In­ap­pro­pri­ate Hal­loween cos­tumes

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION - TOM PUR­CELL Tom Pur­cell, au­thor of “Mis­ad­ven­tures of a 1970’s Child­hood” and “Wicked Is the Whiskey,” a Sean McClana­han mys­tery novel, both avail­able at Ama­, is a Pitts­burgh Tri­bune-Re­view hu­mor colum­nist and is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated ex­clu­sively by

“Now that ev­ery­thing has be­come politi­cized, it only makes sense that Hal­loween cos­tumes should be politi­cized, too.”

“Ah, yes, you speak of the spate of ar­ti­cles pop­ping up that lec­ture us on cos­tumes that may be in­ap­pro­pri­ate or hurt­ful. Busi­ness In­sider says, ‘Some com­mon Hal­loween cos­tumes sim­ply take it too far and can be­come racist, misog­y­nis­tic or down­right in­sen­si­tive.’”

“That’s right. I was go­ing to dress up as a wealthy Arab sheik, but ap­par­ently that is out be­cause, says Busi­ness In­sider, ‘It’s harm­ful to re­in­force neg­a­tive and mis­con­ceived no­tions about a re­gion, re­li­gion or group of peo­ple.’” “I see.”

“The wife loved the idea of dress­ing up like a re­al­ity-TV star.

The cos­tume she had in mind had a long black wig and a tight white dress that showed she was with child — a satir­i­cal out­fit that mocks Amer­ica’s fas­ci­na­tion with re­al­ity stars, in par­tic­u­lar the Kardashians, who are fa­mous just for be­ing fa­mous. But Busi­ness In­sider says that’s in­sen­si­tive, in part, be­cause it body-shames.”

“That’s an in­ter­est­ing point of view.” “Then the wife was go­ing to dress up as a sexy con­vict with a short, blackand-white-striped dress, and I was go­ing to wear a Han­ni­bal Lecter mask and strait­jacket, but Busi­ness In­sider says that would be a mis­take.”

“I can’t wait to learn why.”

“The web­site says, ‘In­car­cer­a­tion is not funny,’ and my wife’s cos­tume would triv­i­al­ize the U.S. prison sys­tem. Busi­ness In­sider says that a strait­jacket and scary mask would re­in­force ‘harm­ful mis­con­cep­tions about men­tal health in prison.’”

“I’m pretty sure this one wouldn’t fly: When I was a kid, we used to dress as De­pres­sion-era ho­bos.”

“No way would such a cos­tume be per­mit­ted. Many of to­day’s home­less suf­fer men­tal-health is­sues. Be­sides, Busi­ness In­sider says we ought not make fun of peo­ple liv­ing on the streets.”

“Fair enough. What about the trend in re­cent years in which women dress up in a va­ri­ety of risqué out­fits? Surely, that is a no-no?”

“Cos­mopoli­tan has three words for such out­fits: ‘Racist, sex­ist, gross.’ It’s of­fen­sive for women to dress as Geishas, gyp­sies and other out­fits that mock other cul­tures and re­in­force cul­tural stereo­types.”

“O.J. Simp­son is back in the news.” “Don’t even go there. As Peo­ple makes clear, Simp­son is ‘still most widely as­so­ci­ated with the bru­tal mur­ders of two in­no­cent peo­ple’ and it would be wrong to ‘make light of their deaths be­cause you think tiny gloves would get a laugh.’”

“How quickly times change. In 2009, Robert Thomp­son, di­rec­tor of the Bleier Cen­ter for Tele­vi­sion and Pop­u­lar Cul­ture at Syra­cuse Univer­sity, ex­plained to me why Hal­loween had be­come such a widely cel­e­brated sec­u­lar hol­i­day. He said it was the only day of the year when peo­ple can freely do or say or be any­thing they want. It is ‘the one day where al­most any­thing goes’ and ‘peo­ple can do some­thing out­ra­geous they’d never do nor­mally.’”

“That’s why the wife and I used to en­joy it so much.”

“Thomp­son also told me that peo­ple pick cos­tumes to mock or sat­i­rize pop­u­lar cul­ture.

In a coun­try that be­lieves in free­dom of ex­pres­sion, it is healthy to poke fun at our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, celebri­ties and cul­tural trends.”

“That’s what I used to think.” “It’s a fair point that we should be mind­ful of not of­fend­ing peo­ple from other cul­tures with the cos­tumes we choose. How­ever, it’s trou­bling that Hal­loween has so quickly gone from a day when al­most any­thing goes, to one when we must tread care­fully for fear that some­one, some­where, may be of­fended by our sat­i­riza­tion of politi­cians, celebri­ties and cul­tural trends.”

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