Pushcart 2013: Kent Russell, “American Juggalo” (Non-fiction) from n+1 #12, Fall 2011

When the hip -hop label Psychopathic Records released its seventeen-minute trailer for the 11th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos, a four-day music festival, five people I knew sent me links to it….
I had no idea who or what any of this was.
The trailer featured bedraggled and unkempt white folks. “Freshass” was used as a compound modifier denoting quality. Willis from Diff’rent Strokes would be there, and Vanilla Ice was going to sign autographs. There would be wrestling all night, four nights in a row. I understood that some could find joy in making fun of these people and their “infamous one-of-a-kind” admixture of third-rate fun fair and perdition. But I was also impressed by the stated point of the thing: “The real flavor, what separates the Gathering from every other festival on the planet, is the magic in the air. The feeling of 10,000 best friends around you. The camaraderie. The family. And the love felt everywhere
throughout the grounds. You’ll meet people, make future best friends, you’ll probably get laid. And you’ll realize that the family coming together is what all of this is really about.”

Warning: click on links below at your own risk. Several are NSFW.

Russell’s a great guide to The Gathering of Juggalos, of which I’d also been blissfully unaware; since this was all news to him, too, there’s none of that “if you never heard of this you’re lesser than I am” snootiness lovers of niche cultures sometimes adopt. He explains everything (I still don’t get it, but I don’t get Jello wrestling either; some things just don’t make sense to me) and he outlines positives and negatives of the event. I think I’d heard of Insane Clown Posse (NSFW) before via, believe it or not, Jeopardy (probably the College Championship), and sure, I’d heard the phrase “Don’t f*** with the Juggla” (NSFW) somewhere and figured it was from something, but I didn’t know there were Juggalos or a whole Gathering.

Juggalos say anyone’s free to become a juggalo, but I don’t know about that. I think it’s more like they weren’t born into the respectable middle class and didn’t see a path that led there, so they said fuck it. They tattooed the Hatchetman on their necks and allied themselves with a fate they couldn’t escape. They would be stigmatized for this white poverty, this woeful inability to move and change, to be free radicals, so why not embrace it, make it known permanently and up front? You can be a juggalo, or you can be white trash—the first term is yours, the second is somebody else’s.

I confess, I checked out after six pages. In an informational essay, the content has to hold some interest for me, and this didn’t. I’m sure I’m supposed to be horrified or shocked, but I’m just not interested in outrageous behavior that exists for the sole purpose of being more outrageous than anyone else. That’s what reality tv is for.

I’m fine with however people want to spend their time. Listen to whatever music you want. If you’re a juggalo and you can’t wait for the next Gathering, hey, have a great time. I can see why this essay was awarded a Pushcart; it’s well-written, it’s very informative, and it goes beyond the surface to look at different aspects of the culture. I’m glad I read the parts I did; I’ve learned something new, and I’m always happy to expand my horizons. I’m just not interested in reading the last 7 pages of details.

The essay’s available online, (this link is safe to click) so if you’re interested in Insane Clown Posse, knock yourselves out.

2 responses to “Pushcart 2013: Kent Russell, “American Juggalo” (Non-fiction) from n+1 #12, Fall 2011

  1. Pingback: Pushcart 2013: Ain’t More Thing to Climb* | A Just Recompense

  2. Pingback: Pushcart XL: Jordan Kisner, “Jesus Raves” (non-fiction) from N+1, #18 | A Just Recompense

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