Opinion

Turcotte: Hey, whatever happened to …

I’m glad that kids are no longer eating tide pods and the creepy clown crisis has come to an end. But how could these strange problems just disappear like they never happened?

Did we all forget that we had an actual, valid fear of real-life clowns haunting us at random?

The clown frenzy popped up like a jack in the box and quickly spread terror across the world in 2016. Sinister clowns were running amok, reportedly trying to lure children into forests and threatening school shootings, wreaking fear in public places. 

Over the course of a few months, pale-faced clowns wearing bright, patterned uniforms appeared in cities and towns across the globe. Day after day, we read stories about characters who were supposed to bring joy to children’s birthday parties instead wielding knives and lurking in dark alleys.

Massachusetts was no exception. 

A residential hall was evacuated and students were told to shelter in place at Merrimack College after someone reported an armed clown on campus. Later that night, police at Emmanuel College received reports of clown sightings on campus. Similar scenes developed at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and Lowell. 

Then, seemingly overnight, the clown problem disappeared. 

Where did these clowns go? Did they pack up their tiny cars and hit the road? Or are they the same people we see every day at the pharmacy or gas station? Shouldn’t we be concerned that they’re still among us?

Less frightening — but also an oddity — was the Pokemon Go craze. The augmented reality phone game uses mobile device GPS to locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures, which appear as if they are in the player’s real world location. It was downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide by the end of 2016 and 1 billion times as of February 2019. 

In their quest to locate Pokemon, players were drawn to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum, Arlington National Cemetery and other inappropriate places. Highway signs were erected to ask drivers not to Pokemon Go and drive, and police had to keep people off of railroad tracks.  

In 2018, a Tide pod challenge sparked by an internet meme led to kids intentionally consuming laundry detergent pods. Teenagers posted videos of themselves chewing and gagging on the pods and daring others to do the same. 

As children were rushed to the hospital for medical attention, Procter & Gamble aired several ads urging people to avoid eating the pods. The whole thing seemed to disappear with a 30-second ad featuring Rob Gronkowski doing his laundry. 

Can a goofy commercial really wash away the bad publicity?

“Heck yeah it can.”

 

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