Anyone here watch American Horror Story? I’ve been watching it since season two, Asylum and I’ve been hooked on it ever since. I avoided the first season because I’m not into slasher-random-killing type shows or movies, but a friend of mine had finished season one and said I had to watch it.
I wasn’t disappointed, although there was a lot of gore, the storyline grabbed my attention and at the end of each episode I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Although I have to admit, I have this strange habit where I have to change the channel to something else before the encore comes on…well, because it’s usually late, the house is quiet and the opening titles are so damned creepy.
But that’s me.
This season with Freak Show I’m still making my mind up about it. Mainly because of their not-so-mystery killer, Twisty the clown. My beef with that is they brought the character in far too early and it feels like he’s there for the shock value alone.
I thought I’d be super spooked by a killer clown, and I’m not. Yeah, he’s disturbing, he kills people, he wears a half mask hiding a disfigured jaw, he kidnaps kids, yadda, yadda, yadda…but he’s not having that effect on me that goes “OMG! It’s a KILLER CLOWN!”
I’m among the group of people who don’t like clowns. I don’t have full-blown coulrophobia (fear of clowns). I simply don’t like them. I never found them funny at the circus and for me, they’re on par with mimes. I remember when I worked for a small print house back in the mid 90s I had a friend who loved clowns. She was always trying to get me to see their merits and convert me to clown fandom.
Nope, sorry, not gonna happen.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the upset among real clowns and the kind of portrayal of clowns like Twisty. The club Clowns of America International is up in arms with what Hollywood is doing. I can understand that. No one likes having their lifestyle poked fun at or misunderstandings perpetuated.
But it makes me think, with everyone so sensitive about one thing or another, how are writers and film makers ever going to tell another story without offending anyone?
Hate to tell you this, but that’s not going to happen either.
Horror and paranormal writers, like myself, look for the odd and disturbing in the mundane. Any great master of horror knows it’s often the simplest things that scare us. It’s not the blood and gore, it’s the mind games that send the biggest chills down your spine. It’s looking at daily events we never think about, like taking a shower, or a GPS system that takes us on a shortcut and the car breaks down. Our imagination spins out of control with all the what if’s and what’s lurking and before you know it, you’re hearing the Psycho “eep-eeep-eeep!” soundtrack in your head.
Horror, romance, adventure, any genre speaks to emotions and shared experiences on a broad scale. If you’re playing it safe and not offending anyone, you’re doing something wrong. That’s not to say you should go around intentionally looking to offend anyone, but the other side of the coin is those who are offended need to lighten up and realize this is fiction. We have stereotypes for a reason, there’s a tiny grain of truth in each one, and a characterization (notice the root: character) is taking that tiny truth and blowing it up out of proportion.
Is it true that all clowns are crazed psychos behind the paint? No, of course it isn’t. I’m sure there are some lovely clowns out there and beautiful people portraying them. I’m sure for every child who is terrified there’s another who finds sheer joy in a clown’s slapstick antics.
The next time someone complains about your clown (or your witch, or your doll-collecting widow living with a million cats) remember, they’re not your audience. You’re not setting out to defame any group or person, you’re telling a story. You’re evoking emotion. And if you’ve struck a nerve? Consider your job done.