All Hallow’s Eve is not just an antiquated Christian ritual of remembering lost souls, turned vessel for the terrifying and twisted anymore. Although it’s rooted in the macabre, in recent years it has evolved into a hybrid of its spooky origin and a setting for grown people to dress up in scary, sexy and/or silly costumes, and generally just be someone else for a night, en masse. It’s like one giant worldwide costume party. Each year since the Internet, the zeitgeist helps dictate what popular culture icons ordinary citizens will be dressing up as and which form of scary food they will find on Pinterest to impress their friends. The parties keep getting progressively more elaborate.
While for families with young children Halloween is still rooted in trick-or-treating, visiting Grandma and watching “Halloweentown” marathons, the holiday has seemingly never been more popular with adults.
The Halloween commodification factor is at an apparent high. Around August, costume shops pop up all over town and the digital community, providing an option for almost every costume that could possibly cross one’s mind, and presumably making enough money to support their owner’s extravagant lifestyles for the rest of the year. And if the shops don’t have it, Pinterest will show you how to make a homemade version with only $75 of raw materials. It’s almost like around 1995, Halloween executives wizened up and realized they were only exploiting children, when they could be going for the entire population. Hopefully the person with that idea got a raise.
The creativity level has gone up several notches since the availability of the World Wide Web. Nostalgia is at an all time high, thanks to the availability of most childhood artifacts from the late twentieth century and a constant online conversation about costume ideas at our fingertips. Not everyone is on his or her Halloween game, though. While some industrious types will plan and make their own costumes from thrifted and/or household items, many just wait until the last minute and order their overpriced pirate costume from their local Costume Were-house (made-up, probably real).
The biggest critical conversation in recent years has focused on the “sexy anything” costume (sexy bunny, sexy cop, sexy lamppost). This year the hot topic is cultural appropriation. As our nation becomes justly more sensitive to the topics of white privilege and racial stereotypes, once-adored costumes such as “Adult Geisha” and “Adult Igloo Cutie Sexy Eskimo” are pissing people off left and right. The concern is about taking a culture’s identity and parading it around as if it were a costume. It’s upsetting when these styles of dress are integrated into regular fashion trends, but the fact that these are actual costumes with a cartoonish use of cultural indicators, usually makes it doubly offensive.
In Halloweens of the early 2010s, the annual cultural icon that most everyone decided to dress as has included Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. Because he has infiltrated everything this year, the costume to be seen in will undoubtedly be Donald Trump. Look for an excess of comb-overs and duck lips to be paraded around town, along with the word “China” being used a lot.
While some may roll their eyes at the notion of dressing up for Halloween, it does seem that more people are going all-out than ever before. Whether supremely artistic, intensely gruesome, or LOL-worthy, the world of Halloween costuming in 2015 is extremely broad. Letting loose, being creative and joining in the fun seems to be the way to go. If you can’t do that, you might as well be dead.