It—a Stephen King masterpiece that is all three a miniseries, extremely large book and recently-released film—isn’t just terrifying for those forced to encounter Pennywise crawling out of a storm drain. Turns out the real victims here are actual clowns, who are tired of their good (?) names being dragged through the mud by King’s balloon-wielding murder-machine.
There was a time, though, when clowns were supposedly the province of joy, lightness and children’s birthday parties—which is where World Clown Association president Pam Moody would prefer they stay.
Moody contends that children are wary of clowns like they’re wary of all costumed characters, from the Easter Bunny to Santa. But as she told THR:
“But no one is picking on the Santa Clauses, because that would ruin the retail business,” she says. “It would ruin Christmas for everybody.”
“It all started with the original It,” she notes. “That introduced the concept of this character. It’s a science-fiction character. It’s not a clown and has nothing to do with pro clowning.”
Hmm, I’m not sure about that. I think there’s something inherently disconcerting about any symbol of childhood innocence, like dolls and little girls holding hands. In fact, I’m going to venture that the more pure the alleged innocence, the more alarming it becomes when imbued with evil. It’s contrast!
Still, you gotta feel for Moody, who probably already has her work cut out for her in Des Moines, Iowa, where she teaches safety to grade schoolers as Sparky the Firefighter Clown. Her job became much harder after last year, when creepy clown sightings were weirdly pandemic, prompting the WCA to create a press kit. From the sternly-worded release:
“The character in the movie It should be understood to be a fantasy character – not a true clown. Just as a haunted house event may have a ‘doctor’ wearing surgical gear, carrying a bloody chainsaw, people need to understand that this character is NOT a real doctor. He is a person portraying an evil character in order to scare people. In the same way, people dressed as horror clowns are not ‘real clowns.’ They are taking something innocent and wholesome and perverting it to create fear in their audience.”
It’s creator, Stephen King, is less than sympathetic.
But Moody isn’t saying King is entirely to blame—some of that falls to parents insensitive to their children’s natural hesitations, all but hurling them into Moody’s arms without first considering how strange that is.
“I’m trying to motion to them, ‘No, no, stop!’ but they keep coming at me,” she said.
A child dirigible being shot into your arms without prior permission? That sounds terrifying! Still not as terrifying as clowns, though.