I know, I know, this is going to be a bit of a rant. Hey, it’s my blog and you’ve been warned. 🙂
I remember when I was a kid our Halloween costumes tended to be more improvised than purchased at the local Halloween costume store and the entire holiday had a rather underground “harvest festival” sort of feel to it, with benign scares and very little that was truly frightening.
That picture on the left? That’s me, dressed as a pirate. Cute, eh?
I also have memories of borrowing one of my Dad’s dress shirts and working with my Dad to build a little “shoulders” platform that rested on my head: I was the headless horseman. No picture’s available for me to post online, however, sorry!
By contrast, this Halloween we decided that we didn’t really even want to take any of our kids into the ubiquitous no-name Halloween costume stores because the imagery is so darn violent and gory.
What’s happened to Halloween?
For kids I think it’s still fun, but am I the only one who finds the extraordinary level of commercialization and the simultaneous increase in the dark, aggressive, scary, gory imagery really depressing?
According to the National Retail Federation: “This year, the average person plans to spend $66.54 on the holiday, up from $64.82 one year ago. Total Halloween spending for 2008 is estimated to reach $5.77 billion.” [src] I’m not the only one that remembers that we’re in scary economic times, am I? Is the increase in spending due to us all wanting to hide from the reality of the times?
More stats: “This year, consumers will spend an average of $24.17 on Halloween costumes (including costumes for adults, children, and pets). People will also be buying candy ($20.39 on average), decorations ($18.25) and greeting cards ($3.73).”
These are projections, but still, even adjusted for inflation, I am sure that my folks didn’t pay $24 for my costume and, frankly, there just weren’t aisle upon aisle and even separate Halloween costume stores where you can get whatever you want to look however you desire.
But the spending isn’t what bothers me this year, it’s the direction that the holiday is going: it seems to me that we are getting more crass — with the sex-themed teen and even pre-teen costumes — and more bloody — with extraordinarily violent costumes and props for sale — than I can ever remember in the past.
It’s as if we can see the loss of innocence of childhood in Western culture before our eyes, an innocence that’s been taken from us bit by bit. Which just makes me wonder…
What’s Halloween going to look like in twenty years?