For Halloween 2021

The calendar moves inexorably towards another Halloween, which falls next Sunday. I will be sharing a selection of songs for it on the day, but there is another aspect to it for me. Most years since I began this blog I have written about the commercialisation of this date and, in particular, one feature of this: the stigmatisation of mental health in some of the costumes on offer. Things have undeniably improved since 2013, when two big retailers – Asda and Tesco – were forced to remove some costumes from sale after the understandable furore they generated. There is a link below to what I said in 2013 about those companies, if you’d like to see it.

Websites I have previously named and shamed are still at it, but choose to get away with it by describing their costumes as ‘Hannibal Lecter’ or something like that. They do have fewer of these costumes than in previous years, so I guess a little progress has been made. Sadly, though, similar costumes are all too easily found on a giant online site like ebay:

Or, if you prefer to start your kids stigmatising mental illness from an early age, how about this?

When I was a kid Halloween wasn’t an event we marked in any way. Here in the UK we were busy making our guys for the forthcoming Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night celebrations on 5th November, and hadn’t yet imported the commercialisation of Halloween from the US. So I’m sorry to say, American friends, that your celebration for this rather passes me by! That doesn’t mean that I don’t recognise its importance to you, but it does seem to me to be a little artificial for it to be ‘celebrated’ here. This is, perhaps, a little ironic as the origins of Halloween can be traced back to this side of the Atlantic, in a pagan festival mostly known (in Ireland and Scotland, anyway) as Samhain, though there are different names for similar festivals in other Celtic regions. The name ‘Halloween’ has been in existence since around the mid-18th century, and is a derivation of All Hallows’ Eve, i.e. the day before All Hallows’ Day, on which remembrance of the dead takes place. In the past, celebrations have included mummers and costumes, which I guess has been handed down to us through the generations in the way that people dress up: witches are an obvious outfit, but there are many others available, most of which leave me wondering what relevance they have!

The event didn’t really take off here until modern day marketing and commercialism took over, At some point over the past 30 years or so this has become a bigger thing in this country, probably as a result of the way in which American popular culture has been transferred over here by TV shows. Never one to miss an opportunity to make money, retailers have been falling over themselves to profit from Halloween. But in their doing so, the boundaries of taste have often been forgotten. As I said earlier, I wrote in 2013 about Asda – and to a lesser extent, Tesco – selling costumes that mocked mental illness. The message that these were giving children, that it was somehow acceptable to make fun of people with mental health problems, was appalling, and the retailers had to give in to the outcry and withdraw the products from sale.

But even eight years after that you can still find such costumes for sale now among the specialist online fancy dress retailers, though I do accept that there are fewer of them. Here are a couple of examples I found yesterday without too much effort. Firstly, from partybritain.com, a repeat ’offender’:

Or this, from an appropriately named site:

No doubt there are others deserving to be named and shamed but I didn’t feel inclined to look any further. How can anyone believe this to be acceptable? This is a shameful way to make money, but I guess that as these companies are much smaller than the likes of Asda and Tesco they have managed to slip under the radar. That doesn’t make them any less guilty in my eyes, though.

Another depiction of mental health issues which I find objectionable is to be found in horror movies. To be honest, I have a very low gore threshold and don’t watch a great many horror movies, and don’t really understand the fascination they hold for so many. Each to their own, of course, but where I really draw the line is when someone who is mentally ill is the main character in a movie and their illness is used in a stigmatising way. You’ll know which movies I mean, I’m sure: how anyone can see these as entertainment is beyond me, though I do like Jamie Lee Curtis in her other movies!

I really wish there wasn’t a need for this reminder, though it is good to see that the prevalence of stigmatisation in Halloween outfits does appear to be declining. But I’ll keep doing this until the last one has gone and it doesn’t have to be said any more. Enjoy your Halloween celebrations, but not at the expense of others, please. By all means have a good evening, but don’t mock those who are unable to defend themselves against unfair stigmatisation.

43 thoughts on “For Halloween 2021

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  3. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but I find it detestable that companies can produce costumes such as these. I suspect the intention is purely profitable rather than purposely targeting mental health, but that doesn’t make it less disgusting.

    On a different subject, the kids and teachers usually dressed up at school for Halloween. We had to frequently cautious parents about having their kids come to school in costumes promoting violence.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree that their motive is profit but, as you say, that doesn’t excuse their insensitivity.

      It’s interesting that you say it is one of your favourite holidays, but that you had to warn some parents about their kids’ costumes – I hope the school took the opportunity to educate them about the true meaning (which isn’t sweets and pumpkins!).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kudos to you Clive for making a stand those costumes are appalling and shouldn’t be allowed… like you Halloween never featured in my upbringing it was Guy Fawkes(although) my mother would never let us take our guy and go begging as she put it and do “Penny for the guy”…Our guy was for the bonfire only and of course Harvest Festival featured highly but never Halloween…Here Halloween isn’t celebrated either so I don’t have to get my grumpy hat on and be a party pooper…sigh…all those sugar-laden sweets…xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree, Carol, but that’s commercialism for you. We did take our guy out, but Dad came with us – I think he was concerned to make sure nothing happened to his wheelbarrow. At least you’re spared it there, though the event here seems to stretch into one long set of fireworks – we’ve already had some this year, nearly two weeks from Guy Fawkes!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you Clive. I know kids love spooky stuff and I can see the appeal of grotesque faces on pumpkins and the sweet treats but it is the adults (i.e. big daft kids) and retailers who have taken it a step too far. We took our grandkids 5 and 3.5 to a pumpkin farm and they loved it ….except for the over gruesome ghosts and zombies props that scared them so we had to steer them away. Witches are fine but blood soaked zombies and depictions of mad and psychotic creatures is just sick as far as I’m concerned. Our grandkids will be quite happy dressing up in dinosaur outfits and counting pumpkins on halloween.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think you’re doing it right, Paul, but even that is much more than I’d ever have thought to do with ours! My granddaughter (3) has a witch outfit but I don’t think she goes in for zombies or the really scary stuff. If we’ve forgotten its origins we may as well make it good clean fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It is ridiculous that there are the costumes you shared; how can a company think such a costume would be appropriate? And like you, I’m not a fan of horror movies, but it is unfortunate if the main character in such a movie is someone with mental health issues.

