Friday, July 16, 2010


My kids have never been to the circus. I think as a child I may have only gone two or three times. Once was the Ringling Brothers huge indoor arena show, which wasn't exactly a true circus.

Since we've been in Colorado, it's been in town a couple of times, but we've never really entertained the idea of taking the kids. Back when we were in California, it came around more often, but we stayed away.

There are lots of reasons I don't like the circus, not the least of which is that I don't like how the animals are treated. I suppose that an argument could be made that the animals are used to performing and being poked and prodded, being confined in tiny little enclosures and all that. I'm sure they are used to it. But that isn't a justification in my opinion.

The circus has lots of animals performing silly tricks, dangerous stunts, things that make you say wow. I sensed, even as a kid, that the animals probably weren't very happy there.

There are always allegations against circuses for the mistreatment of animals, and every so often an animal rebels. Like the time that elephant killed her trainer then took off running through the streets of Honolulu. Apparently, she had enough. For a little while, society decides that maybe circuses aren't a good idea. But it seems like people always start to go back eventually.

We humans have terribly short memories.

So I don't much like the circus. As a result, I don't want my children to like it. I don't want them to see what is done to the animals and believe that it is acceptable and normal. I don't want them to think that people should be able to put their heads in lions mouths or that elephants like to dance.

I want them to appreciate the beauty of animals without seeing them turned into sideshows. I want them to learn to quietly watch deer and moose in the mountains. I want them to stare up at the sky in wonder as hawks and eagles fly overhead. I want them to learn about the power and grace of animals as they are in the world, not as humans would make them be.

As if the whole animal treatment issue wasn't enough to keep me away from the circus, there are so many other reasons. So many.

Like the smell.

And carnies.

And clowns.

Seriously, who likes clowns? I mean really, who? Maybe from a distance they can be amusing and silly to watch, but up close...they are just creepy. Even the ones that aren't intending to be creepy are creepy. I've never understood the appeal of them. I don't have an irrational fear of them or anything, I just don't see why they can't be funny without the strange makeup.

You don't need gobs of goo smothered all over your face to make balloon animals, do you? 15 people in a little car is funny just on the merits, so why the costumes? Walking a tightrope takes skill that people appreciate already, why make little kids have nightmares about your face?

There are a lot of people with an actual, diagnosed fear of clowns. Coulrophobia. Experts think that it might be something that starts in infancy or very early childhood. When children are that young, their growing brains are still trying to sort out expressions and human emotions. The exaggeration of a clown's makeup, and the fact that their expression often is the opposite of the emotion they are portraying just confuse babies and kids. The youngest kids know instinctively that there is something very wrong there. It can be downright terrifying.

Sometimes scary people pretend to be clowns, which just lends more credibility to the fear. The Joker portrays himself that way in the fictional Batman stories. Steven King once wrote about a monster named Pennywise. John Wayne Gacy pretended to be a clown in real life.

Clowns are scary. My kids don't like clowns, and I can't say I blame them.

Just another reason not to go to the circus.

Don't send in the clowns. We're good, thanks.


  1. Thank you thank you thank you.
    Let me add to your circus factoids the inflated prices of snow cones and flashy light thingies, as well as five people per square foot.
    Imagine being at the Siegfried and Roy show when Roy was nearly decapitated by his own Tiger of 7 years. Kids were there. Talk about phobias.

    ...don't get me started on Las Vegas Zoo.

  2. Thanks for the post. I have an old family friend who is Vegan and went and protested the Circus in L.A....And you are right clowns are creepy. A little out of context but we went to Chick-fil-A and the cow was there...of course Charlotte thinks he is cool...but Rebecca was disturbed, very disturbed. She had trouble eating (which is never a problem for her) People in costume freak kids out,plain and simple. Once had a guy dressed in a chicken suit at the super market scare the pants of Charlotte at about one. If my kid wasn't screaming so loudly, I might have found it funny to see a guy in a chicken suit running away at top speed.

    And one more thing, thanks for putting in some history and that.

  3. ask Paul about clowns. Just ask him.


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