Social Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Halloween customes - how far is too far?

Asked by SuperMouse (30845points) October 22nd, 2009

This question made me wonder, where is the line when it comes to Halloween costumes or if there even is a line. Would it be acceptable ride in a wheelchair, wear cape, and call yourself Christopher Reeve? How about a hoody and sunglasses and go as the unabomber? In your opinion, is anything just too far out there or is everything fair game for Halloween costumes?

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50 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

I think it depends on your personality, where you’re going to be and if you want to possibly labelled “That Guy”.

ragingloli's avatar

As a Citizen of the Internet I say: Anything goes.

eponymoushipster's avatar

i take my shirt off and go as Gentle Ben.

Haleth's avatar

It’s a tough call to decide if something is ballsy and funny or just plain offensive.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Yes I think we should be thinking of this from a different perspective. What would they think of this? It isn’t about serving our own personal needs. And when I say they I do not mean the individual but rather the class of people you are imitating. In short it is quite selfish to feel one needs to dress up in ways that could be considered offensive by a large group of people.

This is what I said in the Black Face thread and this is what I believe still:
“I simply will never be able to understand why people insist on arguing that something is not racist (or prejudice or insulting or inappropriate) or that it is okay if the community they are talking about overwhelming says “please stop”. I have no idea what makes someone think their own opinion is more important than that of the majority of an entire community of people who have faced such horrible brutality because of these acts.

This does not mean I don’t think its unworthy of discussion. But I simply do not understand why this isn’t common sense.”

Darwin's avatar

Pretty much anything goes as long as you pay attention to the venue. A kid’s party or trick or treating in the neighborhood or at the mall will require a costume not be much more than PG or possibly PG-13. However, a party at a bar, a fraternity, or Key West would have much fewer limits and so rated X costumes would be fine.

And you are asking for trouble if you dress up as a Klansman in Harlem, or something equivalently insensitive depending on where, who and what you and your neighbors are.

judochop's avatar

I saw three people dressed as the twin towers a few years ago. Two buildigs and a plane. I seriously wanted to kick the shit out of them.

Psychedelic_Zebra's avatar

It’s still a free country, and if you want to dress up as something or someone that’s a bit out there, go for it, just remember that you are in public, and you might have to defend yourself from the politically correct crowd. Some people are close-minded and too stupid (for lack of a better word) to see humor in anything.

@judochop, so what stopped you?

ragingloli's avatar

So they were missing one plane?

eponymoushipster's avatar

@ragingloli that guy got lost in a field somewhere en route to the party.~

ragingloli's avatar

nah, he probably made out with someone dressed as the pentagon.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@ragingloli i’d have cut to the chase and just found 72 virgins…

Dr_C's avatar

I remember back in ‘06 i went to a costume party and one guy was dressed as Steve Irwin complete with sting ray stinger attached to his chest… the guy had been dead for a month. One guy thought it was funny (after his 2nd joint i believe), everyone else avoided the guy all night. he was not a happy camper. (I didn’t find it particularly funny and tought it was a bit too soon).

avvooooooo's avatar

@RedPowerLady One word for the “blackface discussion” you feel so strongly about.


If the intent is to be funny, rude, insensitive, then the last two apply. But if the intent is to more closely resemble a person that you admire, then it is only viewed as offensive for those looking to be offended. That is common sense.

deni's avatar

I don’t think dressing up like a dead Steve Irwin, or Stephen Hawking, or a terrorist is funny or appropriate. Being someone with a serious handicap OR A DEAD PERSON really just isn’t a good idea from any point of view…Other than that, I say anything goes.

Dr_C's avatar

@deni i agree to a point. But the generalization of dressing up as a dead person i’m not totally behind. Beside the obvious them of halloween (Ghosts, zombies, vampires, werewolves, skeletons, mangled bodies, etc)... there are people that enjoy dressing up as famous dead people which most would not find offensive.

I for one have no problem when i see someone dressed as elvis, or marylin monroe, herman munster, etc. My problem with the Steve Irwin outfit was that the guy had been dead a month and the lack of respect shown in mocking the way he died.

deni's avatar

@Dr_C Oh oh no ok I totally agree with you. I meant dressing up as a dead person in the state of their death. If someone is dressed as Elvis, Steve Irwin, Michael Jackson…that’s whatever but I just don’t think dressing up as the CORPSE of someone is very nice. Or dressing up as Chris Farley with a purple face and foam coming out of your no.

