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The lack of scary female clowns in pop culture oppresses men, a Reddit Men’s Ranter contends

John Wayne Gacy as Pogo the Clown: Why do we think of scary clowns as male?

By David Futrelle

In my travels through the manosphere, I regularly discover new ways in which men are oppressed by the evil gynocracy. They are mostly extremely dumb, but the one I found today is somehow even dumber than that.

Poking around in the Men’s Rants subreddit — a smaller and somewhat angrier offshoot of the Men’s Rights subreddit — I ran across a dude who’s mad that there aren’t enough scary female clowns in pop culture to balance out all the male ones. This lack of “scary female clowns in media,” toddfan420 sniffs, is “a massive layer of anti-male culture affecting us subconciously” by, presumably, making us think that all men are scary clowns, or something.

“It’s so trendy to be ‘scared of clowns,'” he continues,

But if there are no female scary clowns in media, than we cant rule out that this may be creating anti-male fear.

If a woman dressed as a clown and sat at a playground, people would bring their kids up to her. But imagine a huge dude clown just sitting at a playground…

I don’t doubt you, but that might have less to do with the scariness of Pennywise the Clown than with the fact that 95 percent of child abductions by strangers are carried out by men?

Tell me a huge part of scary clowns is not their maleness.

Well, some of it clearly is — and as I mentioned before it’s likely this is the result of the fact that men are, statistically speaking, more dangerous, more violent, more scary than women, and far, far more likely to commit violent crimes. I mean, it’s a lot more complicated than that, and I’m sure someone could write a dissertation or two on toxic masculinity and the rise of the scary male clown, but I don’t think the discrimination going on here is against men.

Nah, it’s against women, who generally don’t get the plum roles as villians in horror movies or in any other genre. Most heroes in movies are male; most villains are male. Still, there are some tremendous female villains in film history, and at least one of them is a clown. I believe her name is Harley Quinn.

If you google ‘scary woman clown,’ It’s all just Harley Quinn stuff. Women get to be sexy, while men have to be objects of fear.

Women “get” to be sexy? Female characters are expected to be sexy, even when they’re also supposed to be scary. And it isn’t feminists insisting that Harley Quinn has to be a sex object. Indeed, when Margot Robbie demanded that producers of Harley Quin: Birds of Prey ratchet down her character’s sexiness and ratchet up her scariness, male nerds lost their shit and boycotted the film, cursing feminists for intruding on “their” pop culture bailiwick. Because that’s the kind of clowns they are.

So in conclusion,

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Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

we cant rule out that this may be creating anti-male fear.

I find the phrasing of this part to be unintentionally revealing. Like he knows how ridiculous it sounds to say it is anti-male bias, so he tones it down to say he “can’t rule it out.” And I can’t rule out that unicorns live in my basement. /s

Women get to be sexy, while men have to be objects of fear.

Yet if the women weren’t sexy, the MRAs would all be having tantrums. And if the men were sexy, they’d probably also have tantrums just because. I’d love to see more female characters that are less sexualized (villains and heroines), but that’s something MRAs would throw a fit over.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

Okay, but I think a majority of the scary ghosts in pop culture are women or girls.

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And scary demonically possessed people are typically women or girls

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Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
1 year ago

@ Naglfar;

can’t rule out that unicorns live in my basement.

Therefore, aliens built the pyramids….

When my niece was in high school, she did a report on fear of clowns… which, as I then discovered, has a NMH

fiercebadrabbit
fiercebadrabbit
1 year ago

Google is inside our brains and everything, so this experiment is inexact, but that’s kinda the point. I googled “scary woman clown” and, because it’s my default, ecosia’d it as well. I got a lot of cheap Halloween costumes, many of them lazily “sexy” because that is how Halloween costumes designed for women over the age of thirteen are, and a lot of elaborate costume makeup of the sort that takes a lot of skill. That ranged from the cartoony to the clever to the genuinely horrifying. Not a Harley Quinn to be seen, literally or even in Spirit Halloween “Misfit Sidekick” form. So we are forced to draw some conclusions about what this guy’s been googling.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@WWTH

Okay, but I think a majority of the scary ghosts in pop culture are women or girls.

