Even before it opened in theaters over the weekend, It, the adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about a group of preteens terrorized by the sewer-dwelling Pennywise the clown, had already spawned a sequel. But now that It has made an astonishing $123 million in its opening weekend, it seems fair to assume we’ll see It sequels of another sort: even more films and TV shows featuring scary clowns.
But America, I ask you: Have we not, as a society, already reached peak scary clown? The biggest movie in the country right now, which has been hyped for months, stars a homicidal, balloon-carrying Bozo. American Horror Story: Cult is packed with seemingly real clown terrorists who are running rampant through the homes and grocery stores of suburban Michigan. Hollywood is planning multiple movies centered around the Joker, who, sure, is a comic-book villain but, at his essence, also a scary clown that we have seen in many films, TV shows, cartoons, books, and video games for decades. The fourth season of BoJack Horseman features a subplot about scary clown dentists, which, honestly, is a new subset of clown horror that I had never before considered, so I have to give a shout-out to the BoJack team for being pioneers in this otherwise thoroughly explored circus ring. And then there are all the insane posses of clowns in reality, like the juggalos who plan to gather in Washington, D.C., this weekend or the actual creepy clowns who freaked out kids (and adults) in towns across the country last year. It’s like every day is red nose day all of a sudden.
On one level, you can understand how we reached this point. If there is one thing that most rational people can agree on, it’s that clowns are inherently frightening. (Although maybe we can’t all agree on that given that Donald Trump got elected? I’ll be here all week, folks! Or at least until a clown emerges from a storm drain and decides that I should float, too.)
Even Bart Simpson, who has much, much love for Krusty, understood at a very young age that Clarabelle and his ilk are disturbing. If you’re an artist who crafts scary stories, it’s natural that you might decide to create a monster using some big shoes and a horn that goes honk-honk.
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.