A few days ago, I was driving home from work. A driver in an older Hyundai Accent, already annoying me for half a mile with jumping several lanes, zoomed on my bumper. I maneuvered so they could get in front of me, and I was witness to a special sight reserved for detox clinics and cut VH1 reality show footage.
The driver, a young man, looked to be in the throes of meth withdrawal: pumping the brakes as he came to a stop to make the car appear to shudder; pumping his fist to droning, primitive rock music like he was beating his demons; and pounding his car ceiling like he was literally trying to raise the roof off (most likely to toss at oncoming traffic).
I was worried for the safety of everyone in the vicinity, but then I saw something on the car’s back window… something that made me fear for anyone and everyone that would ever come into contact with that young man.
I saw… THE MARK:
I had seen this branding somewhere before. I couldn’t place what it represented, but it was associated with something and/or someone that was stupid. And then it all came together: the reckless behavior; the lack of regard for anyone else around; the lead-headed music that buzzed from the speakers.
I had seen this trifecta of terror before. And it scared me — scared me like I was Chris Brown at a woman’s self-defense class:
For those unfamiliar with Insane Clown Posse, they are a nu-metal, rap/rock music group that combines the violent imagery and lyrical fantasies of preteen boys, gangsta rap videos and torture porn fan-fiction writers. Clad in black-and-white makeup, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are the literal and figurative clowns that paint the clown profession in a bad light (John Wayne Gacy excluded). Here’s an example of the poignant insights of that which is the Insane Clown Posse:
And then there is the recent classic, a meditation on the wonders of life:
Somehow, ICP has amassed a long career, a merchandising juggernaut and a yearly festival. This is all thanks to a cult following of fans that identify themselves as Juggalos, whom Urban Dictionary define as “an uneducated, pathetic excuse for a human being who listens to the group ICP” and “should not be allowed to reproduce, because that is too cruel to future generations.”
Snarky words, Urban Dictionary.com, but based on my experience with the Juggalo driver, I might be inclined to agree.
I am fascinated by the Juggalo — much like a Gizmodo.com writer stalking a black person on Twitter: why they refer to female fans as Juggalettes; is it a certain subsection of the population that identifies themselves as a Jugga-what; why hatchet men (like the logo posted above) are the calling card of said Juggalo/Juggalette; why Faygo soda is the preferred beverage of the Juggalo/ette; and whatever the hell this is:
I’m tempted to go on and on about my sincere, ironic interest in the Juggalo, and I realize that not all ICP fans are crazed people that should have their reproductive organs ripped out. That said, I want to dissect the Juggalo — in an emotional sense: why do they act the way they do? What do they get out of the trappings of belonging to primitive society that mirrors the worst combination of Lord of the Flies and a haunted circus? Let’s explore.
1. Why Clowns?
Like a mask to hide the inner turmoil that comes with being human, the Juggalo paints their face and clothes themselves in antisocial attire to stave off a world that they feel has rejected them. In projecting a threatening image to the outside world, they are also mirroring the internal fears they have of that same world and their place in it. Whether it is due to early trauma, a lifetime filled with emotional/physical/sexual abuse, or simply poor taste, they see the monochromatic face paint and accompanying psychopathic persona as a way of reclaiming power and putting forth that image in the minds of others that they are not to be fucked with.
While the tough front is relatively easy to do, it is not enough to be one clown roaming the street. They need people that share their views and background. That leads to the idea of:
An overwhelming message in ICP’s songs, branding and fan groupthink is the idea of family. Try YouTube and see videos peppered with descriptions of bonding in group harmony (and the swarms that stand up against anyone hating on their fandom), research the groups of Juggalo fan websites — with many having metropolitan organizations for meet-ups, and try — just TRY — to make an insult to ICP fans without hearing the monotone, pants-crapping chant of “FAMILY!” being hurled at you by adults in face paint. It’s enough to give you nightmares. (If it didn’t before, it now might.)
The pinnacle of this sense of group unity is the annual fan get-together, otherwise known as the Gathering of the Juggalos. Like-minded folk get together to commune in nature, trade stories and hear some good dick jokes. Here’s a sample of what goes down at a Gathering:
I have a few theories on the Juggalo’s obsessive need for and binding together in family. Behind ICP’s bloodletting, blood-curdling lyrics and music is an underlying sense of harmony and unity (if you can believe it). And like Jersey Shore or the latest MTV Movie/Video Music Awards trainwreck, you get sucked in by the simpleness of the gross imagery and stay for the connection with others in the impending disaster.
Kind of like the show LOST, you tend to bond with people who have shared a similar trauma. Perhaps Juggalos/ettes have identical childhoods filled with anger, abuse, regret and self-loathing — well, enough of which to listen to ICP. And being able to withstand a 2-hour ICP concert with hundreds/thousands of painted-up sociopaths is like enduring traumatization, right? It’s enough to huddle together and shun the outside world — the people who just can’t understand why grown men and women dress up like homicidal maniacs and celebrate “the magic in the air.” Their loss.
3. Faygo spraying
I can understand the Juggalo’s penchant for Faygo: the preferred beverage of the ICP, it is their champagne of soda pop. However, I can’t get down with the phallic, sexual release of said fizzy liquid on crowds.
What do concert crowds get out of being doused by sugar water like a trollop in a rap video? Maybe it is a byproduct of low self-esteem to be degraded via being soaked. Perhaps it is a cry for the attention from an authority figure they never got. Maybe, just maybe, it is a badge of pride in the Juggalo community, something to lord over others like a sticky trophy. Whatever it is, the combination of Faygo and making it rain is interesting and not at all sane.
I think that the idea of family is the long-desired dream the Juggalo chases, that one hug they didn’t get. And long after that crazy driver nearly tore the roof off of the sucker car, I now realize that he was just reaching for that embrace from his mother and/or father that never came. And it made it easier to understand their plight. They may have shitty taste in music, and they might not be able to effectively socialize like most human beings, but at least you can see them coming. And you can decide whether to hug them or get out of the way.