Which also is evidence of misogyny, since it seems the reason for this is an idea that women are weaker or more easily corrupted.

@fiercebadrabbit

So we are forced to draw some conclusions about what this guy’s been googling.

He probably didn’t google anything, he just searched his rectum to find his ideas.

Kimstu
Kimstu
1 year ago

Also witches. Wizards (male) are AFAICT more often than not portrayed as wise and kindly leaders, whereas witches (female) are more often than not portrayed as malevolent and scary. Yes, the modern fantasy genre has shaken up those stereotypes considerably, but the traditional image of the wizard is far less negative than that of the witch.

Also, according to Google Ngrams the phrase “scared of clowns” doesn’t appear at all before about 1982. The idea that clowns are frightening is a relatively recent pop-culture take.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Kimstu
It seems the idea of scary clowns really took off with Stephen King’s novel It, which was published in 1986. In more recent years it has been boosted by film adaptations, similar stories, and a spike in 2016 related to a number of instances of children reporting clowns attempting to lure them into forests.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

I just think of the nurses from silent hill. They have a mess up face but they are sexualized so much that it’s hard to tell gje porn pictures of them from the actual characters so yes even scary monster women are expected to be something the male audience can jack off to

Diego Duarte
Diego Duarte
1 year ago

Just a reminder that Pennywise is actually female. Her real form is that of something close to a spider but she adopts Pennywise’s form because kids think clowns are scary.

Bina
1 year ago

Oh, ye uncultured MRAs. Have you not heard of Cha-u-kao? She’s a downright historic female clown. She’s not really scary, though, unless you’re afraid of ground-breaking lesbians painted by Toulouse-Lautrec.

epronovost
epronovost
1 year ago

In the gendered world of horror villains, men are hulking faceless killers, psychotic clowns, mad scientists, religious zealots/cultists, demons and zombies. Women, on their side, are obsessed stabby-style girlfriends, vengeful ghosts, witches, possessed victims, abusive mothers and femme fatale. Werewolves are usually men and, while vampires see a lot of women representation, female vampires most often serve as sexy-acessories for a male vampire villain.

All in all, male horror movie villains are a direct threat. They use violence and brute force more often than not. They are also perceived as relentless and almost impossible to kill. When they are not, they are usually piloting from afar direct threats to the heroes who must survive the minions and outwit the evil mastermind.

Female horro movie villains are most often manipulators who use guile, mystic abilities, seduction and deception to represent a threat. They are perceived as being difficult to actually identify as the real threat and viciously cunning. When they pause a more direct threat it’s often through the use of mystical powers or because they manoeuvred themselves in a position of strength.

Famously, women are more often heroins of horror movies than men. Many believe that this is due to the fact that the audience, to be scared, needs to feed of the fear displayed by the protagonist and that a masculine hero showing abject fear would be unrelatable and break the suspension of disbelief.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward
1 year ago

John Wayne Gacy (1942-1994) likely is the original Killer Clown who made clowns scary ever after. Stephen King has never explicitly said that Gacy was an inspiration for his novel It, but the timing would make it difficult for him to deny. Gacy was arrested for his crimes in 1978, and sentenced to death in 1980, the precise time period that King began writing It.

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

I tried many, many combinations of words on google, yahoo, and shutterstock to see if there’s anything which would give no non-male clowns except for Harley Quinn. And I eventually found one: “clown villain”. To be fair it took so long to come up with the duh-obvious one because I was mostly playing up the creepy/scary angle like other people here. It resulted in just male clowns, mostly comic/cartoon/movie characters, plus a few pics of Harley.

Anything else I tried, with or without terms implying woman/female/etc. didn’t work. Even “female clown villain” showed mostly pictures of Women dressed as Joker or Pennywise.

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

Women get to be sexy, while men have to be objects of fear.

I tried imagining an evil sexy male clown. I ended up imagining David Bowie in a skintight harlequin suit and facepaint. Were he still alive, I would absolutely not object to that… Great, I think I’m all hot and bothered now.

