It is almost Hallowe’en again. That time of year where people dress in silly costumes but aren’t Royalty. Despite originally being a religious event tied to Paganism, and later usurped by Christianity – because if there is one thing Christianity does well it’s look at other cultures and go “Mine”- the celebration of Hallowe’en has taken on a very secular form. Of course you will still find religious themed events such as the Edinurgh Samhuinn festival, but mostly it’s a chance to go out and get drunk whilst dressed as a Sexy Pluto the dog.
But aside from the Vampires, the zombies, the people who just throw on a Onsie and say “done” there are many other costumes that cross the line from cheap and tacky to downright awful. I’m not one for being easily offended, in fact these costumes don’t offend me per se, but they are seriously questionable and in many cases making a joke out of very serious illnesses and conditions. I’m not saying they should be banned, as I am getting a bit more Libertarian in my old age (Don’t worry, it’s Left Wing Libertarian) but I do think we should be pointing out these things are a problem and hope people realise it is a ridiculous and in some cases damaging thing to do. You have to sit and wonder at times how some of these were signed off. So let’s begin.
This picture did the rounds a few years back. The women in it received a torrent of abuse that was unacceptable. But coming just a few years after the worst terrorist attack in US history it understandably upset a lot of people. I am sure they thought the idea was edgy and clever – in fact we only need to look at their ages when this happened in 2013. They were both 19, meaning they were seven when the towers were attacked. Now that is still old enough to understand, but they will remember it in much the same way I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall or the death of Diana- something huge that happened but not something that particularly impacted my life as I was too young to really understand the importance. They were also British which gives a bit more distance. None of this at all excuses them, they are now old enough to have known full well the details of the attacks and how it still over a decade on impacts global politics. People are still mourning the death of loved ones, people are still dying as a direct result of the attacks. The pair issued a statement in response to the criticism:
“We never meant to be offensive, but we apologise if any offence was caused…The idea was to depict a modern-day horror that happened in our lifetime and was not intended as a joke”
I am not entirely sure how depicting a real life horror is what Hallowe’en is about. We don’t dress as Holocaust victims, we don’t dress as “Decapitated victim of ISIS” and if people do they get called out on it.
Sexy Ebola Containment Suit
The previous entry at least, in a very round about way, has something to do with Hallowe’en. As atrocious as it is, at least they are attempting to go for horror. This one is horrific, but it is also a little bit odd. Of course there have been doctor costumes, and there is even a plague doctor costume- though admittedly that is at least potentially scary. Its not that this is a containment suit, that in itself would at least have got a pass even if it has nothing Hallowe’eny about it. But the specifics of the suit are what brought it to my attention. Ebola is a deadly disease and this suit came out as a result of a mass pandemic in parts of Africa and later spread over seas. Someone sat down and decided to try and market a costume based on a current catastrophe. At least the 9/11 costume isn’t for sale, this costume attempts to monetize disaster. I’m not offended by this, I doubt anyone actually is, but it is certainly a costume that seems cheap and could only have been worse if the costume included Ebola makeup. Of all the costumes on this list it is the least awful, but is included as it is a lazy attempt to make money off of suffering.
I cannot for a second imagine the thought process behind this. Was this designed at a meeting where no one was present and a squirrel accidentally okayed it? What were these people thinking? Was the intention behind it to offend? Was it a social experiment so we can weed out the shitty people? The website (still) selling it describes it thus
“You can never be too rich or too thin. Knit dress with glitter screenprint. Includes headband, choker neckband, removable “Anna Rexia” badge and ribbon tie belt”
1.6 million people in the UK deal with an eating disorder of some type. These aren’t all anorexia of course, but anorexia itself will affect around 2% of the population in any given year. And those who know someone with anorexia will be even higher. Anorexia is a serious and life threatening illness. The idea that someone decided it was a suitable sexy Hallowe’en costume and that “You can never be … too thin” speaks of a mentality that is callous. As with the Ebola suit it suggests a festishising of serious illness, that we have run out of the millions of other costume alternatives and need to focus on making ill people feel worse. And on the topic of illness for sport, we have this classic.
Mental Patient Costume
This costume created a humungous uproar when it was revealed Tesco were selling it. The company quickly responded and removed it from sale, but you can find alternatives everywhere. There have already been countless articles on this costume so I won’t labour the point. As someone who is a mental patient (seeing as I have a mental illness, mainly depression but with funky add ons like video game DLC) I can safely say I do not look like this. The costume contributes to the stigma of mental illness, much like with the anorexia costume above. We already have pretty bad attitudes to mental illness, telling depressives to just cheer up and assuming all schizophrenics are dangerous and violent. Costumes like this help to demonise those of us with mental health issues and continue the worrying trend of using life threatening illness as a cheap gimmick.
This Hallowe’en try not to dress like an uncaring ass. There are many costumes you can wear that aren’t going to be mocking serious illness, domestic abuse and terrorism. I am not calling for a legal ban, but I do think stores have to understand that what they are selling can be harmful.