Once upon a time, Halloween was a night for kids to dress up, indulge their impish alter-egos, and go door-to-door demanding candy from their neighbors. But then, older kids started trick or treating, which meant adults handing out candy were just as likely to encounter a surly teen as an adorable toddler when their doorbell rang. Slate magazine went so far as to argue that no one over the age of 13 should be allowed out on the streets to seek free candy.
Then, of course, tacky adults further ruined the holiday by doing things like dressing up in matching costumes with their kids and corrupting beloved national icon Ken Bone by creating “Sexy Ken Bone” costumes.
People even torment their pets by putting them in costume, which some experts decry as a terrifying form of torture for our furry little friends. (This year, there’s even a David S. Pumpkins Halloween costume for dogs, based on Tom Hanks’ wacky character from a recent episode of Saturday Night Live).
But by far the most challenging shoals to navigate in recent years have been the politically incorrect costume. Last year’s resignation of a Yale University professor who had circulated an email about Halloween costumes sparked a discussion of cultural appropriation and offensiveness that continues to this day.
The New York Times’ race-focused newsletter, Race/Related (sign-up is required to view its contents), warned against being like the “white dudes dressed as Trayvon Martin” or the “blonde woman wearing a sari or dressed as a geisha.” Oh yes, and don’t even think about trying to dress up as a character from a movie unless you are a perfect ethnic match for that character. Times contributor Annie Correal scolded a woman who wanted to dress as Dionne from the movie, Clueless, because the woman was white (and the character in the movie is black). “I thought it was kind of cool that she could identify with person of color,” Correal wrote, “but she didn’t know how to do it.”
So put away any costumes that suggest a hint of racial, religious, or ethnic background that doesn’t match your own. If you’re a college student, make sure you don’t accidentally offend anyone, anywhere, at any time.
And good luck finding an inoffensive costume. As one Twitter user suggested, just about everything can be deemed offensive these days:
— Mark Young (@MarkYoungTruth) October 28, 2016