An Autistic Giraffe
An Autistic Giraffe
1 year ago

I googled scary woman clown and got plenty of not Harley quinn pictures:
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An Autistic Giraffe
An Autistic Giraffe
1 year ago

BTW what are everyone’s scariest female villains?

off the top of my head:

Jadis from the Narnia books. They’ve got issues with female characters but the White Which scared the hell out of me as a kid.

Azula from Avatar. Nice exception to the norm of female villains not being physical threats, she mopped the floor with the heroes in practically every episode she was in.

Amanda Waller from JLU. More of an anti-villain but still the last person on the show I’d ever fuck with.

Ayt Madashi from Jade City. Jade City is a newish book series that’s basically The Godfather if it happened in the world of Avatar/legend of Korra. Ayt is the leader of the enemy yakuza clan and dominates the city of Janloon. She doesn’t get a lot of screen time but she’s still one of my favorite literary villains.

Nequam
Nequam
1 year ago

@Snowberry:

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
1 year ago

He have a hint of something in that in popular cultures, females are much less often willingly evil, and much more often redeemable and/or redeemed. I can’t easily find a (fictional) female equivalent to Star war’s Palpatine, FF6’s Kafka, or Thanos in the avengers.

(I am aware of female versions, like Vayl in Warmachine/Hordes, but it’s much harder to find, and often more obscure)

Now, for that to count as oppression … Let’s just say that it’s a man-enforced trope. Who inherently serve to reinforce gender stereotypes who are overwhelmingly favorable to males.

Snowberry
Snowberry
1 year ago

@Nequam: Not exactly what I was picturing, but yeah, Bowie-clown’s still hot. I’ll be in my bunk.

Kevin
Kevin
1 year ago

@ Kimstu

‘Scared of clowns’ may have been around long before it hit the literature. As a pre – teen in the early 1970’s I remember clowns would scare the s**t out of me close up. Looking back, I think it may have been an ‘uncanny valley’ sort of thing.

Amadaun
Amadaun
1 year ago

Women get to be sexy, while men have to be objects of fear.

Okay, I’m a lurker posting for the first time, but in the world of LGBT panic defenses, that is a startlingly tone deaf thing for that guy to say.

…wait. No, that’s par for the course for MRAs.

Prith kDar
Prith kDar
1 year ago

I don’t know if it’s my incipient senility at work or that I just can’t keep up with the hip lingo all the kids are using these days, but I need a translator for some of these posts. :/

What is this “NMH” that clowns apparently have?

What does “I…ecosia’d it” entail?

What the heck is “gje porn”?

Even if these are typos, I can’t tell that they are, so I still need translations. 🙁

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@epronovost

Famously, women are more often heroins of horror movies than men.

I don’t watch a lot of horror films but IMO the most common role of women on those films is to be victims who die to advance the story. This is rather misogynistic for obvious reasons.

@Prith kDar
I don’t know what NMH means, but ecosia is a search engine and I think “gje” is a typo of “the.”

Prith kDar
Prith kDar
1 year ago

Ok, thanks. I think by the time I reached “gje” my brain had shut down from all the previous things I couldn’t interpret. 🙂

Battering Lamb
Battering Lamb
1 year ago

I do agree we have a lack of scary lady clowns in pop culture. It is a very male dominated space.

I imagine any initiative to diversify the scary clown niche will be met by hostility from male scary clowns who feel that men are just naturally better at it or something.

@Naglfar: Unless they are virgins, in which case they get the coveted ‘Final Girl’ title. There have been plenty of horror films that have challenged that kind of bs, but like with all genres, there’s a lot of formulaic garbage out there. Cabin in the Woods did a pretty decent job showing and mocking formulaic horror archetypes.

Nequam
Nequam
1 year ago

@Snowberry: Yeah, I think the costume is based more on some versions of Pierrot than on Harlequin (who usually has a little facemask and a costume covered with a diamond-shaped colorful pattern).

