I’m the first to confess that I’m a bit of a Bah-Humbug about Halloween. Even as a kid, I dreaded it: eating witches’ toes (Wotsits) or eyeballs (chocolate wrapped in foil), knocking on strangers’ front doors and asking for sweets, face paint and fancy dress… And oh my god, the smell of fake blood makes me feel like I might be sick.
And yet I feel like it’s better to join in for one night a year than sit in whilst everyone else is at a party, so I grab a bottle of wine, throw on something that passes for a costume, and defend myself against the ‘poor effort’ comments. I don’t even pretend to try; one year, I wore a t-shirt that said ‘AHH’ on it.
I know I’m in the minority, though. People seem to adore Halloween (god knows why). They spend weeks working out what they’re going to wear, which has gone beyond the traditional choices of witch/vampire/zombie. It’s now a competition of who can be the most topical and shocking – who can get the biggest reaction, whether that’s laughter or shock.
As a result, I’ve seen some pretty clever fancy dress on Twitter, from political satire about Brexit to puns, like wearing a huge Cornflakes box and carrying a fake knife (cereal killer). I will always appreciate a good pun.
The issue is the need to get a bigger and better reaction. To turn up in something worthy of Instagram. Fake fangs and witches hats just won’t do anymore. Shock-factor comes first.
Which means thoughts, sensitivity, and general social awareness come second. Every year, another outrageous costume appears on websites worldwide that is then removed. An apology is released and that’s that, all is well again for another 364 days. Here are my top three favourites for 2017:
Online retailer yandy.com are selling a costume of one of the characters from Stranger Things, Eleven.For those of you who don’t know, the character is 12/13 years old. I have a myriad of weird ‘sexy’ or ‘slutty’ costumes before: Sexy Snow White, Sexy Policewoman, Sexy Bumblebee. Some people have an issue with making costumes ‘sexy’ but my view is each to their own. The problem with this one though is why on earth would anyone want to dress up as a sexy child?
Oh look, an Anne Frank costume for children. Apparently, it is now appropriate to dress kids up as someone who was murdered by Nazis.
And there never seems to be a shortage of websites selling ‘psycho’ or ‘mental patient’ outfits. This year was no different.
You’d think after having to remove it and apologise every Halloween, companies would realise that no, it is not okay to stigmatise mental health and mock people with serious illnesses.
Let’s not forget the vast amount of racist, sexist and homophobic costumes that will inevitably go viral on social media on 1 November. Everything from cultural appropriation to straight-up blackface… my opinion obviously has less standing as it isn’t my culture that is being mocked. I recommend listening to those whose lives are being treated with such disdain.
Why do people insist on pushing the boundaries of offence? To shock? To get retweets? The fact that they are willing to go to such lengths and potentially hurt others for one night of the year? It’s baffling.
Give this article a read, it provides a fairly decent guide on how not to be a dickhead this October.
The bottom line is that if you have to ask ‘will someone find this offensive?’, then I think you already have your answer.