Why are we all so scared of Ronald McDonald?


Image Credit: Everett Collection

Ronald McDonald is the most terrifying inhuman creature on the face of the earth. A tall clown with hellfire-red hair who enjoys hanging out with children when their parents aren’t looking, Ronald has terrorized young people across the world for nearly five decades. Apparently, there was a time when Ronald’s shenanigans were actually somewhat amusing. Perhaps that was before he started wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit, which makes him look like a psychotic hermit on his way to mopping up a bloody crime scene. God, just look at the above picture! It’s like you can read his thoughts, and his thoughts are “I’m going to enjoy eating your brains, sonny! Yuk Yuk Yuk!”

But thanks to the rising wave of fast food activism — and the simultaneous evolution of cross-cultural coulrophobia — Ronald’s reign of terror might be coming to an end. As reported by the Associated Press, a study by Ace Metrix (a group that studies TV advertising) found that a majority of people don’t respond so well to Ronald’s horrible existence, noting that the word “creepy” came up rather often. In an intriguing twist, a group called Corporate Accountability International thinks Ronald is a little too attractive — they don’t want such a nominally “lovable” character to hawk junk food to America’s children. Now, maybe it’s just me, but nothing could turn me off McDonald’s faster than having a madman covered in mascara shove Chicken McNuggets into my face while squealing, “Hey kids, heehee! Be sure to play sports, heehee!”

Thanks to the Ace Metrix study, I know I’m not the only one with Ronald McDonald nightmares. But I’m interested, PopWatchers: Why, exactly, are we all so scared of the red-haired fast food clown? Tell us in the poll below!

Follow Darren on Twitter @EWDarrenFranich

Comments (86 total) Add your comment
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  • Mr. Holloway

    I was going to say “because of watching Stephen King’s ‘It’ at a young age” before I saw it was the first option in the poll.

    Well done!

    • alan of montreal

      I think people were afraid of clowns before It

      • Mr. Holloway

        I’m sure you’re right…I’m just talking about myself. (Which is what the poll was asking.)

      • tracy bluth

        I wasn’t scared of clowns until I saw It when I was around 7 or 8 years old. I also developed a deadly fear of sewers for a while.

    • Anne

      SO right there with you! I still get completely freaked thinking about it — his teeth when he pulled the little boy into the sewer, when the kids are looking at the book that comes to life, and he can see them, and then he reaches out to grab them? Finding out at the end he was a spider was such a let down — big, awkward, not-very-mobile spider is supposed to be scarier than Tim Curry in clown make-up? It’s not.

    • tom

      it’s those food paste goo black snake looking tubes at the drive thru I saw in the backroom just once – that was a turn-off.

      • Minecraft

        Checking the AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

    • tom

      and they came down from the ceiling like a really bad horror movie.. forgot that important part

  • Irish

    Clowns are just evil, plain and simple.

  • Joe

    Because of his perfoemance in “Mac & Me,” a terrible “E.T.” rip-off that was a McDonald’s commercial disguised as a movie. I remember being really bothered as a 6-yr-old by the dismissive way he told the main [wheelchair-bound!] character, “Nice teddy bear, kid.”

  • Cady

    This article made me laugh so hard!

    • harry

      Me 2

  • Black Dynamite

    He looks like a freakin’ serial killer! But now I am curious about those gloves.

    • Jack 2211

      More disturbing is the easy-access zipper on his jumpsuit.

  • Jay

    I never really cared for Ronald to begin with, mainly because I just dont like clowns.
    If McD’s chooses to retire the clown, thats their choice. But the so-called “fast food activism” really irritates me. Let me make my own choice, thankyouverymuch. I know its not good for me, but if I want a Big Mac, that is up to me, not some panel making sweeping changes.
    Liberties are being stripped away one by one because of BS like this

    • Jennifer

      Sorry, I stand behind those fast food activists! Everytime Ronald McDonald comes on tv, my 5-year-old steals my car keys, drives himself to McDonald’s and uses his debit card to buy a Happy Meal! He now weighs 130 pounds and it’s all Ronald McDonald’s fault!

      • Jay

        I picked up on your sarcasm there, but somebody out there will actually think you are blaming Ronald McDonald for a 5 year old stealing your car and buying junk-food.

    • ST

      I must be somewhat of an exception to the rule b/c I’ve never been scared of Ronald (though I can see why others would be creeped out). I agree with Jay though, I’m tired of the fast food activism. Seriously, let us think for ourselves. I don’t eat at McDonald’s a lot (mainly b/c I don’t eat a ton of fast food) but I’ve always enjoyed it. We’re adults and we can make our own decisions on where we do or don’t eat and whether we’re going to give it to our children or not. I love that as women we’re allowed to make decisions regarding whether or not we want to keep an unborn child because it’s “our” body but apparently, not whether we eat fast food. I’m not equating eating fast food with that decision mind you but really, I don’t want any group deciding what I should or should not eat when it comes to these kinds of things.

      • deuxlumiere

        Exactly my feelings!

  • Ericalina

    Poltergeist, hands down.

    • lettergirl

      THIS!!!! that damn movie still scares the hell out me. ((shudder))

    • erin

      That was my first thought too.

    • MsSuniDaze

      Oh God yes!!!! That creepy clown terrified me as a kid. That, and building my house on a old Indian burial ground.

    • AA

      Agreed. And now I won’t be able to sleep again.

  • Bug

    Very specific reason to hate clowns: my nursery was clown-themed. The decorating didn’t get changed until I was like school-aged, so yes I remember the clowns. There was one lamp of a clown selling balloons that was particularly terrifying. Weird thing is, my mother doesn’t even like clowns. Apparently she just thought it would be easy and gender-neutral.

    • Jennifer

      Can’t sleep… Clown wil eat me.

      • ikagirl

        You beat me to it! LOL

  • bree

    Irish is correct. All clowns are evil. I thought everyone knew that.

  • Andre

    Journalism is dead. Sensationalism is all that’s left.

    • Elizabeth


  • AJ

    Ronald and the Burger King could make a very scary movie together. Seriously!

    • Dash

      The Burger King is way more terrifying that Ronald. I think the obvious reason they are so scary is because they cause obesity.

      • Michelle

        The BK commercials creep me the hell out!! I’m not afraid of nor creeped out my Ronald McDonald, though I could understand others being that way. But the Burger King. He’s just freakin CREEPY!!!! You turn around and BAM! He’s right there, smiling, not saying a word.

      • Michelle

        OOPS…I’m not afraid of nor creeped out *by* Ronald McDonald

      • Kevin

        Dash “they cause obesity” LOL were you dropped on your head as a child?
        I’m with Michelle Ronald rocks!

  • Francisco

    Seriously? C’mon people! Although the poll attached to this article made me laugh.

  • tiebaojin

    Clowns are just plain spooky and not at all funny. Hated them as a kid and seeing “It” didn’t help at all.

  • Marie

    Honestly I am not afraid of Ronald McDonald at all! When I was like 6 or 7 I met him at an event. I don’t know why I remember this but he gave me one of those plastic spider rings. I like those little rings so I was extremely happy!! Not one ounce scared of him.

  • Zoe

    I’ll see your “It” and raise you one “Killer Klowns from Outer Space.” The folks who made that movie definitely knew what they were doing!

    • GimplyGump

      Tomatoes ever since I watched “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”! j/k

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