Still, it did pop to mind when you described your image…

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

O/T, but did that necro troll do any more last night? I went to bed around midnight my time zone (04:00 UTC) and I don’t know if he did more commenting last night.

Catalpa
Catalpa
1 year ago

In terms of female scary clowns, Nikola Orsinov, the primary villain of season 3 of The Magnus Archives is one, arguably. Technically, she’s a ringmaster now, but she started out as a clown. (And she’s fantastic.)

Seraph4377
Seraph4377
1 year ago

I know it’s a lost battle, but I think the rehabilitation of Harley Quinn is a waste of a really good villain. My favorite versions of her are both terrifying villains, each approaching her from a different angle. “Justice League Gods and Monsters” focuses on her physical prowess and horrific sense of humor to make her into a Slasher villain who’s a genuine challenge for a vampire version of Batman. Meanwhile, the “Birds of Prey” TV show that ran for about ten minutes back in 2002 focused on the brilliant psychologist Harleen Quinzel to turn her into a Hannibal Lecter without the cannibalism who took people’s minds apart in the name of Chaos.

Katamount
1 year ago

Speaking of Hannibal Lecter, I found myself finally sitting down to watch the 2001 Hannibal movie and hooooly crap was it one of the most soulless, telegraphed things I’ve ever seen. Even the infamous brain scene was more comical than terrifying. It’s rare that you see so much talent just going through the motions; even Hopkins seemed bored. No wonder I avoided it for years.

If anything, it just underscored the sheer brilliance of The Silence of the Lambs. As far as “Big Five” category Oscar winners go, that one has more than earned its accolades. Foster and Hopkins complement each other’s performances flawlessly, with a lot of subtle physical acting that really captivates and draws you in. But as I was re-watching it, I had to really appreciate Jonathan Demme’s direction. His use of the direct-facing camera in conversation scenes and the way he scans crowds of men with their eyes uncomfortably bearing down on Clarice as the audience (Barney’s introduction, the West Virginia sheriffs; even the brief scene where she’s in the airport upon her return from Tennessee, an extra walks in front of her and glares at her and she puts her bag in front of her like a shield), it puts the full weight of every scene on Clarice Starling and makes the audience feel that weight. I’m kinda surprised the technique isn’t used more often.

The film has quite the commentary on the male gaze (up to and including Buffalo Bill’s night vision goggles).

On the topic of female horror icons and villains… one thing that actually Anita Sarkeesian pointed out in video games is “grotesque female sexuality represented as half-woman, half-spider creatures”. I’ve played no less than three video games that use this trope (Doom 3, Diablo III and Ghostbusters). Not sure if it’s unoriginality or the extent to which “sexy” can be combined with “grotesque”, but by the time I came across it in Diablo III, I was like “Ugh, another one???”

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Katamount
The issue I have with Silence of the Lambs is the transphobia. Like far too many other films it shows trans* women as villains and that depiction gets ingrained in the public consciousness and feeds into conservative fearmongering about us.

Ohlmann
Ohlmann
1 year ago

@seraph4377 : on the other hand, I like any characterization that make her farther away from “the Joker, but as a woman”, which TBH is mostly what the darker characterization is most of the time.

Moggie
Moggie
1 year ago

@Katamount, the book too. It’s a long time since I read any Thomas Harris, so I can’t give much detail, but I was impressed by both Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, the first two books to feature Lecter, despite problematic aspects. But by the third book, Hannibal, Lecter had become a cartoon super-villain, no longer remotely believable, and Starling was simply a chess piece. I didn’t bother with the fourth book.

Moggie
Moggie
1 year ago

@Kevin:

‘Scared of clowns’ may have been around long before it hit the literature. As a pre – teen in the early 1970’s I remember clowns would scare the s**t out of me close up. Looking back, I think it may have been an ‘uncanny valley’ sort of thing.

I think clowns are often scary to little kids simply because of their unpredictability. As a kid, you know that adults can be dangerous to you… but, hopefully, mostly aren’t, and you learn to ‘read’ them. But clowns are all about overturning expectations. They don’t play by the rules, so how do you know they won’t hurt you?

