by G. Gavin Collins
As with every seemingly innocuous thing in this age of perpetual outrage, university student Halloween costumes have now come under scrutiny for their latent offensiveness. A holiday normally thought of with fondness for the joy it brings children at the height of their imaginative faculties, has now been tainted by the politics of immature adults.
The real genesis of this controversy traces its way back to September 2015 on the campus of Yale University in the United States when Ms. Erika Christakis, a lecturer employed by the university, had the temerity to respectfully voice her disagreement with an email sent by Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee advising students against wearing costumes which could be construed as culturally insensitive.
What followed is now a viral YouTube hit. A large group – nay, mob – of students surrounds a bewildered Mr. Christakis (also employed by the university) to excoriate him for his wife’s intellectual heresy. At the climax of this one-sided shouting match, one particularly boisterous student flings her bag to the ground and takes several menacing steps towards Mr. Christakis before being restrained by fellow students.
The university administration – obeying the sound adage that the customer is always right – promptly apologised to the protesting students, ‘We failed you’, Yale’s president quavered in a statement. After months of harassment by these ‘oppressed’ students, the Christakis both resigned their positions.
While the action of Yale’s administration may have been prudent to safeguard its endowment, the actions of a few weak administrators have likely succeeded in making Halloween costumes October’s controversy du jour for the foreseeable future. This means more handwringing over cultural appropriation and a Facebook newsfeed clogged with desperate click-bait headlines. One such headline from Buzzfeed alerts readers that ‘People are calling out a Halloween store for selling stereotypical costumes depicting indigenous people’. The initial use of the word ‘people’, of course, is a savvy rhetorical device which seeks to persuade the reader that there are in fact many people concerned about this issue, and not just the 49 poor souls who bothered to leave comments.
But as irritating as this faux outrage is, it is difficult to defend dressing up for Halloween as an adult. If any appropriation is taking place here, it is that of adults acting like children. To get a better sense of the incompatibility of adults and Halloween, think for a moment what images the words ‘adult Halloween costume’ conjure to mind.
For instance, to get the best response on social media today, one must endeavour to really push the envelope when selecting an ‘adult’ costume. Frankenstein simply does not receive the same amount of attention as say a ‘hostage Kim Kardashian’ costume, which was briefly on sale this year, inspired by Ms. Kardashian’s recent altercation with robbers who stormed her hotel in Paris.
Freedom of expression aside, there is something just a little infra dig about dressing up as a gagged and bound Kim Kardashian or a sexy Native American. If you are over the age of twelve and feel you really must celebrate Halloween, give it another thought.