So 'killer clowns' with menacing faces (and in some cases, weapons) are lurking in ambush and pouncing on passers-by, creating fear and loathing everywhere. Not in the way of Hallowe'en Zombies. More in the way of muggers and rapists.
At best, a disturbing unfunny nuisance. At worse, a frightening criminal menace.
I reckon there is a link here with the Joker in the various Batman films, a man with a warped mind and a warped face - the face of a clown gone wrong. But the Joker, despite his crazy mindset and mad facial makeup, is nevertheless Cool. He is out-of-control, and poking fun at authority and all moral standards. That will appeal to a great many people. And now the anarchic 'Joker thing' has taken over the more traditional clown, that cheerful carefree circus fun-maker and rib-tickler.
Perhaps it wasn't so hard to do. The clown has always been a strange fringe character with a very ambiguous personality. He hides behind a mask of makeup that no-one can penetrate, with a false nose, false hair, a ludicrous costume, and a fixed expression that might be benevolent but one can't quite be sure. It's impossible to guess who he really is, nor what his real intentions are.
Mainstream clowns have offered fun and laughter to their audiences, sometimes pathos, sometimes tears; but even the most lovable and gentle of clowns seems compromised by his off-putting appearance, which is grotesque and other-worldly, the whitened face hinting at deformity and death. No wonder some children are afraid of even happy clowns with soppy dreamy grins. I was. I shrank from them. I saw nothing funny in them at all. And I'm sure I wasn't unique.
The current spate of clown-attacks involves edgy, frowning, evil-looking creatures with crooked faces and false grins, who clearly intend to frighten and upset their victims, even if it isn't all a straightforward mugging in disguise. I'm sure somebody will die of fright soon. Those Hallowe'en Zombies are benign in comparison. And it seems that the hitherto positive image of the clown has taken a bad dent: professional party entertainers everywhere are experiencing a fall-off in bookings, their services not wanted.
And what next? Will Father Christmas be taken over too, and perverted into a nasty sadistic version of himself, an ogre, waylaying people at night, and making children afraid to go to sleep in case he comes down the chimney and eats them? I'd be very sorry to see jolly old Father Christmas become a figure of evil and terror.