LindsayIrene
LindsayIrene
1 year ago

As a child in the 70s, I was scared of clowns and puppets. And of other children but I maintain that that is a completely rational fear.

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

In “Killer Klowns From Outerspace” there are both male and female alien clowns (klowns?)

The females act extra sexy to lure incredibly stupid male victims in, and trap them in things like lethal ball pits, etc. Something makes me think there’d be a lot of MRAs being trapped.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Yutolia

Something makes me think there’d be a lot of MRAs being trapped.

All while blaming the women. I can’t say I’d feel too sorry for the MRAs.

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

@Naglfar:

Exactly!

Allandrel
Allandrel
1 year ago

@Katamount, Naglfar

Silence of the Lambs (both the book and the film) try to cover themselves by carefully explaining that Buffalo Bill is not trans, but simply trying to escape his hated identity. They even got his name because he was rejected for GCS for this reason.

BUT that does not in any way change the film’s transphobic message, because while they may tell you that Buffalo Bill is not trans, he is absolutely coded as trans. And that’s the impression that audiences walk away with.

(I would compare it to how the producers of The Big Bang Theory try to pretend they aren’t engaging in anti-autistic stereotyping because they never said that Sheldon Cooper was autistic, so everybody is “just reading things into it.”)

Katamount
1 year ago

@Allandrel, Naglfar

Agreed. The coding, particularly in the infamous “Goodbye Horses” scene, is especially damaging.

That said, there are subtleties that there’s more to Buffalo Bill than meets the eye. For instance, it was only on careful rewatching that I noticed he retrieves his gun at the end from a blanket with embroidered swastikas on it (and he has a WWII propaganda poster on his wall beside his giant American flag.) I don’t recall these being described in the book, so I think that might be Demme’s touch. He also has Polaroids of himself with exotic dancers tacked to a wall.

Frankly, I think these are too subtle and the audience is no more assuaged by the character’s dialogue. It’s a harmful trope that was already firmly established and the film does little to avert it.

Cats In Shiny Hats
Cats In Shiny Hats
1 year ago

I am terrified of clowns. I always have been – the first time I saw one, according to my mother, I freaked out so badly she was never able to get me back into the building where I saw her. Yes, her. She had, apparently, been my favourite pre-K teacher but seeing her in makeup just. Ruined me.

Ronald frigging McDonald makes my palms wet. I once dove out a window because the organizers of an event scheduled a clown and it was between me and the door.

I have never seen “It”. I did read the book, once, but only in my 20’s. It had no appreciable change in my feelings of utter dread. I get very annoyed by people assuming that “It” was what gave me my phobia.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Allandrel

they may tell you that Buffalo Bill is not trans, he is absolutely coded as trans.

That’s in some ways worse, because it suggests that trans* people are insidious and hiding. And it’s not a major thing so it seems like a minor attempt to break from an extant stereotype.

The parallel to Sheldon is something else I can relate to, I can’t count how many allistic folks didn’t understand why it was so bad and I had to spell it out to them. Same with a lot of cis folks and Silence of the Lambs.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
1 year ago

@Ohlmann:

He have a hint of something in that in popular cultures, females are much less often willingly evil, and much more often redeemable and/or redeemed. I can’t easily find a (fictional) female equivalent to Star war’s Palpatine, FF6’s Kafka, or Thanos in the avengers.

Borg Queen?

@Battering Lamb:

Unless they are virgins, in which case they get the coveted ‘Final Girl’ title.

Alien‘s Ellen Ripley is revealed to have borne a daughter. She manages to be Final Girl twice. And Sarah Connor gets it on with Kyle Reese the night before squishing The Terminator. So … not always, and not even “always, except for more obscure works”.

There have been plenty of horror films that have challenged that kind of bs, but like with all genres, there’s a lot of formulaic garbage out there. Cabin in the Woods did a pretty decent job showing and mocking formulaic horror archetypes.

