Why Clowns Are Scary

From Metafilter:

“In all seriousness, though, there’s something elementally unnerving about the sort of unrestrained jouissance that clowns represent. I’m not quite willing to say it’s universal, but we go way out of our way to set limits to enjoyment, pleasure, happiness, joy—and you don’t have to agree with me, but this doesn’t strike me as absurd. Every primal force is terrible. At some point silliness and happiness and fun and joy start to transgress itself and display its horror: the snake eats its own tail.

I mean, we hardly know much at all about the Bacchic and Dionysian ecstatic rituals because the first rule about Pleasure Club is that we will fucking kill you if you talk about Pleasure club. A corpse’s rictus grin; la petite mort of orgasm, especially autoasphixiation, where the link between death the pleasure of sex could not be more apparent; DFW’s entertainment so powerful it kills you in Infinite Jest; overdose as outcome of pleasure-seeking; Christ’s suffering on the cross as the representation of God’s love for humankind. And didn’t I read somewhere that disorders that evoke near-constant orgasms are nigh unto unbearable.

I couldn’t say when clowns in particular came to be creepy, but it does seem to me that the link between the pleasurable (the fun) and the terrible has been around a long, long time. So it seems to me only natural that our culture’s archetypal evocation of The Fun should also lend itself to an enantiodromia wherein The Fun gnaws away at itself and shows The Fear within.”

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