Dr_C's avatar

@deni gotcha. Message received.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@deni i totally agree – no one wants to be dead or handicapped.~

filmfann's avatar

This year, I would totally wear fishnet stockings, and have a rope around my neck, going as David Carradine.
yes, I have an evil sense of humor.

SuperMouse's avatar

@avvooooooo you make a good point about intent, but there is such a thin line, why even go near it? If I admire someone, I go out of my way to keep from offending that person. For instance, I admire Barak and Michelle Obama, that being the case it would never cross my mind to dress as either of them. I am a white woman and there is no way I could pull off either one of those costumes without looking like a complete goofball and (at the very least) borderline racist. I wouldn’t want to take that chance, even if my intent was good.

When making decisions such as these it is important to think of things in context. Like it or not, our country has a history of strife between races, and costumes such as these – no matter the intent of the wearer – tend to inflame that strife. Political correctness run amok? I don’t believe so, but sure it is a possibility, either way, why even go there? Especially when there are so many other cool costume ideas depicting people of my own race.

CMaz's avatar

Had a friend, he was dressed as a flasher. Had a rubber penis on under his jacket.
Not a sex toy, but a rubber costume penis. It looked real.
Did not know they made them.

Here is a costume, if his real penis was exposed it would have been bad. But putting a fake one over his shorts was ok.

So I guess if you wear a costume of a naked body, it is ok?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@avvooooooo Intent does not matter to those who have to see it. Again you could refer to the studies done by the APA versus your own opinion but as I recall you prefer not to do that.

And once again those who see it and are offended or are hurt in some other way are not simply ‘playing the victim’ but feel free to say so if you’d like. Ignore oppression and call the victim the racist.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@deni How is dressing up as Steve Irwin who is dead in a way of admiration inappropriate? After all the intent is to honor him. They are just dressing up to look like they are dead cause it is Halloween. That is all in fun.

See the double-standard?

deni's avatar

@RedPowerLady Dressing up as Steve Irwin isn’t inappropriate. Dressing up as dead looking Steve Irwin with a stingray hanging from him is, like @Dr_C said, mocking the way he died, which was an unfortunate accident and shouldn’t really be made fun of.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@deni But it is halloween and it is all in fun. He is dead and it is in the past so why does it matter? They probably aren’t mocking him but they admire him greatly. They only dressed up as a dead him because of the holiday.

deni's avatar

@RedPowerLady Well, I just persnally wouldn’t dress as that. If I was at a party and someone else did, I would probably go “hm, kinda weird” and leave it at that. It’s not like it would bother me greatly, I’d just prefer, myself, to dress as a sloth or donkey kong or something all happy lol. But you’re right, it’s because of the holiday, and that’s why I really think it is pretty hard to go overboard with costumes, but there certainly are a FEW exceptions.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@deni So I don’t see how it is any different when someone dresses up in blackface that suggests a history of oppression vs. someones horrible death as oppression does result in horrible death. I agree that dressing as a sloth or donkey is more appropriate. And that there are a few exceptions that are going overboard. I simply don’t see the difference between the two examples (blackface vs. dead celeb.) as they both exemplify violence and a sad past.

LuhvKiller's avatar

Someone dressin like a penis lol

avvooooooo's avatar

@RedPowerLady I have read the studies. I have also read the studies that say the exact opposite. I read things other than just the ones that back up my own opinion. I seem to think you prefer not to do that. Try it sometime. Its called “forming an educated opinion.”

Those looking to be offended will be offended, even if they have to make up something to be offended at. Women can look at witch costumes as being offensive to women because women were generally the ones killed and persecuted for being witches. It exemplifies violence and a sad past. Or people who practice religions where they call themselves “witches” can get offended that these pointy hats and warts are mean to represent witches. Or they can see them for what they are, a costume. If people are looking to take offense, they will find things to take offense to. If people want to make a big deal out of something, they will find something to make a big deal about, inconsequential or not.

Let’s take your own words and change them just a little. All changes are noted in italics. “How is dressing up as Tiger Woods who is black in a way of admiration inappropriate? After all the intent is to honor him. They are just dressing up to look like they are black cause it is Halloween. That is all in fun.”

There is a double standard. But its not other people who are practicing it, it lies within you.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@avvooooooo How about changing my words to suit your opinion which is what you seem to do quite often.

