I’m beginning to hate Hallowe’en. Why? Let me count the ways. But first, a little background. I remember when Hallowe’en was the second biggest celebration of the year – right behind Christmas. (St. Paddy’s Day doesn’t count ‘cause — it’s “adults only,” and Thanksgiving and Easter are just too family/family/best behaviour type of occasions.) No, Christmas and Hallowe’en used to be kick-up-your-heels holidays when kids could be kids and adults could be kids, too. In short — they were fun. Unfortunately, these days, a sizeable section of our society has declared war on fun — and Hallowe’en is one of the casualties. The irony is so thick you have to cut it with an axe. Here are a few examples.
1 – For weeks before October 31st there’s nothing but wall-to-wall butchery on TV. Folks! Hallowe’en is not the German word for slaughter. The last night of October was never about mass murder, serial killers or even the occasional homicide. It’s All Hallows’ Eve, for God’s sake, and it started out as a religious holiday.
2 – Somehow, a 10-year-old girl dressed up as Pocahontas is offensive, but take that same kid, stick a rubber cleaver in her head (a la TheWalking Dead) cover her in red dye and plastic gore and nobody bats an eyeball – even though she’s missing one.
3 – In some places, teenagers are forbidden by law from Trick or Treating. Forbidden by law? What are you supposed to do — check ID? Meanwhile, I’ve had parents push their kids up to the door in strollers. The little buggers have no clue where they are or why, and chances are good they’re not even eating solid food yet. So, who’s getting that Mars Bar™, Dad?
4 – I don’t care what your political persuasion is, making a child wear a Trump mask is abuse.
5 – And putting a toddler in a Handmaid’s costume is just creepy.
6 – Giving out sensible treats. Seriously? Gluten-free, sugar free, sodium free, oak, flax and quinoa bars! People, lighten up! It’s not as if 10 grams of sugar, chocolate, wax and artificial flavouring is going to kill anybody.
7 – If you insist on having an “agenda” on Hallowe’en and being a politically-correct pain in the ass about it, why not just turn off your lights, turn on your television and spend the evening watching Jason, Krueger (or whatever they’re calling him this year) dismember a battalion of half-naked, nubile young ladies. That’s the Hallowe’en you’ve created – why not enjoy it? It would certainly give the rest of us a chance to go back to having a little fun on October 31st.
Nobody’s afraid of the dark; we’re afraid of what’s in the dark. It’s a primitive instinct that goes back to a time when getting eaten alive was part of the human experience. We are all naturally apprehensive about what we can’t see coming, because at one time, our survival as a species depended on it. These days, of course, most of us no longer even know what the dark looks like. (Our technology has put a stop to that.) But the instinct remains — a combination of tense anticipation followed by an unholy rush of adrenaline. And for some weird reason — even psychologists can’t figure out why — we have an uncontrollable need to feed it.
Think about it.
The vast majority of horror movies have little or no artistic value, but they are a gabillion dollar industry. Why? Because they scare the bejesus out of us. And it’s not as if we don’t know what’s coming: at some point, some big ugly something is going to jump out at us — guaranteed. After all, horror movies haven’t changed that much since Prana Film ripped off Bram Stoker to produce Nosferatu in 1922. The truth is we cozy up on the sofa with our popcorn, our Pepsi™ and Friday the 13t, Parts 1 through 37 because we’re actively searching for that shot of adrenaline.
This is the place Halloween comes from. It’s part of our intrinsic desire to feel fear. It reminds us that, despite our manicured lawns, painted fences and bold-as-day streetlights, there are still things lurking in the shadows. And it doesn’t matter that it’s only some kid in a Walmart Batman costume or his parents as Sexy Bo Peep and her single, sorry-lookin’ sheep. The point is, there might be something else out there. Something we don’t see. Something that doesn’t sleep. Something whose cold, bony subliminal fingers can reach out from the night and caress the beating flesh of our primeval heart. Something … that might still be hungry.
We live in a society that works overtime trying to eliminate risk — from antibacterial soaps, sprays and potions to airbags in our automobiles. Ironically, however, there is a place, deep in our psychological DNA, that defies the marvels of modern science and social engineering. It draws its power from the pictograph caves of a world lit only by fire, where long macabre shadows dance up the walls. Where the night outside is solid black and breathing. We know this place. It’s part of our cultural memory. We were born there. And Halloween is an annual opportunity to keep that world alive.
