Halloween has changed a lot – even from the time when I was a kid. Halloween was once an ancient Celtic festival where participants would don costumes to ward off scary ghosts; but now, the holiday has become a much more frightening battleground for political correctness. Instead of making a list of possible costumes, many university campuses are beginning to issue lists of unacceptable Halloween costumes. And while I’m not in support of students dressing up in KKK costumes or brandishing Swastikas, the recent backlash against dressing up as Mulan or Moana, claiming that it’s somehow an insensitive form of cultural appropriation, is quite absurd.
Halloween was never designed to be a comforting holiday – the entire reason behind Halloween was to have fun dressing up in costumes that would sometimes scare your friends shitless. To try and impose restrictions on acceptable costumes is to strip the holiday of its humor and spirit. To try and draw up a list of costumes that would offend no one and cause no one discomfort would be a Herculean task (I apologize for appropriating Roman culture to make my point).
As a kid, I loved costumes but disliked Halloween in general. As someone who ran from even the sight of a cobweb, the rampage of plastic spiders was too much for me to stomach. Nevertheless, I understood that the holiday was never created to cater to my whims. I knew I had no right to tell other people not to dress up as spiders simply because it upset me. I still enjoyed trick-or-treating – I simply steered clear of all the scary-looking houses. Would I have enjoyed Halloween more if everyone stopped adorning their houses with spiders? Sure – but it wasn’t my place to detract from other people’s experience simply to suit my own wants. Heck, if Halloween was exactly the way I wanted it, the holiday would be celebrated during the day and anyone wearing a spider costume would be publicly humiliated.
At the end of the day, Halloween is a celebration involving costumes. There should be a tacit understanding that costumes are a form of light-hearted, humorous expression. Not every person dressing up as a cowboy is attempting to mock the oppression Native Americans faced, nor is every geisha costume a mockery of Japanese culture. As much as we should try to be respectful, we shouldn’t be scared to express ourselves simply because others might take offense. To be completely honest, the paradigm shift towards extreme political correctness is much scarier than a child dressing up as Mulan for Halloween.