A Thin Line Between Appropriation and Appreciation
Halloween costumes have become another topical minefield to navigate in a nation that is increasingly sensitive to real or perceived affronts.
In recent years many people have been called out for wearing insensitive or offensive costumes, and many celebrities have been “canceled.” It’s important to think about costumes before you wear them, as many will agree that there are a few outfits to stay away from.
Not all costumes are offensive but those that are should be carefully avoided. One of such is dressing up as the COVID virus or a “sexy vaccine”. The fact is, we are still in the middle of a pandemic, and COVID-19 is killing people every day so costumes like these might come off as inappropriate or offensive, even if that was not the intent.
Sometimes it could be borne out of ignorance or sheer innocence, but then sometimes it can be done on purpose.
Events like mass shootings, natural disasters, COVID-19, and movements like #MeToo should never be used as inspiration for Halloween outfits. Even if you have not been personally impacted by any of these events, making light of them reminds countless others of trauma they have endured or that one day they wish they could forget.
A pandemic that has killed over a million people (and rising) in the United States alone is not a costume or event to be celebrated; it is a horrible tragedy that has significantly impacted many lives. Resist the urge to dress up in a medical hazard suit, anything resembling a virus or as a victim of the virus itself. Making light of something topical might seem funny, but there is nothing comical about more than one million people in this country who have died from COVID-19
Good Housekeeping magazine recently published a list of 15 “cringe-worthy, harmful and offensive costumes that ruin everyone’s good time.” The list rightly includes anything that involves blackface or the COVID-19 pandemic or anything suggestive of cultural stereotypes.
Take My Advice: Do Not Be Insensitive
A lot of people are going to wear a medical hazard suit or anything resembling a COVID virus this year. Do not be one of them. It is downright insensitive and not funny—many people have been affected by it, so show some respect.
It can be difficult to define when, exactly, a costume crosses the line into offensive territory, because humor is so subjective, notes Paul Lewis, PhD, a professor of English at Boston College and author of Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict. “Jokes in themselves, regardless of what images and events they conjure, aren’t amusing or unamusing until someone reacts to them,” he says….”Not everyone would find it funny, especially now, though some might be more inclined to be amused. It’s complicated.”
Remember, impact matters more than intent, says Viveca Greene, a critical humor scholar and associate professor of media studies at Hampshire College. “I think we need to get over the idea that somehow if your intentions are okay, your actions can’t be damaging and hurtful.” As such, she says her instinct is to advise folks to err on the side of caution this Halloween and avoid COVID-19-themed ensembles altogether.