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I Hate Clowns and So Should You

We shouldn't have clowns telling American Latinos that they need a separate but equal award

By Al Carlos Hernandez, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: November 7, 2009


I Hate Clowns and So Should You


I was watching the Latin Grammys and was surprised to see circus performers handing out the award statues. Some of them were clowns while others were the actual presenters.

I remembered a MacDonald's hamburger commercial back in the day about a Latino-looking Dad who was trying to make his little daughter laugh. It wasn't working. Suddenly the little girl starts smiling and laughing. Pop became visibly relieved that he'd cheered up his baby, but the little girl wasn't laughing at Dad. She was laughing at that pasty-faced, synthetically happy guy with red hair. Ronald Reagan, I mean, Ronald McDonald was standing behind Pops. Whoa. I never really gotten over the 80's.

In medieval days in theatre, a wild-haired character with huge feet, extreme features, not necessarily an award-winner, who wore exagerated facial makeup was considered a devil or a nemesis. This is not only true for Spanish TV but in real life as well. I don't know how a scary-looking character who is bizarre and grotesque can be considered funny to kids. Adults, on the other hand, vote for them, watch their novelas, buy their CD's and represent them in civil cases. We also divorce them or have them on our payroll.

Somewhere along the road, kids, who are usually better judges of character than adults, have come to accept clowns as non-threateningly humorous and/or comical. Surprising since a clown's looks are actually quite frightening when you really think about it.

If you've ever dated a chola, give me a high five.

Just imagine walking through a dark mall parking lot at night when a clown comes up to you, honking a horn and trying to squirt you with seltzer water. If you had any urban training at all you would drop him like a set of keys. Or if you were in the ACLU you would scream like a girl, file suit, and demand your own award show.

My first experience with clowns was when my dad bought us a Jack-in-the-box that had clown's pictured in full color on all four sides. We were actually too scared to touch it because the men pictured looked like drunken hobos or the rhythm section of my dad's Jibaro garage band.

It gets worse.

There was a little hand-crank on the box, and, as my older brother turned it, the song Pop goes the Weasle (another socio-political reference) played. The song lured us into a false sense of security. After the third bridge of the song, in the last verse, the clown puppet jumps out of the box, scarring us for life. This same brother, unbeknownst to the rest of us, immediately rigged the box in such as way as to get the geek to jump out during the first crank of the handle. My brother went on to become a successful attorney. I went into the entertainment business.

Go figure.

That puppet clown had a fat face, dark brown moppy hair, big sagging lips, a portly belly, and a sad look in his eyes. In other words he looks like Juan Gabriel during his big finale.

Just checking to see if you are still reading along.

What we didn't know was that the Jack-in-the-Box gift was in preparation for Dad taking us to the circus. I guess Pop wanted to acclimate us to American humor as he saw it. My mom took immediate offense. "Why do all of the clowns have to come in one car?!"

She came from a family of nine kids.

We were way up in the cheap seats when the clowns did their act. They were quite funny, hitting each other, juggling rubber chickens, falling down, making rude noises, making grandiose political speeches about how we were going to change the world and take the university back to the community brick by brick if we have to . . . wait . . . no. That's wrong. I confused that memory with that MECHA college graduation party. My bad.

I am not coulrophobic, which is the clinical name for someone who fears clowns. They don't scare me as much as I don't get what is so "funny" about them. I see them as down and outers, poor feeble sad folk who need compassion, career counseling, wardrobe supervision, and corrective feet surgery.

What is most objectionable to me is the theme of the hamburger commercial (read: counterfeit award show) that paints the dad (American-raised Latino) as inept in making his daughter smile. He is unable to stop her tears. But as soon as she sees the most aggregated face of American capitalism masked as Hispanic foreign interests at its worst, she smiles and starts to laugh. This totally trivializes Dad's earnest effort to make his baby smile.

My point is we shouldn't have clowns telling American Latinos that they need a separate but equal award. This begs the question: where were the homegrown artists? I guess, given the award show genre, the adage -- same circus, different clowns -- is now bilingually applicable.

About Al Carlos Hernandez, Contributing Editor:
Edited by Susan Aceves
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