Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Doink the Clown a.k.a. What Nightmares Are Made Of

Doink the Clown was one of the most horrifying figures in American professional wrestling. He was a heel that lived up to the expectations--pure, unmistakable evil, using every dirty trick in the book to ensure a win. What makes him so terrifying is that he dresses up as something that should be childlike and innocent and fun, but is instead the core of every person's nightmares. What makes this even more horrifying is that he's (unofficially) based off of a real-life serial killer. John Wayne Gacy. The man who murdered 33 young men and also just happened to entertain young children by dressing up as a clown.

Hey kids, I'm here to pile drive my way
into your nightmares.
What makes him even more horrifying (and yes, it is possible) is what his character represents: the futile attempt to conquer evil because the bad guy will get what he wants by cheating and you will suffer despite your honesty and hard work. According to John Campbell, "Doink shows [wrestling fans] what they already know. That life is unfair and that the evil and ugly do prosper" (Why the Bad Guy Wins, p. 131). What adds to this view is his match against The Big Boss Man. A representative of law, order, and fairness, he struggles to defeat evil with good and ends up getting blinded in the process. Doink crawls to the corner of the ring, retrieves a squirt gun from his bag, and squirts a green substance into the eyes of the Boss Man. He proceeds to destroy, degrade, and humiliate our hero while the referee stands by, unable to help. He cannot provide the justice that he is supposed to. Which brings us back to the idea we were discussing in class last week. Perhaps the referees are symbols of an inadequate government and justice system. And maybe that's why wrestling fans shout in desperation at the refs during a match that's going downhill quick--because we want so badly for the authorities to give us the justice we so greatly deserve. But they don't, and we keep on watching in the hopes that maybe one day things will change.


Timothy S. Rich said...

Katie, what I especially like about Doink is that it tapped into something pop culture at the time seldom addressed (other that Stephen King's It): clowns are creepy! Thus the gimmick, especially at first, played on this line of comical and yet dangerous.

Sam Ford said...

Absolutely. We could talk about the dividing line between Doink as a heel character, and how he functioned, versus all the potential that was lost when the character was turned face (and when Matt Bourne was no longer the primary performer of the Doink character). But, your larger point about the referee--referenced in Campbell--is something we'll see much more from in Freedman's essay that you're reading for your next round of posts. Look forward to your thoughts on that!

Marshall Metcalf said...

Doink the Clown is a super interesting character within wrestling. Clowns are supposed to be pure and entertaining for kids, like you said, but in adult entertainment clowns are always made out to be bad characters. If a clown is the star of a movie that's above a PG rating, you can almost guarantee that the character that the clown plays is going to be an evil one. It's no different in Professional Wrestling, it seems. I also think it's interesting that a lot of people are scared of clowns. I have several friends that are scared of clowns and they all say it's from movies showing that clowns aren't so innocent.