Anyone else feel that that one could be read as a metaphor for capitalism? The world of the people running things behind the scenes (shown as a bunch of privileged white gits, mostly) depends for its sustenance on the periodic sacrifice of young people to keep the system from collapsing or spectacularly self-destructing (in the real world, replace assorted horror critters with student loan debt and out-of-reach homeownership).

It’s not as clear-cut as The Matrix, but still.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
1 year ago

Not sure what NMH is either, but given the context, probably is either an auto-correct for ‘name’ or something to do with Mental Health… because, yes, ‘fear of clowns’ actually has a name: Coulrophobia. (The Wikipedia page auto-redirects to ‘Evil Clown’.)

Fenton
Fenton
1 year ago

@Lainey

Spoiler
Spoiler
Spoiler
Silent Hill II

All of the monsters in Silent Hill II were pulled from the subconscious of a man who is mentally ruined with remorse after he fought with and (mercy?) killed his terminally ill wife by smothering her.

The nurses are then, not just randomly sexy for sexy sake but a symbol of deep seated relationship problems, sexual frustrations, hospital phobias and crushing guilt.

Now… when those nurses appeared in the later sequels with little to no context.

Yeah, that's just bullshit fanservice.

Jurgan
Jurgan
1 year ago

I remember the 2012 Twisted Metal where they made a female version of the Sweet Tooth driver, and it was the stupidest looking thing ever. Probably because they tried to have her be sexy and scary at the same time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmvI0RcyQsw

Komal
1 year ago

All monsters in Silent Hill II was drawn from the subconscious of the people with damaged mental anguish after the fight (mercy) off his wife sick with death by her.

Jurgan
Jurgan
1 year ago

@Fenton: And in Silent Hill 1, the nurses were not sexualized at all. In that game, they came from the mind of a traumatized girl who was in long-term hospital care. In 2, as you point out, the nurses represented James’s sexual frustration. After that, though, it is pure fanservice (just like Pyramid Head’s pointless cameos).

Moon Custafer
1 year ago

@ Seraph4377 –

She also reminded me a bit of Livia in I, Claudius—the Joker, in that version of Gotham, was definitely dead, and Dr. Qunizel, as his widow, definitely viewed herself as the dowager empress of crime.

Paireon
Paireon
1 year ago

Welp, Googled scary woman clown just for the hell of it too… And while there were a few sexy pics, I’d say about half actually are attempts at being scary/evil-looking/horrific, with various levels of success (I’m a horror fan, so that may affect my reactions). In fact, I saw all of the pics in An Autistic Giraffe’s posts. Ther was even the picture at th top of this article as a link to here LOL. Oh, and a single Harley Quinn pic, a cosplay of her original fool’s motley costume. The rest fell kinda in-between categories to my eyes (also quite a few cute goth clowns for some reason). In any case, it’s just more cherry-picking nonsense on MRAs’ part. Also IIRC clowns in fiction, good or bad, have pretty much always been overwhelmingly male, so it kinda follows that the worst ones are also overwhelmingly male.

RE: Silence of the Lambs: Love the first film (even if I puked as a kid seeing it for the first time); that said, I was already either overanalysing everything or it flew far over my head, so I didn’t spot any anti-trans message at the time; if anything, I kinda interpreted Buffalo Bill as a kind of bizarre misogynist who was simultaneously hateful and dehumanising towards women (referring to his latest victim as “it”) yet envious of them due to either their appearance or being able to do things he, as a man, couldn’t without being looked down on. Of course the average neurotypical viewer likely came away with a different impression.

RE: Silent Hill: I second what Fenton and Jurgan said. Also, fuck Konami (appropriate as they are Silent Hill’s publisher).

@Surplus: It all depends on the horror subgenre, really. Slasher movies absolutely thrived on the Madonna/Whore complex back in the day, which is why the first Scream was so well-received as it subverted/played with the clichés so well.

Finally: I know a non-Harley, non-sexualized Quinn scary female clown character, from a Japanese game (fair warning, lots of other characters are sexy girls, including emperor Nero; Japan, ladies and gentlemen and others!):

https://typemoon.fandom.com/wiki/Run_Ru