Okay, I’ve had enough! Hallowe’en is one of the coolest holidays on the calendar, but lately it’s been disintegrating into a dress-up party for icky people. Maybe it’s just the sugar shock, but I don’t care. Folks, there are rules to these things! For God’s sake, take a minute and think about what you’re doing before you go out and make a jackass of yourself this October 31st. So, once again, here are a few guidelines.
First and foremost:
Halloween is scary, not gory. If your costume features internal organs, four pints of fake blood or a severed limb, you’re not doing it right. Mutilation is not frightening; it’s gross. It amazes me that the very parents who call in the grief counsellors when their child discovers the goldfish is dead will stick a fake chainsaw through their abdomen, smear themselves with enough guts and blood to sicken Jack the Ripper and congratulate themselves on their imagination. People, your kids can see you!
Ladies, a one-piece, French-cut bathing suit is not a costume. Nor do furry ears and fishnet stockings turn you into a cat, dog, bunny, wolverine or dingo. And that goes double for those little red rayon devil horns.
Likewise Couples! Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re just a couple of wild and crazy kids, but the Nut ‘n’ Bolt or Plug ‘n’ Socket costumes are totally overdone. Everybody knows you two have sex — you’ve been living together for 8 years and you’ve got 2 kids. Give the nudge/nudge, wink/wink innuendo costumes a rest!
And Gentlemen, exaggerated genitals are just nasty.
In short, remember there’s a noticeable difference between sexy and smutty. If the button-down woman from Accounting comes to the party as Scheherazade – that might be stereotypical, but it’s sexy. If Roger from sales shows up as the Genie with a magic lamp glued to his crotch, that’s just smut.
And speaking of sexy, Little Bo Peep, Little Red Riding Hood and Little Miss Muffet are not sluts – they’re storybook characters. The operative word here is “little.” There’s nothing wrong with risque on Hallowe’en, but there are plenty of grown-up women to choose from, like Pocahontas, Maid Marian or that scary chick from The Avengers.
Now for some don’ts:
If Mother Nature and Happy Meals™ have made you the Fat Elvis, do not dress up as the skinny Elvis. That’s just sad. Go for the sequins — not the leather. Otherwise, you’ll look like a hyper-extended Italian handbag. Basically, (and this goes for all costumes) you need to use that full length mirror before you prance out of the house on Hallowe’en.
Priests, nuns and the Pope are not costumes – they’re part of a religion. Honestly, would you go to a Hallowe’en party dressed as a Lutheran or the Archbishop of Canterbury? If you’re going to make fun of somebody’s faith, pick on the Moslems: they bite back.
Don’t let your kid get carried away. For example, a ten-year-old in a Lady Gaga extravaganza is beyond inappropriate. Lay out some ground rules for Jane Jr. or you’re going to end up hating each other when she finally gets to therapy.
Never, never, never, under any circumstances, put a costume on your pet. That is just mean. Dogs, cats, ferrets, budgies and, smart as they are, even pot-bellied pigs don’t know it’s Hallowe’en, and they trust you. Don’t make them look stupid. (Where the hell is PETA when you need them?)
A word about vampires and zombies:
I don’t care what Anne Rice or what’s-her-name from Twilight says, vampires are not gentle souls. Nobody should cuddle up with a vampire and watch Dancing with the Stars. If you do, you deserve everything you get. Therefore, if you’re going to do vampires this Hallowe’en, put some heft into it: look the part, and a little Euro-trash accent wouldn’t hurt.
Zombie costumes are just sorry. Everybody and their friend has been doing zombies since HBO discovered them. If you have so little creativity in your life, grab a sheet and go as Casper. Believe me, it’s the lesser of two clichés.
Some At-Home etiquette:
If kids still come to your door on Halloween, it is never acceptable to give out lame treats. I don’t care how committed you are to a better society; one night a year, you can lighten up. For example, do not give out toothbrushes, dental floss or mouthwash. Organic Free Range oatcakes and that kind of crap are just barely acceptable – but only if you shut up about it.
Likewise, October 31st is the wrong time of the year to start lecturing people on the long and unfortunate history of witches, the evils of 2,000 years of Christianity or the minutiae of Wicca folklore. You’ve got 364 other nights of the year to be a pain in the ass; choose one!
One more thing:
Building is better than buying. Part of the buzz of Hallowe’en is putting together a costume. Any fool with a credit card can be Snow White or the Wicked Witch, but it takes real imagination to go as the Apple.
Halloween is not carte blanche to be a jerk. Scaring the bejesus out of your drunken friends is one thing, but pulling that crap on little kids isn’t very nice. Remember, you’re the adult here.
This is serious, folks. Hallowe’en is an important event. Please use some discretion. (Look what happened to St. Valentine’s Day!)