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Our retrospective on Halloween 2019

This year’s Halloween was notable because by seeming to become more mainstream and get more press/media coverage – possibly because of desperation to provide an alternative to the dreaded B word, which was originally going to be a Halloween highlight (?).

ITV’s Good Morning went all Wizard of Oz, and reflected a trend towards there being a more general fancy dress code, rather than just the spooky/scary, so anything goes  – well, up to a point: Sheffield University hit the headlines with an NUS-inspired campaign against people dressing as Mexicans, American Natives, etc. The PC term for this is Cultural Appropriation, and it last hit the headlines a year or so back, when Norwich University SU took exception to Nandos giving out sombreros as a promotion gimmick. Coverage of this new outbreak of wariness included the fact that despite the posters using a ‘Don’t Make My Culture Your Costume’ slogan, Mexican students themselves were not that fussed at the threat of being appropriated.

The issues of Correctness and Appropriation have great potential for those who wish to be offended on behalf of others regardless of what the offendees in question think: The Zombie is an easy throw-together costume and yet it forms an element of the beliefs of the Voodoo religions originating in Africa and the Caribbean; Witches form a central element of the Halloween season yet, leaving aside the Wicca religion itself, there are those who point to the persecution and killing of those suspected of being witches in bygone days.

We can go on, but won’t. You get the general idea.

The plastic waste issue also reared its head, but we covered that in the last newsletter, and so we move on to another issue which causes controversy - Celeb costuming: Jonathan Ross’ family have celebrated Halloween for years in a sort of ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ way, building to the big event. Their seasonal party has now become the key go-to celeb bash, with press coverage to match – you may have caught the odd picture or two in the media. Some, such as Amanda Holden make the effort: This year a very on-message Morticia (despite having a broken leg). Others, notably males (with an honourable exception of Clive Revel Horwood’s Cruella) not so much – throw on a Joker Mask here, parody the Handmaid’s Tale outfit there. (Some journalists, building on the Sheffield NUS story, questioned why offending cultures and religions is a problem whilst parodying women is okay).

The sexy Halloween question also arises.

Sexy Halloween? Yes, another perennial problem, this year sparked by a Kylie Jenner Ariel (Little Mermaid) outfit which left little to the imagination. This style, nicknamed Slutty Cut is not just the preserve of celebs – sexy Halloween outfits have been on the market for years and, arguably, if there wasn’t a market, they wouldn’t exist. It’s just that the celebs have to outrage to get the media attention. That said, model Heidi Klum is the Mistress of Halloween in the US and in a class of her own. Having built a back-catalogue of sensational outfits over the years, she celebrated the 20th anniversary of her famous Halloween party with an outfit which also seemingly bared all – a sort of Alien Queen/Frankenstein mash-up. The outfit, based on a prosthetic suit, took 13 hours of preparation (much of it in full view of shoppers at Amazon’s New York store) and needless to say, got most of the publicity. No wonder others felt they had to flash the flesh to get noticed.