How ‘Clown’ Became The Insult Of 2020

Has anything good ever come from white face paint and red nose? Clowns have always occupied a particularly strange slice of pop culture. For decades their role in our society has been debated: are they joyful, terrifying, a meme, a way for Joaquin Phoenix to win an Oscar? Some vouch for the clowns as children’s birthday party entertainers, while others will forever associate them with Pennywise, the demonic child killer who lives in a sewer. To say there is a gap would be an understatement.

But it seems that from 2020 we have firmly chosen the “clown” as an insult. His place in the pantheon of dissers solidified in September, when former Vice President Joe Biden twice called President Trump a “clown” in the first presidential debate. Amid several interruptions from Trump, Biden said, “Well, it’s hard to get a word out with that clown.” He then corrected himself by adding: “Excuse me, this the personAt another point, while debating health policy, Biden turned to the camera and asked, “People, do you have any idea what this clown is doing? Do you?”

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These were two favorable moments for a presidential debate with the air of a circus. But they also made Biden walk a tightrope. Some praised him for tagging Trump with an appropriate description, while others judged the nickname under the belt. “I should have said it was a clownish business instead of calling it a clown,” Biden later told NBC’s Lester Holt. But what prompted this man in his sixties to pull such a sentence? After all, clowns have been around for ages and we’ve never seen JFK call Nixon one. (Although that would have been right on the red nose.)

Biden’s team likely gave him that term, after gaining popularity with the Gen-Z crowd on Twitter and TikTok. But it was about a decade of work that led to the insult to the national stage. In 2010, Urban Dictionary decided that the best way to describe a clown was: “Just a fool, someone for whom there is no other word but ‘clown’, that explains how great they can be. stupid and how little you think about them. “

Three years later, a tweet from @skullmandible which cites the “clown” as a particularly effective burn, has gone viral. He wrote: “The sharpest thing you can say is’ who is this clown? “because it implies that they are a) a clown and b) not even one of the most famous clowns.”

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That same year, real-life professional clowns were offended that German Chancellor Angela Merkel called two Italian political opponents “clowns”. Cirque Roncalli director Bernhard Paul told German news agency DPA: “Being a clown is an honorable profession, very difficult, sensitive and artistic.” Even the people who make balloon animals for a living looked at the political landscape and thought, “I would like to be left out of this narrative.”

Face, nose, lip, cheek, skin, head, chin, beauty, close up, mouth,
Phoenix in 2019 Joker.

Warner Bros.

In recent years, clown shoes have become the favorite accessory of the movie industry. he was one of the highest grossing films of 2017. Shia LaBeouf channeled her tortured rodeo clown father in 2019. Honey boy. Then the world lost its mind because of Joaquin Phoenix Joker and what the film meant (if any) to the company. None of these were exactly a glowing representation of the profession. Nonetheless, this same clown-obsessed culture has found its way onto the internet. According to Know Your Meme, the “Putting on clown makeup” meme emerged – a way of describing “a person increasingly ridiculing himself by providing arguments deemed to be weaker or illogical.”

Clown as a derogatory term has been cemented on TikTok this year with the “Become a clown because people keep clowning me” trend. In it, users tell revealing, often embarrassing, anecdotes about applying face paint with lipstick. It usually involves triangles over the eyes, an oversized smile, and that signature pink sniffer.

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Soon the clown could be used in several scenarios. For unsavory dating behavior, someone might say, “This man played the clown on me the whole time.” To reveal his own shortcomings, they might ask, “Who’s the clown now?” And yes, the word is often launched as a search against those deemed incompetent or below them, as Biden uses it.

2016 is also worth considering in this survey. Weeks before Trump became our Commander-in-Chief, the clowns experienced another resurgence. Social media users began to claim to have seen killer clowns hiding in fields and back alleys across America. Most of these “sightings” turned out to be a hoax – but they hinted at our worried obsession with Bozo. It’s like just around a monumental election people want to disassociate themselves. Why work through the inner anguishes of the world when you can run away from them in a clown car?

Sydney Royal Easter Show 2012

Mark KolbeGetty Images

On their own, clowns aren’t horrible. People who wear polka dot parachute pants and red balloons read themselves as rather non-threatening. But have you ever seen anything more devastating than a sad clown with tear stained cheeks and a dispirited smile? It is disconcerting to see our expectations for joy met with something a little too real. Anyone who has paid attention in the past four years has become this sad clown, painting on a smile in hopes of a better future. So Trump’s gregarious confidence in our situation reads as strangely as smudged white paint on the face.

circus clown

MirrorpixGetty Images

By accommodating our fears, our disillusions, our anguish on this face, the clowns to become disturbing, the point of the joke. In a year filled with mirrors, emotional juggling and an unpredictable leader – is it any wonder we’re hung up? When we campaign for clowns, our own insecurities about looking like a fool fade away. But we’re still waiting for the turn that will end the circus – whether it’s an election, a vaccine, or a New Year’s Eve countdown. The universe may be watching we, thinking: send the clowns.

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