A Clown with a Twist

As part of our Contemporary Media and the Gothic series, Jenah Colledge has done a character review of Twisty the clown, from the hit US show American Horror Story: Freakshow. Jenah is third year English and Creative Writing student.

The element of fear; certainly a major emotion associated with clowns. With many people, the mere word ‘clown’ causes their brain to throw up a barrier, a guard, in order to lock out any conversation. The clown has, most categorically, became a horrifying scare factor for most children and adults, yet has anyone ever considered slowing down their running shoes to ask why? Of course if in a physical situation where you are being chased by a white face with an axe, I would advise otherwise. Literally however, this is a subject that involves a larger meaning, an in depth glance at the twisted psychoanalysis of a carnival slave.

Initially, the disturbance a person feels over clowns may be stimulated from the underlying fear of the unknown, causing sudden apprehension as to who the clown really is. I know my mother told me to never talk to strangers. After the seed is planted, the mind begins to boggle. An overpowering whirlwind of thoughts reeking havoc within the walls of the human mind, in search of confirmation or understanding about what is simultaneously going on within the mind of the clown; in the mind of the man hiding behind paint.

As a Gothic figure, the clown is often used through imagery to signify the unknown, a terror and even mass murder (Stephen King’s IT). Yet little is ever given away regarding the story behind the action, much is left to the interpretation of the reader/viewer and what they imagine to be the cause. That is of course, when they’re not sprinting forward with the victim in a haste to escape danger. More importantly, most – well those who come face to face with a clown – might remain their focus on the threat, do they not? In doing so, they neglect the opportunity to understand the reasons why and the unfortunate circumstances that led to the clown’s ‘freaky’ ways. However, from a screen point of view, one would say it’s wise to run first and think later but in retrospect, literature offers the chance of pause to understand the threat.

Steering away from the norm, a television show recently involved a narrative story time, to sympathise with the characters life stories whilst showcasing an explanative message to the viewers.

American Horror Story: Freakshow went into a symbolic depth about the importance of acceptance towards those who are different in some way. The ‘Other’, if you like. The show focused intensively on the psychological damage that could be caused to an individual and the effects or events that can develop and occur from that. With writer Ryan Murphy incorporating the detailed life of a circus freak into each episode, it looked like his aim was to pull at the emotions of his viewers in the hope that they would condone the ‘freakish’ behaviour. Giving reason to something, of course at times can ensure understanding.
Twisty the massacre mad clown, portrayed his emotions using only his eyes, due to modelling his man made permanent masked smile. In an intense unraveling, viewers were faced with the distraught and weak Twisty as he succumbed to an evil force more powerful than him, commissioned to collect his tarnished soul. The transformed childlike character crumpled at the feet of Gothic Edward Mordrake in a desperate attempt to explain his actions were to blame on his bullied past. It didn’t work.It ends with his soul being taken for his crimes, leaving the viewers sympathising with the clown.

This is all grand if you’re not in desperate need to flee from a killer clown yourself. No seriously, if you are, then run. However, with the option of thought it’s then easy to identify that on this occasion and maybe others, clowns and their ‘horrifying’ presence is masking a tortured human being suffering from tragic memories. In that case, aren’t we all guilty of being controlled by our subconscious mind? So, although a fancy costume may add to a clowns image, deep inside they’re working just the same way as the rest of us. Now that’s twisted!

Episodes Referenced

“Monsters Among Us”. American Horror Story: Freakshow. Ryan Murphy. Fox. 8 October 2014.

“Massacres and Matinees”. American Horror Story: Freakshow. Ryan Murphy. Fox. 15 October 2014.

“Edward Mordrake (1)”. American Horror Story: Freakshow. Ryan Murphy. Fox. 22 October 2014.

“Edward Mordrake (2)”. American Horror Story: Freakshow. Ryan Murphy. Fox. 29 October 2014.

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About spectralvisions

Spectral Visions is an annual Gothic conference hosted by the University of Sunderland. It explores the dark, the decadent and the terrifying aspects of Gothic literature and language. This blog is a student-run initiative, where Visionaries showcase their creative talents and learning in short stories, poems and essays on the Gothic. You can follow us on Twitter at @spectralvisi0ns or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/uosgothic
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