You seem to have missed the point entirely. Even while changing my words you made my point for me. Obviously my quote was made in sarcasm. And how in any way could this be considered appropriate? They are just dressing up to look like they are black cause it is Halloween. Again, you made my point for me. Making yourself look black just because it’s halloween isn’t all in fun just as dressing up as a dead Steve Irwin is not all in fun.

BTW where are your studies?? As I’ve cited many opinions from reputable sources.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@avvooooooo Perhaps further responses should be made on the other thread. I don’t intend to respond anymore to ones on this thread as it is overtaking two threads and that is not proper Fluther etiquette.

avvooooooo's avatar

@RedPowerLady You have no idea what any point is if it points away from what you wish to see. Why should I bother to do your homework for you when I have better things to do? Much less skim something and throw it up as “evidence” when it doesn’t really say what one might assume that it did as some people do.

avvooooooo's avatar

Or I could Google “blackface controversy” and maybe add “NAACP” and put up the first 5–7 links that pop up and claim sources/articles.

fundevogel's avatar

I’m not offended by much and I am a fan of black comedy. And lets face it, halloween is the darkest holiday we have in terms of aesthetic. I love costumes that aren’t quite socially acceptable and the boldness it takes to wear them. Of course, you do have to factor in that those costumes just won’t be accepted in some places. In those situations, if you do want to have fun it is best to tone it down.

However with the right group of people questionable costumes are really appreciated. Politically incorrect costume parties are not uncommon and are usually full of a range of costumes you won’t see anywhere else. I get bored seeing Jokers and slutty Disney princesses. I love it when some one pulls off “coathanger abortion” or “pedo priest”. It gets closer to the gore, violence and revulsion that used to be inspired by zombies, monsters and traditional spooks.

deni's avatar

I don’t see why everything has to be so negative.

Darwin's avatar

So is it wrong for a black person to dress up for Halloween in white face? The Wayans Brothers seem to get away with it.

JLeslie's avatar

I would say when in doubt err on the side of not offending people. Look at what happened when Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi. I don’t think he is an antisemite, to me it would not be news worthy, but a lot of people were very upset. I actually agree with @RedPowerLady that it matters how the ethnic group will look at something imitating them, more than the intent. People don’t know your intent unless you have a conversation with them. I also thiink sometimes it seems that minorities are too easily offended, when no harm is intended, but still we have to respect the feelings of the minority I think, we do not necessarily understand their position having not experienced their situation.

I also agree though that if you are dressing as a black actor and you are white, it makes sense to make your skin appear darker, but I guess the history associated with this is so strong that you are just going to have to pick another costume. One point that is illogical is if you wear a face mask that looked like a black actor or famous person, I assume it is ok even if you are white, like Martin Luther King for instance. I think if we all trusted each other more this would not be the case, but people are still wary of racism and other hateful actions.

fundevogel's avatar

@JLeslie In all fairness when you have an international reputation you’re held to higher standards and more closely watched than the rest of us. I don’t think that’s right, but it does mean greater consequences for people in the limelight.
Unfortunately, I think the term racism is being used very loosely these days. Racism is a very real and very shameful thing, but the true meaning of the term is being diluted by misuse. Too many have people have stopped identifying racism by its key point, the idea that one race or races are inferior to another. Instead they’re tagging things as racist based on their associations. There is a reason they associate certain cues as racist, so sometimes the presence of them will coincide with racism, but not always.

It’s like diagnosing a symptom without ever examining the patient. Sure the cough could be bronchitis. Bronchitis is associated with coughing, but unless you examine this particular patient you’re just guessing because coughing isn’t exclusive to bronchitis. I don’t think it’s right to make sweeping one size fits all judgments when clearly, one size does not fit all.

Hows about we try and reserve the racist tag for actual bigots and lay off the people that are just guilty of bad taste or negative associations?

JLeslie's avatar

@fundevogel Well of course Prince Harry is an idiot for wearing that stupid costume. And if I saw it worn on a stranger on the streets of wear I live I would actually be afraid of that person even on Halloween. I agree, he should know better for sure. I also agree that the term racism is thrown around too much. I think there is a difference between prejudice and racism and bad taste and discrimination. All have their own separate definitions in my opinion, but sometimes occur all at once.

fundevogel's avatar

@JLesilie But I think that idiocy is primarily related to wearing it when his fame makes for higher consequences than it would for the rest of us.

