It’s October, and you know what that means: It’s time for the annual parade of offensive Halloween costumes, the ones that capitalize on a big moment from the year, exploiting someone who's already a victim or maybe an entire race—and a subsequent, somehow sadder procession of empty non-apologies. In recent years, it seems like both regular folks and actual professional costume companies have gone above and beyond to produce some truly heinous ensembles.
Just last month, Disney caught a lot of heat over a costume they were selling based on a character from the upcoming animated movie Moana. The costume for demigod Maui was essentially a brownface Polynesian skinsuit, featuring traditional tribal tattoos, and troublingly, brown skin. Disney has since pulled the costume.
But then there are costumes that are deliberately provocative, that are usually intended to be topical but end up being stale and tasteless, as most things that are “ripped-from-the-headlines” tend to be. The “Call Me Caitlyn” costume (for men), the plethora of DIY Ray Rice costumes, and this costume poking fun of the murder of Trayvon Martin are all horrific, unfortunately real examples of the crassness and inhumanity that people seem to think Halloween gives them permission to indulge in.
For the next three weeks, we’re going to be subjected to all sorts of ill-advised, ignorant, bigoted horror shows of costumes. So, at the risk of inspiring uncreative assholes, I would like to take a moment to call out some of the more predictable stupid ideas that haven’t happened yet, but probably will—please, dummies, think twice.
Two years ago, the Ebola virus outbreak tore through West Africa, killing more than 11,000 people. It was a tragic health disaster, so obviously that meant it was perfect Halloween costume fodder for Americans thousands of miles away. Earlier this year Zika costumes were a hit at Brazil’s carnival, but hopefully Halloween will not be infected.
Listen, I get that Luke Cage is a badass superhero (who is bulletproof!), and the the decision to make a hoodie his superhero costume was an intentional comment and reclaiming of the racial signifiers attributed to the article of clothing. So while you’re more than welcome to dress up as your fave hero, keep in mind the message walking around in a hoodie full of bullet holes sends out of the context of the show. Might be jarring to see a white dude walking around like this, especially when the point of the hoodie is to make a statement about innocent black people being shot by (white) cops!
This season of Orange Is the New Black brought one of the most shocking moments of television in 2016: the death of much beloved character Poussey. While there’s nothing wrong with portraying the character herself, I wouldn’t put it past people to somehow include an element of her controversial death in their costume, or maybe do a joint costume with someone who plays the correctional officer who kills her. Just don’t do it. And definitely don’t pull a Julianne Hough and don blackface.
With an election as controversial as this one, it’s hard to figure out just how people will further desecrate the American political system on Halloween—one possible way might be to dress up as Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe who has been repeatedly fat-shamed, slut-shamed, and generally attacked by Trump, who called her "Miss Piggy" after the pageant. By all means, feel free to pay homage to the actual muppet Miss Piggy, and also feel free to dress up as Alicia Machado, but don’t be a dick.
I guess this is just another way to say, don't wear a racist costume, and definitely don't wear it if you're trying to make an ironic statement on racism. While we’re on the topic of Trump, I’m sure many of y'all out there think there’s nothing scarier than Donald Trump’s America, filled with horrific racial stereotypes POC have already worked for generations to overcome, and I suspect some of y’all might think it’s a great idea for a ~meta~ costume. Don’t do it. I repeat: Don’t dress up as Donald Trump’s portrayal of Mexicans as “rapists and criminals” or his portrayal of Muslims as terrorists. That’s racist.
This whole Killer Clown hoax thing is awful, terrifying, and just rude, so why don’t we just skip clowns altogether this year.
Halloween gives us the opportunity to dress up as our heroes, to embody something that is greater than us. Beyoncé is greater than all of us, and while actually embodying even a fraction of her greatness would be enough to explode a brain, that won’t stop us from trying. Her latest work Lemonade is flush with with gorgeous imagery and outfits, which will absolutely be Halloween party staples. Yellow dress from “Hold Up?” Sure, go for it, I guess! The braids and fur look out of “Formation?” I mean…If you're a non-black person, and the thing you get out of "Formation" is that it'd make a great Halloween costume, I think you have bigger issues.
This summer, Leslie Jonesfaced hatred in its purest form over and over and over again from racist, sexist assholes who are so enraged by a black woman succeeding, they feel the need to constantly attack her. So while it’s a great idea to dress up as Jones to celebrate her or don her Ghostbusters costume (NOT WITH THIS WIG, THOUGH), please keep all your shitty commentary on her attacks and the First Amendment and—for the love of God—blackface out of it.
There is no doubt in my mind that someone out there thinks the terrifying ordeal Kim Kardashian went through last week—being tied up and held at gunpoint by a group of robbers dressed as police officers—would make for a great group costume. That person is an asshole and the group of people they recruit to complete the tableau are also assholes. Stop using violence against women to prove how edgy you are. (Side note: I feel like every year there’s a horrible Kanye outfit that involves blackface, so don’t do it people. Just don’t.) On the topic of robbers, maybe avoid reenacting Ryan Lochte's Rio robbery as well, seeing as that was a lie.
Last week, famously anonymous author Elena Ferrante had her privacy and personal philosophy violated when a journalist revealed her identity, causing a firestorm in the literature community. Dressing up as Elena Ferrante's actual identity is dumb and just lazy.
A few creative people out there have taken it upon themselves to recreate Snapchat filters IRL, which is very cute and fun. One can only hope people don’t use their powers to recreate that time Snapchat celebrated 4/20 by creating a blackface Bob Marley filter or that other time they had a yellowface “anime” filter.
There are multiple reasons why dressing up as Prince for Halloween can be a terrible idea. First, some may take it as an opportunity for blackface, which once again, no. Second, attempting to capture a figure of such righteous sensual, sexual, musical, power in a puny weak human form (in a Halloween costume, no less!) is not only insulting but is a lesson in futility.
Shhh, shh, shh, it’s okay. Just listen. The Harambe meme is basically the Donald Trump of memes. It’s old, it’s dumb, it’s gotten way too much attention, and it’s racist. And you’re better than that.