Grumble, grumble, Halloween
by Josh Cole
At this time of year, people feel entitled to come up to me and ask questions about my personal life. “How’s it going?” they ask. “What are you having for lunch?” Being a young, hip, with-it person for the last few years, I just answer the questions they haven’t asked, but I know they really want to.
“No, I don’t know what I am going to be for Halloween yet. I don’t even know if I am going to do anything for Halloween at all.” Most old adults with kids nod and smile and stumble out of the room confused yet relieved. They’ve ducked a bullet and don’t have to talk about their kids. Young, hip people, with-it (similar to me), have a different response.
“WHAT! I LOVE HALLOWEEN!” is usually the last high-volume sentence I hear for a few hours after admitting my apathy towards this holiday, this fancy schamancy Halloween. Make no mistake; Halloween has gone from low-grade attempt to steal working families’ hard-earned candy to a faux-debutant ball.
Faux, because one is supposed to become a character on Halloween and not merely a nicer-dressed version of himself. It’s debutant because would-be lycanthopes are presenting their credentials other would-be lycanthropes. Wearing a sheet with two holes for eyes has gone from being a default costume to verboten among, young, hip, with-it people.
I understand that people get passionate about things. I understand they think that dressing up is fun. I can even join these two thoughts together and conclude that some people are passionate about the artistry and celebration of costumes. But when many different people who have nothing in common other than their age issue the same violently loud response, something is up. Something has changed.
“Yes, I am going as Adolf Hitler who has been cryogenically frozen for 66 years. He has awoken and is confused about modern times and wonders what happened to the Nazis empire, who promised him that they would thaw him after they won. This experience has made him very introspective, and he is no longer the historical monster that everything THINKS he is. Grow up.” This Facebook status from Mark Sean Haynes is probably the most elaborate explanation of a Halloween costume I could find for this year. But I also know of a sexy zombie Muammar Gaddffi and a sexy Cap’n Crunch that are also planning to be on the scene this year. These people are also the ones who find costumes like, “hobos” or “ghosts” or “employee who was unable to change before coming to the party” completely not in the spirit of Halloween.
The new spirit of Halloween seems to be that everyone should pretend to be a professional costume designer. Those who succeed are rewarded with jealousy/respect from their peers and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Those who fail are derided by those same peers and punished with Pabst Blue Ribbon. As far as I can tell, the secret to a great costume is this: once upon a time, there was a person or fictional character that represented a simple idea. Maybe they were a ruler or entertainer or fictional.
Take the above examples. They are (I am told) going to be amazing, not just because they’ll be technically well done. These costumes will embody ideas about power. In the past, Nazis were good, flowing robes were good, and nautically themed sugar was good. But things have changed since the past happened and we, as a society, have a newer, better, more ambivalent understanding of what the world really meant. When people gather together to have fun, this ambivalence needs to be reflected. Nazis might have been good, but new historical evidence has shown that they made some pretty tough and costly decisions on their course to empire. Flowing robes are good too, but does that really justify wearing sunglasses indoors? Sugar is good, but did you know that sex is good too? But even though they are both good things, if you mix them, everything just get really weird and gritty.
I am not sure when appearing fair and balanced, but also humorous, but also edgy, but also cool, but not in an in-charge waymore like kind of the power behind the throne that has the wisdom to understand how things really work, dudebecame the priority for my generation’s collective fantasizing.
Halloween, like the 21st century, has become a big freaking mess. Going insane for a day and pretending that you are someone who never existed seems as good a solution as any. But it is a solution that I only put about…10 minutes of thought into (until this article).
I don’t understand the meaning of Halloween. I also choose to reject it.