I wouldn’t be afraid of someone dressed as a Nazi or even Hitler on Halloween. The context of Halloween places it as a costume, (though perhaps a distasteful costume), in a situation were costuming is to be expected. I’d be more worried about someone that chose to reference Nazism in their fashion when they weren’t in costume.

I think as a culture we ought to take a close look at racism and bigotry. We’ve still got it but the fact that most bigots have learned not physically abuse the target of their loathing means we’ve lost out knack for identifying racism. Maybe we never had a knack. Maybe we depended too much on the obviousness of previous generation’s hate. I suspect a fair number a racists today think that they aren’t racist because they haven’t committed a hate crime. People need to learn that bigotry is a perspective and approach it as such.

(we’re probably in agreement on all this but I felt like typing it out anyways)

JLeslie's avatar

@fundevogel But this is where @RedPowerLady point comes in, not that I want to put words in her mouth. The Nazi uniform for me, evokes feelings of hate that I believe still exist today, because I am the minority it is directed at. To me it means I want to kill Jews. I agree during Halloween it is a day of costumes, but the question would be why is the person wearing it? With Prince Harry I do not believe he would ever specifically do anything to round up and kill Jews, because I “know” him. Some idiot in the south with a buzz cut, I have no idea where his head is at? Does he think its funny? Just a character in history? Is he a Jew hating, probably everyone hating racist?

I agree being a public figure is what makes him more of an idiot than most, true with any politician or public figure.

avvooooooo's avatar

Edited, too many windows open means posting on wrong question!

Darwin's avatar

@everybody – The British Royal family has never been noted for its intelligence. Members of it often do some truly stupid things.

fundevogel's avatar

@JLeslie You’re you’re more sensitive to those symbols and images, but the people who wear them as Halloween costume aren’t. Wearing them certainly could prompt discomfort, hurt or anger in others, but unless wearing costume was intended to do those things its still just questionable taste.

Chances are hardly anyone in the US would blink if someone dressed up as Stalin but he really isn’t any better than Hitler. We just don’t have an emotional response to his image.

Out of curiousity, do things like Girl Hitler bother you too? I was considering dressing up as her a one point.

JLeslie's avatar

@fundevogel I think why choose to dress like her when I see it. If I was at a party where I know everyone I would not be afraid or think a friend of mine is a Nazi. It does not stir up horrible feelings for me in that situation, but I was not kept in a camp. If there are older people there it could trigger a PTSD reaction, it would be very insensitive to wear it. In the same way many Jews do not use the wedding march at their weddings.

If I don’t know you and you wear the costume, I would be bothered, because I don’t know your intent I don’t know you. I understand in your mind you feel like you have friends who are Jewish, you are not prejudiced, not violence oriented, however you might describe yourself, but the Jewish person looking at you does not know what is in your head. Wearing a swastika is like hold out a gun in some people’s minds. It’s like pointing a gun and saying, well, they should not be afraid because there is no bullet and I would never shoot anybody, it was not my intent. All people KNOW is a gun is in their face.

Some countries in Europe do not even let you wear or display a swastika, which I am not arguing for, I think it interferes with free speech, but I see where they are coming from. There are southerners who like to fly the confederate flag. They are proud of their relatives who faught in the war, and see it as a symbol of the south, which they are proud to live in, many do not view it as racist to fly it. The thing is blacks see it as racist and a little scary, a rememberance of a horrible time. Who should we respect in that case? I tend to lean on the side of being aware of and respecting the minority when it comes to something that could evoke fear . Certainly many Halloween costumes are in bad taste or might offend people or make them uncomfortable, but they stop short of inferrring physical harm.

fundevogel's avatar

I was never arguing that the costume choice (or choices) weren’t insensitive, just that that they weren’t necessarily motivated bigotry.

I had actually been thinking of the face paint mentioned earlier. The act of painting your face would be innocuous if not for its use to ridicule black people in history. In this case it would be a misstep for people to assume all people who paint their faces black for a costume were mocking black people. Especially in the OP’s Tiger Woods costume which is more suggestive of admiration than ridicule.

I guess the Prince Harry/Nazi bit just overshadows generalizations.

JLeslie's avatar

@fundevogel I am agreeing, I understand and believe the person wearing one of these costumes may not be a bigot, I am saying it may evoke fear or very uneasy feelings in the person/people that “character” hurt in history.

Bad taste would be wearing a pregnant bride costume to a family party when you know your cousin just had a shot-gun wedding. The Nazi uniform is aggressive.

fundevogel's avatar

no argument with that.

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