Culture Clips: Clowns Are Scared of It

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A clown hiding behind a balloon.

Professional clowns are not happy about yet another cinematic remake of Stephen King’s seriously creepy 1986 horror novel It. The titular It in question here takes the form of a scary, nasty clown named Pennywise. And given the recent scary, nasty clown sightings in the real world last fall, those who still put on colorful makeup and bright-red noses for birthday parties are pretty down about yet another horrific depiction of their profession.

Mel Magazine contributor John McDermott interviewed several Los Angeles-area clowns for his story on the movie’s cultural influence. “It’s gonna be bad for clowns,” said Guilford Adams, who’s worked as a clown for 20 years. “It’s ruining our business,” said another clown, Nick Kane. McDermott summarizes, “It’s never been harder to be a clown, all of them say. Clowns were once a source of entertainment and even joy, but their depiction in the media has robbed them of their wholesomeness and transformed them into something children fear.”

Elsewhere, Salon reporter Nico Lang has a bone to pick—and, I think, a legitimate one—regarding the depiction of seniors on the big screen. The occasion for his observation is the new film Going in Style, which features three retirees (played by acting icons Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin) successfully plotting a bank heist after their lifelong employer folds and they lose their pensions.

In his article “Going in Style and old people behaving badly: Hollywood needs to stop treating people over 60 like idiots,” Lang writes, “Hollywood has a bad habit of underestimating the intelligence of people over 60, churning out movies that treat them like wrinkly buffoons who are constantly falling asleep, complaining about their bunions, or involved in wacky hijinx. The elderly may as well be a different species.”

Meanwhile, director Brett Ratner (Hercules, Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) thinks the popular movie-review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes is hurting Tinseltown badly. He told Entertainment Weekly, “It’s mind-blowing. It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie. In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct.”

Last week, Culture Clips reported on a Marvel comics exec David Gabriel talking about his company’s slipping comic book sales in the wake of increased diversification of characters. This week, The Federalist’s Jon Del Arroz unpacks how he believes political correctness in Marvel’s comics really is killing the brand. “Their comic books have lost their core of good storytelling, and are instead pandering to social justice warriors and offering phony diversity pushes,” he writes.

In other entertainment industry news that reflects our culture’s changing value system, MTV has announced that it’s eliminating gendered categories for its next movie and TV awards.

In Detroit, an 11-year-old boy has died three weeks after hanging himself. Tysen Benz’s suicide came in the wake of his 13-year-old girlfriend playing a gruesome prank on him by trying to convince him that she had killed herself—a hoax that the adolescent clearly believed. The boy’s mother, Katrina Goss, said in an interview, “Please monitor all of your children’s technological device usage. It is not an invasion of privacy. It is imperative to know what they are doing and to whom they are socializing with.” The Washington Post reported yesterday that the girl in the case will face charges.

Unrelated to that sad story, Facebook has announced that it will be taking new steps to stop the spread of revenge porn.

If it seems like music is getting faster these days, it’s not your imagination. In a world where people’s attention spans are shorter than ever, the tempo of today’s songs has increased, and the amount of time before someone begins singing has diminished markedly, from 23 seconds in 1986 to just five seconds in 2015, according to a new European study.

Finally, on the celebrity front this week, singer and actress Demi Lovato hopes to make an R-rated sequel to Disney’s popular Camp Rock movies. Barry Manilow has come out as gay and said he waited so long because he thought fans would be disappointed. And actress Nicole Kidman describes watching her two younger daughters with singer Keith Urban grow up is “equally beautiful and a little heartbreaking.”

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Kal El 8 months ago
I have always loved clowns, so I don't get the phobia bit on a personal level, but then phobias don't always make sense to those who don't have them.
All that aside, I think Alex Clark's comment sums things up very, very well on that issue.

As for Camp Rock going R rated, for good or ill, I think that's about as likely as a clan of Scottish squirrels climbing onto my windowsill and singing me to sleep tonight.
Disney is so afraid of the R rating we can't even get an R rated movie from Marvel Studios (thank God the rights to the X-Men characters are at Fox). There's NO way they're about to go R rated with a movie series geared towards tweenage girls.
Kal El 8 months ago
There's no edit button for posts on here?

Just wanted to add:

I'm with Ratner: Rotten Tomatoes is total garbage. My advice is that if you want guidance on a movie's quality, check it's user rating on IMDB, Flixster, or whatever. DON'T pay any mind to the critics, because they're wrong way too often and can't be trusted for objectivity. Better to go by the voice of the masses, or better yet, make your own choice and form your own opinion. ;-)

As for the PC comics bit, I've been saying that for years, and it's why I dropped Marvel's comics years ago. DC has some of that junk in there books but it's usually less frequent or boldfaced, but Marvel has been insane with it, so I won't buy a book of theirs again until that stops (word has it it will but I'll wait and see).
Anonymous 8 months ago
The lack of an edit button bothers me too lol

Rotten Tomatoes can be good for a laugh, but I agree that the only way to tell if you like something is to watch it. At least one low ranked Rotten Tomatoes movie is a guilty pleasure for me, surely there can be more :)
Anonymous 8 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I used to always listen to the critics and Rotten Tomatoes myself. If a movie was rated 'rotten', I just didn't see it.

