"American Horror Story" has returned to FX with its fourth season, “Freak Show,” to record ratings and has already been renewed for a fifth season, but not everyone is happy about the way the show goes about scaring its fans. It turns out clowns are not too thrilled about the way they have been portrayed in movies and television, and “American Horror Story” is the latest blow to their reputation.
Season 4 of “American Horror Story” features a character called Twisty the Clown (John Carrol Lynch), who (in only two episodes) has already killed five people and kidnapped two more. The aesthetic of the clown is equally notable, with his smeared-paint mask and dead-looking eyes. An unmasking of the character in episode two revealed a seemingly rotting mouth, shocking fans of the show. The scene is enough to give anyone clown-filled nightmares, and real-life clowns are not pleased.
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Glen Kohlberger, president of Clowns of America International, told The Hollywood Reporter, “We do not support in any way, shape or form any medium that sensationalizes or adds to coulrophobia or 'clown fear.’”
"Hollywood makes money sensationalizing the norm," he continued of how movies and television have profited from exploiting fear. "They can take any situation no matter how good or pure and turn it into a nightmare."
Kohlberger seems to blame media portrayals of clowns for the waning interest in the art form. The organization’s membership is down to 2,500 this year, as opposed to 3,500 in 2004.
However, another professional clown organization, the World Clown Association (which consists of around 2,300 professional clowns), doesn’t consider Twisty -- or any other scary-film clown -- an actual clown. Instead, the organization believes audiences should be able to tell the difference between a movie or TV villain and an entertainer.
“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," Randy Christensen, the president-elect and Master Clown for the World Clown Association, told International Business Times. "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.”
Christensen went on to admit that scary clowns in the media may harm people’s perceptions of clowns.
"It is true that various horror clown portrayals work against our goal," he added. "We hope the American audience realizes that there are different categories in entertainment. We want to be on the positive side of things."
Fans are tuning in to “American Horror Story” by the millions to see Twisty the Clown this season. Hopefully for the real clowns, terrified audiences will be able to stay calm enough to tell the difference.
Do you think movies and television contribute to fear of clowns? Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV.