"How many women dress as a TARDIS and then have to deal with guys asking them all night: 'Can I get inside you?'" -Shaun Clayton
When I was a kid, Halloween was all about disguising oneself as a favorite super hero or STAR WARS character, knocking on doors with illuminated porch lights, and getting candy from your neighbors. When we were teens, we were discouraged from trick-or-treating and steered in the direction of "haunted houses" and scary movies. In my youth, I clearly recall a cultural emphasis on the young and young at heart. Halloween was for kids and it was marketed as such. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" was an annual tradition, along with whatever new cartoon was rolled out that year, hoping to achieve "classic" status. Now, we're lucky to catch a glimpse of Snoopy and the Peanuts gang, and only if we happen to actually watch the commercials on whatever network it lands on that year. (ABC 15 at 7PM Thursday in Phoenix, by the way).
It does not appear that Halloween is as embraced by today's children as it was when I was alternating between Captain Marvel, Chewbacca, Spider-man, and Darth Vader (twice). I know trick-or-treat still happens. I know kids will take any opportunity to get candy. What seems to be missing is the ceremony of it all.
We've stolen Halloween from the kids.
Yes. We. Us. The grown-ups. Everyone between Generation X and the adults who are now in college. You'll notice I didn't say "college kids." For the purpose of this conversation, college students are all adults.
Here are a few reasons why I am calling "foul" upon those of us who can drive, buy booze, and vote.
- Nobody is making any worthwhile Halloween Specials anymore. The last great attempt at a timeless piece of animation for Halloween was Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. Sure, a few computer-animated features have come and gone in recent years... but do you remember any of them? One has the think hard to come up with ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania or Frankenweenie. These films have two critical things in common. 1) they're forgettable and 2) they were big-budget feature films and not half hour TV specials. There is no more Great Pumpkin. He's a ghost of our childhood.
- Bubble Babies. A generation of scared parents has bread a generation of paranoid parents. We've shaved the corners off of everything, laid down padding in the playgrounds, and required and helmet for everything remotely fun. I'm all for protecting children from real danger, but we've child-proofed everything to dust. Remember when trick-or-treat meant going out AFTER dark? Wasn't that the point? Today, the kids are starting out before sunset. Neighborhood routes are getting smaller as we become less acquainted with our neighbors. If the kids are lucky enough to get candy, it's about the size of a quarter. Sometimes you get that neighbor who has nothing to offer but paper clips, a box of gluten-free raisins, or a Bible verse.
- "Sexy" Costumes. Confession: When I was in college, I appreciated the young women who chose the provocative "nurse," "sexy devil," or relatively authentic Supergirl costumes. This was the early 90s, and while the concept was hardly new, it was still a novelty. I'm not in my 20s anymore. Frankly, I'm over it. The revealing female concept costume has ceased to be imaginative or sexy. It has become boring and over done. It seems like every costume now is "Sexy ____." It's gone beyond "pirate" and "kitten." Now, grotesquely inappropriate cultural icons are getting the "sexy" make-over. Last year, Children's Television Workshop (producers of Sesame Street) sued manufacturers of "Sexy Elmo" and "Sexy Bigbird" costumes for copyright violations. They could confront them with copyright laws because there are no laws governing poor taste. Sure, there's the argument that the provocative costumes empower women to celebrate and take control of their sexuality. This is the same argument defending strippers and porn actresses as feminists. It also enables men to continue to objectify women by giving them another reason to regard them as decoration. Ask any woman who cosplays at a comic book or sci-fi convention. They are frequently harassed by creepy men who feel entitled to stand a little too close and put their hands where they don't belong because of what a woman is wearing. On my original point, though, what about the kids? It seems like most of the Halloween marketing in recent years has been in this specific area. What message are the kids getting now? "Sorry kids. Halloween is kinda lame for you now... but THIS is what you have to look forward to."
The post-baby-boom adults walking the planet now are the children of popular culture. We don't want to give up our play things, so we make them grow up with us. Halloween isn't the only thing we've made unnecessarily PG-13. But where is it going to stop?