But then I saw Batman v Superman, a movie which I thought had its flaws, but was still a pretty decent film. Of course, I have a very big bias towards DC, since I grew up watching all of the animated series as a kid. Because of my DC bias, I wasn't sure if it was because of my bias or because I genuinely liked the movie.

But a couple weeks ago, I saw Power Rangers, which got a 49% 'rotten' rating on RT. As someone who has never seen an episode of Power Rangers, I thought the movie was pretty great!

From now on, when I go to Rotten Tomatoes, I'll look at both the critic score and the audience score.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Audience scores tend to be more accurate because that's who the movies are made for :) Personally, I really like PluggedIn because they just tell me technical things like how much violence, swearing, etc. is going to be in a movie. You really can't rate humor, likeable characters, or compelling story because all those things are individual preference. 
Sportaflop . 8 months ago
I'm glad to hear that music is getting faster. For a while now I've only really listened to Nightcore, LazyTown, and Monstercat music because the mainstream stuff was too slow lol. And yeah I'll just admit it, I have a really small attention span :)
Anonymous 8 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Those poor good clowns. The scary ones are messing up their lives. Sort of a killing joke if you would ;)
Alex Clark 8 months ago
I don't know if being the second film version merits a "yet another".  And it's another one of those Chicken and Egg problems.  Do media depictions of clowns *cause* coulrophobia, or do we make scary clown stories because we're *already* afraid of them?

I think the Rotten Tomatoes issue is kind of dumb.  Yeah, bad reviews probably do hurt the bottom lines of some movies, but the solution isn't to complain about bad reviews, there will always be bad reviews as long as people are allowed to express opinions.
Julienne Dy 8 months ago
Back in third grade, one of my classmates said that he became scared of clowns because he saw a movie about a killer clown.  I personally used to love clowns as a kid.  Then again, unlike my classmates, I grew up in the Philippines.  We didn't really have a lot of killer clown stories circulating through the airwaves over there.
Sportaflop . 8 months ago
I've always disliked clowns, not because they're scary they just look weird :P Still never seen/read It though so maybe they seem scarier after that?
Andrew Gilbertson 8 months ago
The article on comics is unsurprising. Since at least the early 2000s, comic books have been social justice propaganda machines- though they may be stepping it up these days- because I think they bought into their own press that they are somehow extremely socially relevant? They seem to think that people look to comic books for their social cues- though where they got this impression, I have no idea- and have made themselves self-appointed arbiters of the moral standard, growing increasingly loud and shrill in proclamations that only *they* think people are actually listening to. It's been a bizarre trend to watch, and all based on an extreme misunderstanding that the comics industry are willing to reinforce to each other, even if no one else really believes it.
bobed 9 months ago
So Demi Lovato and Hollyweird want to take something innocent meant for children and turn it into filth? Why am I not surprised whatsoever? My kids WERE fans of the Camp Rock movies. 
Anonymous 8 months ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Come to think of it, has Disney ever made an R rated movie? I don't think that they have, but that's just as far as I know.
Andrew Gilbertson 8 months ago
I think they tend to release those through one of their other labels, like Touchstone; so Disney-affiliated production have been, but Disney itself hasn't. Pirates of the Carribean was their first PG-13, if I recall correctly. (Although some might argue that #3, At World's End, *should've* been closer to an R than a PG-13...)
Sportaflop . 8 months ago
While I haven't seen this movie in quite a while, I don't remember any of it being worthy of an R rating? Certainly well within PG-13 territory though.
Kal El 8 months ago
I have the Blu-ray and have watched it many times, so I can confirm what you're saying. There's no actual reason POTC3 would be R rated. It has basically no more or less mature content than any of the other installments.
Sportaflop . 8 months ago
Is there really anything wrong with it though? No one can force you to watch the new one, and the original will still be there for you to enjoy. Kinda like The Last Airbender movie didn't ruin Avatar, we just pretend it doesn't exist ;) And some good might come of it, like people getting interested in the original again now that the new one's put it back into the spotlight.
bobed 8 months ago
Some good might come of an R-rated movie sequel to a CHILDREN's movie??? You and I have very different viewpoints. 
Anonymous 8 months ago
What's so hard to believe about that? Try this, someone comes up to you and tells you they've just heard about the new R-rated Camp Rock. You turn that around and use it as an opportunity to tell them about the old one, how great it is, how it impacted you in a good way. Maybe you convince them to go check out something good that they'd never even heard of before. Good coming out of bad is not a new concept, especially in Christianity.