Comedy is subjective. Hence why offensive Halloween costumes are still big money makers. As a result, one can still walk into their local Party City to still find Mexican bandit costumes on their shelves.
Whether someone is offended or not, these Halloween costumes are a major staple of the holiday. But what are some people doing about them? Well, let’s see the spookiness of cultural appropriation, dark humor and flat-out racism in the world of controversial Halloween costumes.
Organized Costume-Friendly Groups
Many groups have rallied together to take down the trend. Do-Something.org is a global movement-based website that has a yearly Hate-Free Halloween campaign. With more than 15,000 members participating this year, people share social media posts on offensive Halloween costumes and explain why they could be hurtful to certain groups of people.
As positive as this effort sounds, this kind of costume policing can be a bit intrusive, and creates a whole other debate on what constitutes as offensive or racially insensitive. And are Halloween-based stores willing to back down on selling certain costumes?
Halloween Stores and Ballsy Costume Ideas Versus Social Justice
A recent controversial costume removal were on Maui costumes based on the character from Moana. It had been pulled from shelves due to complaints of Polynesian ‘blackface’ and ‘cultural appropriation.’
— E! News (@enews) September 23, 2016
Disney’s response could have been a sign of good faith but would have likely not been possible without the social media surge behind it. Yet, costumes like the titular character of Moana are still seen in stores online, along with Pocahontas costumes.
Speaking of Native Americans, Spirit has seen a saga of removal and returns on their line of “indigenous” costumes. In a 2016 statement by a spokesman for the company to CBC News:
“Since 1983, at Spirit Halloween, we have offered a wide and balanced range of Halloween costumes that are inspired by, celebrate and appreciate numerous cultures, make-believe themes, and literary figures.”
Competition is another thing that will keep costumes like this in vogue, and I’m not talking about the stores. Every year, there’s at least one person that decides a social media post of themselves at a Halloween party as Hitler or Trayvon Martin is going to give a laugh to everyone on the internet.
Five-seconds of fame on Halloween is a must. But if you didn’t spend effort and money on a realistic Iron Man costume, then why not make the most offensive or tasteless costume imaginable, just so you can be on a site’s top ten list.
Not surprisingly, the result of these offensive costumes have kicked people out of their own college, or worse, fired them from their job. Sure, some of it is probably warranted, but the blurred line of what is and isn’t a joke has only become more difficult to comprehend.
Make Halloween Great Again?
Is wearing a costume based on someone of a different color (without blackface) considered offensive? While some would advocate this strategy, there does not seem to be line uncrossed in any costume, especially since a group of people are already telling someone what they can’t wear.
Again, placing inconsistent rules on free speech is not good for anyone. Nothing will stop hundreds of people from dressing in sexy Native American costumes or maybe the hippie stereotype costume. Or the tequila-drinking Mexican costumes.
However, education and awareness is not something that will be going away anytime soon either. Mutual respect is something everyone would want, but stores like Spirit are caught in Halloween traditions that had been set out for years. Plus the internet has only made the allure of offensive costumes even larger.
Offensive Halloween Costumes are Never a Good Choice
With costumes pulled from stores, it’s not going to stop people from making their own Halloween costumes of Bill Cosby or George Zimmerman. But of course, offensive costumes and social media are not a good combo, and maybe those who get fired or lose a scholarship were either using misguided humor, ignorance or a little of both.
Comedy is subjective, but maybe going a little deeper is necessary. Maybe it’s not that offensive Halloween costumes will never go away. It’s the fact that they are still here for a reason. Perhaps these costumes simply show the real identity of Halloween in American culture.
It’s the idea that racism, sexism and stereotypes have been ingrained as a societal norm that is slowly coming into the times, yet fully removing it from our society would only be doing an injustice on the very foundations of what makes our rights of free speech. Happy Halloween.
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