Proto-Juggalos

Tracing the Sociological Lineage of Insane Clown Posse’s Fanbase

"Mass murder makes me happy/Dead bodies make me happy/Until eternity/We'll always have Juggalo family." -“Juggalo Family” (2001), Dark Lotus

Consider the preceding lyric. Savor it. Swish it in your mouth. It’s puerile, no? Vulgar, vicious, toxic, all that.

But embedded within the murderous glee of the lyric is something else – a sincere message of unity that’s almost desperately sentimental. Bathetic, even. Who knew that fantasies of ax murder and antisocial mayhem were such potent vessels of male kinship?

Insane Clown Posse, that’s who. By now, most critics agree that the rap duo’s music – and its ever-expanding horrorcore mythology of crime, punishment and supernatural devastation – is pretty much an artistic black hole. Nothing to see here. However, the same cannot be said for ICP’s singularly devoted fringe of Faygo-swilling, facepaint-wearing Juggalo minions. Now there’s a phenomenon that will keep ethnomusicologists busy for at least another decade.

Of course, the Juggalos are hardly the first disaffected population to adopt outrageous alter egos and devote themselves to a seemingly diseased and apocalyptic ideology. Like any social organism, the Juggalos have ancestry, genealogy and offspring. Herewith, the Juggalo family tree.

THE PICTS
What is it about face paint that makes otherwise docile, unremarkable kids lose their shit? People wondered the same thing about this confederation of Celtic tribes in ancient Scotland whose skull-smashing abandon on the battlefield was the stuff of legend. (The name Pict means “painted or tattooed people” in Latin.) Ask the Juggalos and they’ll tell you: The clown paint makes them feel powerful, reckless and unaccountable. On Wall Street, they call it a “bespoke suit.”

GUY FAWKES
Oh, yeah – Fawkes was a Juggalo. England’s favorite Catholic anti-government martyr was happily dreaming of “mass murder” when he staged the failed Gunpowder Plot of November 5, and his present-day devotees wear their hard-luck-anarchist badges proudly, in the form of Fawkes-like bearded masks.

BERSERKERS
When was the last time you did anything in a “nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury”? That was the way these medieval Norse warriors did their plundering, and it also describes the way most Juggalos like to enjoy their ICP shows – in a mass trace of vicarious aggression. Some modern researchers suggest that Berserker rage may have been induced by massive intake of hallucinogenic drugs and alcohol; others suggest mental illness or shared genetic flaws. Hey, you do the math.

THUGGEES
Like la cosa nostra and Juggalos, these 18th century Indian bandits were family-oriented folk who paradoxically loved the idea of terrorizing families. Hiding their identities to the very last minute, the Thuggees revealed their true colors at the moment of attack, delivering a sharp psychological blow meant to inflict despair and hopelessness on their victims. Anybody who’s had to listen to ICP’s The Great Milenko (1996) knows the feeling.

HELLS ANGELS
Like America’s most notorious motorcycle gang, the Juggalos love to flash the bird and regard defiance of authority as a birthright – at least until they go back to work sweeping the floors at Taco Bell the following morning. Unlike the Angels, Juggalos aren’t particularly serious about vetting new members. As long as you keep flashing that bird and pepper your repartee with “shit” and “fuck,” you’re golden.

THE MANSON FAMILY
Thus far, ICP masterminds Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler have managed their “family” much more responsibly than Charles Manson; the duo has officially disavowed violence and has no known plans to start a race war. Still, their tactics are similar: Target impressionable kids, promise friendship and family, ply them with mind-altering substances – in this case, ultra-sugary Faygo soda. Granted, Faygo isn’t exactly LSD when it comes to reprogramming your flock – but, hey, that’s why Manson’s the king.

THE JOKER
Heath Ledger’s “agent of chaos” essentially ran a Juggalo career center in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight, staffing his criminal organization with aimless outsiders who – as stereotypes, anyway – bear an uncanny resemblance to real-life ICP regulars.

THE TEA PARTY
They occupy a different collective tax bracket, but otherwise, the dissimilarities are purely cosmetic. Juggalos and Tea Partiers are predominantly male, predominantly white, favor goofy ritualistic costumes (Bozo facepaint for the former; tricorn hats for the latter) and are united in their chimerical hatred/fear of a corrupt establishment that must be dismantled by any means necessary. (Granted, that’s a slightly imaginative reading of the Juggalos, most of whom would be content merely to skull-fuck a few authority figures.) The interesting thing to consider here is that the Juggalos predate the Tea Partiers and represent, arguably, a healthier social coping mechanism. After all, dead bodies don’t really make Juggalos happy. But the Tea Party? Hey, how else are you going to nourish the tree of liberty from time to time?


Tue., June 8, 5:30 p.m.; Wed., June 9, 5:30 p.m., 2010

 
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