What this year’s topical Halloween costumes tell us about the darkest fears of modern life
In 2018, traditional Halloween costumes simply don’t cut it. Vampires and witches are so uninspired, so overdone. You want real horror? Try looking outside.
Perhaps this explains why Halloween costumes are taking a turn for the topical, and why the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum attended a party this weekend dressed in the scariest costume she could think of: the New York Times’ midterm election poll. Other sightings include the usual array of Donald Trumps, multiple Ruth Bader Ginsbergs and the literal death of democracy.
This is nothing particularly new. A New York Times article from 1998 lists faddish Halloween costumes like Monica Lewinsky, Woody Allen, and Lorena Bobbitt, while Lewes in Sussex has long been famous for burning effigies of characters, from the pope in 2005 to Angela Merkel in 2012. But in recent years this seems to have crossed over into the mainstream. Last year, at the height of #MeToo, there seemed to be a clutch of ever-present Halloween “handmaids” wherever you went. While this is the third consecutive year that “Brexit” has been a viable (and common) outfit choice of outfit.
What does this tell us about our fears? The bad news is that our fears are so front and centre that you can dress as Trump, or a nation’s voting intentions, or the concept of institutionalised sexism, and people will understand. This ubiquity only really happens in times of genuine crisis. The good news is that these costumes are an act of rebellion. By dressing as “our fears”, we are mocking them. And by mocking them, we are diminishing them. As Stephen Colbert says, you can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time.
But few things are as dull as a Halloween party full of ultra-partisan topical costumes. Within seconds of entering, you know exactly how all the conversations will go. You will spend your evening having your ear bent off about some half-remembered statistic from the news, while wishing you could slink off and get drunk with the attendee dressed as Sexy Super Mario. It is good to wear your stripes on your sleeve and all, but Halloween should be stupid. Let’s keep it that way. (Source: Guardian)