The contemporary ambiguity of clowns corresponds very well to the funhouse at the carnival located in Black Pearl Beach in Second Life, which combines both ludicrous and disturbing elements, in a way that creates, at least in its case, an amusing attraction to visitors. That’s the Crazy Clowns Funhouse by PantzerHamzter Petshop and Tanya Wakaonna: a bizarre and entertaining place, designed and planned to give us some delightful time, reminding us that SL has a lot to do with enjoying ourselves.
The funhouse is, in many aspects, like a survival game. No, you won’t die there (will you in a survival game?), nor you will be eliminated somehow. It’s not a competition against other avatars and you can take it at your own pace (though you can transform it into a race against time or against a friend if you think you may find it more thrilling like that). But, once you get in the circuit, you have to go through some challenges in order to find your way out. Certain parts may be quite difficult, actually – but it’s part of the adventure. In most sections, evil clowns and other creatures will be waiting to terrorize you and give you lots of fun.
It’s not clear how clowns became these double-faced creatures, alternating between funny and terrifying. Some say it happened mainly after horror novels by Stephen King in the 1980s – or that it derived from the imagination built around the real story involving the American serial murderer and rapist known as Killer Clown in the 1970s. However, there are earlier examples of evil or ambiguous clowns in modern and traditional cultures. For instance, Batman’s archenemy known as the Joker, with his sadistic sense of humor, appeared in 1940; and other clown-like figures, identified as tricky and mischievous, have been seen in the European theatre since, at least, the 16th century. The ambivalence of clowns could be even in the basis of what became informally known as coulrophobia, the fear of those characters.
The fact is that, having developed into characters associated with comedy and fun and also, mainly from the 19th century on, with children’s entertainment, clowns have become interesting characters to be subverted. Sometimes, drawing from the traditional Pierrot, they appear as sad persons who make others laugh but who feel, themselves, melancholic or heartbroken. In other occasions, subversion comes from the contradiction between their apparent innocence in dealing with boys and girls and a supposed treacherousness and villainy hidden under their make-up. This contradiction sometimes presents itself so powerful to people’s fantasies and fears that it may result in real or imagined events such as the 2016 evil clown sightings that spread worldwide and resulted in detentions in some countries.
Far from those more extreme consequences, the crazy clowns in the funhouse in Black Pearl Beach contribute to the sensation that one is trapped in the attraction. They add some tension and surprise to the circuit, lending their own ambiguity to it. Nonetheless, the evil clowns found there do not spread real terror. They actually mock of the caricatural fear that they should evoke and laugh at it. Thus, in that atmosphere of burlesque horror, the Crazy Clowns Funhouse is itself reconverted in what it intended to be from the very beginning: a place for having fun.