This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Some Canadian clowns painted on frowny faces Thursday in response to the soon-to-be released remake of IT, protesting the film’s main attraction: Pennywise, a child-eating clown who’s creepy as all hell.
IT, the hotly anticipated film based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel, came to theaters in Canada Thursday night (and arrives in the US Friday). The Thunder Bay Clown Club gathered outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario’s Silver City Theatre shortly before the movie premiered. Dianne McNicol—who performs under the name Dottie the Clown—said that the group planned to be there for just a few minutes handing out pamphlets denouncing IT‘s negative portrayal of clowns.
“We feel that this has done great harm in the business of clowning and for clowns,” said McNicol. “A number of clown clubs have actually folded due to the negativity surrounding it.”
“You need to remember that clowns are people too,” she added.
Photo via Facebook
McNicol said that the gathering really wasn’t a rally or a protest per se, but more of an “information session.” In a press release, Thunder Bay Clown Club president Dan “Daffy” Baxter said that “our purpose is to provide theater goers with leaflets about the differences between professional clowns and clowns depicted as monsters and villains in film and media.” McNicol said that the resurfaced stereotype of the “evil clown” has done serious damage to clowns’ bottom line.
In 2016, an insanely annoying epidemic of “creepy clowns” took North America by storm. People were making clown prank videos—some good, the vast majority bad—and clowns were photographed with chains and knives looking menacing as all hell. At one point, a man in clown get-up actually stabbed a man in Sweden. In Canada, Home Depot pulled some of its clown halloween gear. The bullshit hasn’t stopped either: A week ago, a “local prankster” tied a bunch of red balloons to sewer grates à la the opening scene of Stephen King’s tome.
It’s likely going to get worse as Halloween approaches.
“The financial blow to the clowning industry has already happened,” said McNicol. “When I meet my American clown friends, they tell me that business has dropped. People won’t invite them to parties. They don’t get invited to events anymore.”
“It definitely has hurt the business aspect for people that use it as a business,” she added.
Luckily, the Thunder Bay Clown Club—which boast 26 members and primarily does charity events—has, for whatever reason, been spared from this hit. “Cooler heads may have just prevailed here,” McNicol said.
The fear of clowns is informally known as coulrophobia and is linked to John Wayne Gacy and the original pressing of Stephen King’s IT. While the phobia isn’t listed in the International Classification of Diseases or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, coulrophobia is a relatively well-known phenomenon. Earlier this year, King tweeted out that “the clowns are pissed at me,” saying that kids have always been scared of clowns and not to “kill the messengers for the message.”
McNicol said that in recent days, she’s hearing the term “scary clown” uttered by children more and more and actually pins the blame on “Lipstick Clowns”—the clowns who haven’t been trained but just throw on a costume and get in people’s faces—than the media. Actual clowns, McNicol explained, have a code of conduct, follow an ethical code, and obey a clown constitution.
“All of this hurts us because we do such good in the community. But we embrace it, we understand what’s happening,” said McNicol. “That’s what we want to give this information and say: ‘Don’t promote IT, don’t go out on halloween and dress your kids as scary clowns, don’t perpetuate the idea of evil clowning.'”
All this being said, IT still looks like a pretty great update on the 1990 TV series—so we’ll take what we can get.
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