A Psychotherapist Explains Why The Clown Craze Isn't Slowing Down Anytime Soon
Honestly, I've never liked clowns, but until this whole clown epidemic started in August, I've never been so scared of the damn things.
At first, I didn't really think much of these clown stories.
A dude dressing up like a clown and luring kids into the woods in South Carolina or Kentucky or wherever is terrible, sure, but it doesn't really hit home for me.
Then, the clown craziness started hitting college campuses and moving abroad, and you know what, I'm legitimately scared about what might happen this Halloween.
You officially have my attention, scary clowns.
How to make sense of it all? Well, instead of cowering in a corner or going on an ill-advised, possibly alcohol-fueled witch hunt, I decided to get some real answers.
When I entered the office of Jessica Meiman, LMHC Psychotherapist, I thought I had at least a basic understanding of this whole clown thing, but as it turned out, I knew less than Jon Snow.
During our conversation, Meiman provided expert opinions on why people are dressing up like clowns, why we're all so scared of clowns in general and when we can expect the madness to come to an end.
Elite Daily: In your best estimate, why are we living through what feels like a worldwide clown epidemic?
Jessica Meiman: I think it has a lot to do with control. People who have had some kind of experience of being out of control, trying to take control back in a really aggressive and horrifying way.
Right now, so much of everything we do is out of our control, and I can imagine that taking things into your own hands, in one way or another, is a little bit satisfying.
I don't know why clowns. I've noticed in media and TV, a lot of the old-school horror is making a comeback. “American Horror Story,” creepy movies and stuff, so I think that definitely plays a role in giving people ideas of how to freak others out.
ED: Why do we fear clowns? Is it an innate fear?
JM: I think it has a lot to do with what they're supposed to represent. They're supposed to represent fun and silliness and parties and happiness.
There's a really fine line between what's familiar and what's not. With a little bit of makeup, something that's supposed to be kind and playful becomes sinister and terrifying.
ED: Is it possible those who are dressing up like clowns are actually the ones who have the greatest fear of them?
JM: It's possible. I don't know that somebody who has an actual deep-rooted fear of clowns would do that, but they could've had an experience with clowns that makes them drawn to that kind of scare tactic.
Clowns look like people, they have features like people, but they're really exaggerated. That closeness can be either comforting or really terrifying.
ED: Why does putting on a costume in general make someone so damn scary?
JM: I think it has something to do with the unknown. Underneath a mask, or even just underneath a simple costume, you have no idea what there is.
The weirder it gets, the more uncomfortable we get, and the more uncomfortable society becomes.
ED: Is it empowering to wear a mask/costume?
JM: I think that's probably the most important part of it. I usually think of empowerment as such a positive word, but in this case, it's kind of a scary positive.
That's exactly it, though. These are people who, probably, something really horrible happened to them that made them scared of something or somebody or themselves.
Being somebody else feels safer. It's more tolerable, more in control. You take it to the next level, you scare the shit out of people.
ED: Why do we wear masks?
JM: Depending on the situation, people are kind of prepared for the old pattern to occur. If you have a really consistent pattern of asking others for help and being turned away, or being made to feel less than for asking for help, you're going to put on a really tough front.
You're going to put on this mask of strength, when in reality, underneath, you're really crying for help. I think it's a matter of emotional survival in the world.
ED: Is this just a sick fad, or are we working with something deeper?
JM: I think there's a combination of things. With social media, and media in general, we are aware of everything. We know everything that goes on, we see every creepy picture, we see every innocuous picture.
Things can gain momentum really easily.
I think these people are probably very similar, whether they want to believe it or not. I think they want to be special, be noticed, feel in control, have an impact on the world and they are.
ED: Do we kind of inject and project ourselves into the costumes we wear every year for Halloween?
JM: With any costume, I think you take on that role. That's what's fun about Halloween, you get to be somebody else for a little bit.
Something like being a clown takes a lot of effort. There's a lot of makeup, a lot of stuff to wear.
Because it's such a physical and aesthetic thing, I wonder if that creates a little bit of distance in their danger.
Maybe they want to be in the background, scaring the shit out of people and creating nightmares for little kids, as opposed to an axe-carrying clown running down your street killing people.
Maybe that's just me trying to feel safe in the world.
That's why I think something happened to these people, any kind of trauma, and probably pretty consistently something has happened.
Maybe they felt some sort of terror, regularly, and it can be comforting to take back the power.
ED: Is there anything else you might attribute all these clown sightings to?
JM: I do wonder how much it has to do with Halloween. I wonder what society will be like after the election. What's going to happen?
We're going to have this emotional whiplash, where I think we're going to be nationally exhausted. We're putting so much energy into such important nonsense, and it's exhausting.
I wonder what will happen after Halloween and the election.
How many of these Americans are acting out? They're acting out in a way, literally.