Halloween, the spookiest time of the year, is almost upon us. Watching scary movies, carving faces into pumpkins, and dressing up in elaborate costumes are just some of Halloween’s most fun traditions. But there’s another tradition that tends to rear its ugly head almost every year, and that’s really bad Halloween costumes. There’s always at least one person (celebrities included) whose Halloween costume is insensitive, problematic, and downright offensive.
A quick rule of thumb: cultures are never costumes. Dressing up as someone from a specific culture, especially one that is marginalised, is a form of cultural appropriation and can even be considered racist. The same goes for dressing up as events like the Covid-19 pandemic, natural disasters, mass shootings, or movements such as #MeToo or Black Lives Matter. These costumes make light of serious events, and minimise the long-term effects many people still endure because of them.
Just in case you want to know more on what to avoid, here is a list of Halloween costumes you should steer clear of this year (and every year).
There’s been renewed interest in Jeffrey Dahmer this year, after Netflix released its controversial series Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. Many people have dressed up like the convicted serial killer in the past, sporting his signature spectacles and wearing wigs resembling his hairstyle along with short-sleeve button-down shirts. However, the mother of one of Dahmer’s victims recently urged people not to dress up as the serial killer because it exploits his victims and re-traumatises their families.
The Will Smith/Chris Rock Oscars slap
Please don’t go to any Halloween parties as anything related to the infamous Oscars slap. Hasn’t there been enough discourse already? Don’t be the one to reignite the debate, especially if you are a white person.
Queen Elizabeth II
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
This is not the couples costume you think it is. Dressing up as anything relating to the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial – a defamation case in which serious accusations of domestic violence were made – would trivialise claims of abuse and perpetuate harmful narratives about survivors.
Anything relating to Roe v Wade
The overturning of Roe v Wade, which legalised abortion in the United States nearly 50 years ago, was one of the biggest moments of the year. That doesn’t mean it should be your Halloween costume. The decision to overturn the longstanding right to an abortion made access to abortion care and health care services even harder for millions of Americans, especially those from marginialised communities.
Ever since her rise to Hollywood stardom, Marilyn Monroe has been a prominent figure throughout pop culture. Many people have called out the media for its constant portrayal and exploitation of her image. From an “unwatchable” Netflix biopic, to Kim Kardashian taking over her wardrobe, its time we leave Marilyn alone.
Unfortunately, transphobic Halloween costumes are more popular than you might think. Costumes such as “Tranny Granny” and Caitlyn Jenner use transphobic slurs and reduce transgender people to a caricature. These costumes reinforce harmful stereotypes about transgender people, so call them out whenever you see them.
Monkeypox and Covid-19
It’s easy for anyone to put on a mask, purchase a fake syringe or medical gloves and call themselves “Monkeypox” for Halloween. But doing so would make light of the monkeypox virus, of which there have been nearly 57,000 confirmed cases across the world in 2022 so far. The same goes for dressing up as the Covid-19 virus. The coronavirus pandemic killed millions of people, and continues to seriously affect those who are unvaccinated. Any costume that resembles the SARS-CoV-2 virus, anti-vaxxers, or someone with Covid-19 are to be avoided.
While Playboy Bunny costumes have been a Halloween costume staple for years, perhaps now is not the best time to don the bunny ears. This year, the ten-part docuseries Secrets of Playboy was released on A&E, which waged allegations against the culture of the Playboy Mansion and the late Hugh Hefner himself. Several former Playmates, including Hefner’s ex girlfriend Holly Madison, have even opened up about their “traumatic” experiences in the Playboy Mansion.
Body-shaming is never okay, especially when it’s a Halloween costume. Not only does wearing a fat suit for Halloween display a total lack of creativity, it shows that you believe being plus-size is a joke. It’s not. Plus-size people can’t dress up as a “thin person” for Halloween, so recognise your thin privilege.