Clowning Around: Monstrous Politics and the “Creepy Clown” Phenomenon of 2016

This paper was presented at the RAW (Research-Art-Writing) conference hosted by the University of Texas, Dallas in Richardson, TX on February 25, 2017.


During the last phase of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, “Creepy Clowns” terrorized communities across the country. It’s significant that these individuals chose clowns, rather than masked hockey players, to torment their fellow citizens. The clown occupies a liminal and disorienting place of absurdity that simultaneously embodies comedy and horror. Analyzing the history of the clown and its symbolism, this paper offers an explanation behind the phenomenon and why it correlated with the election. Embodying frustration and deep resentment, the clowns represented a broken mirror of American democracy that had become a farce in many ways. In an environment of “fake news” and misinformation, both the media and political sphere became a three-ring circus with Trump and Clinton as their main attractions. Young American males used the opportunity to vent violence born of entitlement that mirrored the promise of Anglo-male hegemony established by the founding fathers and echoed by Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign. Faced with a recent history of civil rights for minorities and women, and the potential for a female president, the established order was threatened. The rules had changed, and overwhelmed individuals donned the visage of an entity beyond rules; whose existence is dedicated to mockery and subversion. The antics of the candidates, commentators, and constituents had made American democracy a joke, and these “creepy clowns” rose up to show that when it comes to running a nation where the stakes are high, politics is no laughing matter.

Keywords: Creepy Clown, Politics, U.S.A., 2016 election, Trump, Clinton, Fake News

Anzaldua, Saraliza_Clowning Around