Offensive Halloween costumes: not big, not clever

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Imagine the most shocking thing you could dress up as, and then do it. That seems to be the mantra of some when Halloween rolls around each year. Halloween, originally themed around the ‘spooks and ghouls’ school of costumes,  is always shifting. Now the ‘monsters’ theme has been largely exhausted, people have turned to film characters and then to real-life celebrities.

The point of Halloween, I feel, is to be scary. This can mean scary monsters or everyday scary; my friend went as Nigel Farage and her friend as a ‘Daily Mail’ headline. Certain costumes now though, have taken a different turn towards the taboo and the controversial. The internet is continually populated with pictures of people dressed as ‘Sexy Ebola nurse’ , ‘Chris Brown with Rihanna’ and ‘Paedophile Priests’. There is a culture of one-upmanship and copycats within this minority that inspires more and more each year.

Dressing up as something controversial is sure to get you attention and for some, this is the desired effect. But it is also a cheap and lazy attempt at getting a laugh, even when it is defended with the claim that it is ‘ironic’. To take something like sexual abuse, a person’s race or a recent tragic crime and turn it into a costume is to claim possession of it as an amusing trophy. It is easy to see why people’s nights are ruined all across the country by these swaggering try-hards. This goes also for celebrities, a recent example of  which is Lilly Allen’s ‘Dr Luke: Gynecologist’ costume which came after claims by artist Ke$ha that the producer had sexually abused her.

 

Lily Allen recently attended a party as Dr Luke, amid allegations by artist Kesha that he sexually abused her
Lily Allen recently attended a party as Dr Luke, amid allegations by artist Kesha that he sexually abused her

Not all costumes that are offensive are worn by people who intentionally set out to offend. But whilst there have been awareness campaigns recently about racist costumes, many still believe that it’s okay to ‘Black up’ or ‘Native American up’. Not only does using someone’s race as a costume cheapen their culture, it is also a possessive act with racist implications. It is a shame that more is not done to discourage people about this kind of behaviour.

Dressing up as something controversial is sure to get you attention and for some, this is the desired effect. But it is also a cheap and lazy attempt at getting a laugh, even when it is defended with the claim that it is ‘ironic’.

There is however a real problem for someone who sees you dressed up as a pantomime version of their identity.The  ‘psycho patients’ straitjacket costumes for example, has damaged the public perception of those with mental health issues and will continue to do so as long as people keep wearing them.  There is no excuse for it really: people ought to know better.

Samuel Lewis

 

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