American Horror Story has tried to be sensitive about the Freak Show season label ever since the series started putting out promotional materials for Season 4. They’ve invested in “Extra-Ordinary Artists” videos looking at some of the “radically different” characters willing to use their bodies as performance art. However, only a couple of episodes in, American Horror Story: Freak Show has incurred the ire of a large clown organization in the United States.
Members of Clowns of America International have taken offense over the popular FX show’s portrayal of clowns. Clowns have often gotten a bad rap on television and in the media, but organization President Glenn Kohlberger told THR the group is furious over the show’s misrepresentation of everyday clowns.
"Hollywood makes money sensationalizing the norm. They can take any situation no matter how good or pure and turn it into a nightmare… We do not support in any way, shape or form any medium that sensationalizes or adds to coulrophobia or 'clown fear.’”
Yeah, coulrophobia is a real thing that people have. I’ve even experienced it, once, when I visited the home of a friend whose parents had an entire room filled with porcelain clown collectibles. Now, it seems the Clowns of America International is placing clown fear solely on the shoulders of Hollywood and, in effect, American Horror Story: Freak Show.
There are mild spoilers in the following paragraph, so you may not want to read if you are behind on the series.
They are namely appalled by Twisty the Clown, a character who has been described by showrunner Ryan Murphy as “the most terrifying clown ever.” You can take a look at Twisty, above, but it’s also important to note that the clown, played by John Carroll Lynch, is far creepier than his face. He’s also a character that is up to no good from the get-go. He’s a murderer who also keeps two kids locked up in a school bus he uses as a home base. Within the first couple of episodes, he also turns innocuous balloon animals into the scariest toys ever. In short, he’s the worst.
In some ways, I’m sure it’s difficult for clowns to be low on the circus and birthday party totem pole. Most clowns are probably super affable and kind performers who love working with families and enjoy making balloon animals for kids. It’s got to be hard to try to be joyful when faced with that one creeped out crying child at a party. I’m sure fear of clowns even costs some clowns gigs on occasion. Regardless, it’s not like “clown fear” is a new concept created by Ryan Murphy and all of the people involved with American Horror Story. It’s something clowns should be aware exists as soon as they sign on for the gig and should not blame a popular TV series for—like how people assume professional bowlers are fat, lawyers are slippery and morticians have some unusual fetishes.