While fans all over the world prepare for the release of IT, the World Clown Association is not exactly looking forward to it. Stephen King’s acclaimed supernatural horror classic IT was famously adapted into a two-part miniseries in 1990, with Tim Curry as evil clown Pennywise, triggering a generation of coulrophobics - in other words, people suffering from clown phobia.
Now, almost 30 years later, comes the first cinematic adaptation of King’s novel with Andrés Muschietti (Mamá) on the lead as director and Bill Skarsgard (Hemlock Grove) as the new Pennywise. Although Pennywise is just one of the many shapes IT can take, the image of an evil, killer clown is not one that can be easily shaken off - especially for children, which is why the World Clown Association is not looking forward to the film’s release.
The clown industry took a hit when the IT miniseries first aired and with the film being released in just a few more days, professional clowns are concerned about how this new version of Pennywise will affect their business. Pam Moody, president of the World Clown Association and who teaches safety practices to children through her character Sparky the Firefighter Clown, has issued the following statement (via THR):
“It all started with the original IT. That introduced the concept of this character. It’s a science-fiction character. It’s not a clown and has nothing to do with pro clowning. [...] People had school shows and library shows that were canceled. That’s very unfortunate. The very public we’re trying to deliver positive and important messages to aren’t getting them."
Last year, people from various states in the U.S., Canada, and subsequently in other countries, reported seeing people disguised as evil clowns lurking in forests and near schools. Naturally, this did no good to the Clown Association - which, after the incidents, prepared their colleagues with a guide that reminds their community that the art of clown is “something to be treasured and enjoyed” and that it should be understood that these evil portrayals are just fantasy characters:
“Just as a Haunted House event may have a ‘doctor’ wearing surgical gear, carrying a bloody chainsaw, people need to understand that this character is NOT a real doctor. He is a person portraying an evil character in order to scare people. In the same way, people dressed as horror clowns are not ‘real clowns’. They are taking something innocent and wholesome and perverting it to create fear in their audience."
As much as parents are encouraged to not let their kids watch the film, the heavy marketing campaign makes it nearly impossible for children not to be exposed to the image of Pennywise. For instance, the first IT trailer broke online views records with 197 million views in 24 hours - and with the release date just a few days away, some cities are preparing for the premiere by tying red balloons to sewer drains (and with posters all over the city, of course).
In the end, it’s up to parents to ensure their children understand that Pennywise is a fictional character that can do no harm to them and that it has nothing to do with the real clown industry - an organization with the sole purpose of providing comic relief and in some cases, teaching children about safety and other life-lessons.
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