    I appreciate you keeping us aware of these issues. And sorry that the UK is following the U.S. lead on this holiday. I must admit I liked it as a kid, not so much now…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Clive – you have such a caring tone when you speak up about an issue – and this is an important one –
    Here’s to your mental health advocacy (as you do so well)
    And it is sad about the commercialization of so many things and i did not realize we helped this holiday take off over there.
    My issues with Halloween relate to the candy and the heavy, morbid feel. Which I know is part of the fun- to scare a little and be sacred / ((and you are right that it is in poor taste to insult mental health needs by playfully dressing up as the mental patient))
    But when I realized how sinister this holiday was I withdrew from some of the ways we went about it – the costumes can be fun and the Halloween parties can be fall festivals without the gore! Without the insults – and horrible messages and stigmatizing you mentioned
    Also realized that all that sugar is so horrible for all health- and Clive – so many folks do not talk about how chemicals and shit food impact mental health!
    Studies show that D3 in the winter can help combat low moods or help chase away depression
    Life is so connected to food and the sugar consumption sends the body into hiormoje haywire and also suppressed the immune system
    And so the hubs and I were like “what were we thinking letting our boys have so much candy around Halloween”
    Yikes – but part of culture accepts sugar in moderation (which varies by person) and it is completely ok for someone to say “I need a sugar fix” – because we gloss over the very serious way it impacts the brain – the very serious way it strains the pancreas and adrenals – the way it suppresses immunity – and the way it feeds pathogens!
    The it gets worse when the candy / especially the holiday versions / have artificial colors and flavors – the artificial colors have heavy metals in them – as does plastic – and an accumulation of heavy metals 🤘in the human body also negatively impacts immunity and can pull from mental wellness and physical wellness (because they go hand in hand / the gut is a type of second brain -and dr Kelly brogan is a depression specialist and part of the great success she has had with her patients relates to physical health – like D3 and coffee enemas – and before we snicker at the easy coffee enema / like a little bottle and not the bag procedure – lol – but if the bowel is not happy the body will not work right and crazy coffee enemas help so many people because it can help gently flush out a very important area

    Anyhow / I am sad that I was a sugar pusher on Halloween / which means that I had the bowl of mini candy bars and gave good bags to folks with sugar and food that doesn’t help life! I feel sad that in the summers I was the mom with the high end snow-cone machine and bought the fun syrups and after basketball “blessed” sweaty children in neighborhood with icy treats – later I see this sugar concoction was refreshing and tasted well because a laboratory made sure it hit the tongue and brain just right!
    Okay – sorry to ramble – but a good post like this does arouse emotions and thank you for taking the time to REMIND us
    😊🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Yvette, for your kind words and support. I won’t attempt to respond to what you say – you’ve said it all far better than I could! Have you considered turning this comment into a post? I think it would work well, and you clearly know your stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi – I am actually trying to limit my posts right now – trying to cut back to get other projects done – and one of them is 90% done – I took some of my flash fiction – the ones I liked most – and put them into a book last July / I thought the hard part was to be categorizing – but that was a snap! Instead – the hard part has been the editing and adding behind the fiction section which I feel strongly about adding – and it is not difficult but time consuming and I am trying to also watch how much time I spend sitting or on devices / yawn! Such are the matters we contend with today!
        And so while I would love to write about my thoughts on sugar / or the vaccine which I am haunts mandating for children and even for others – and while I’d love to post about so many topics – like how EDTA capsules helped me get reduced my heavy metal loads in my own body and how I got off sugar using a cheap herb blend and used good fatty foods and rich oils along with Vitamins to rebuild my terrain- and still find I am repairing damage from a sugar diet (that was subtle) and from antibiotic abuse from dentists / lol
        But maybe a few years from now I can devote more time to some Intentional posts
        In the meantime / I am glad I can voice a little bit with hearty and heart-felt posts like this one

        Liked by 1 person

      • I understand! We all have so many pressures that get in the way of what we’d like to do. Maybe you can come back to this at some point, as you suggest.

        Good luck with the book – I hope it is completed soon and look forward to seeing it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Clive – I also have some other life things to tackle (sigh) but hope to blog more in December – and you have inspired me to write about this topic in January! It adtualkt feels nice to think about so thanks for the suggestion and encouragement
        In the mean time – hope you have a wonderful rest of your day

        Liked by 2 people

      • I hope those other things go well for you, and look forward to more posts from you when the time feels right. Enjoy the rest of your day too – more of yours left than of mine!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes – a lot more of Sunday over here – and the sun is shining and slight breeze in the air as I type this – such a sweet autumn day ((and notice I did not say “fall” day – I remember you mentioning that on one of your posts – hahah – so autumn it is!))

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I remember as a child, dressing up as a “hobo.” That would certainly be considered offensive these days, as it should. When my kids were little, I hated Halloween because it meant more work for me, lol. Now I can actually enjoy seeing the trick or treaters.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I always loved Halloween and still do. For us it was a chance to dress up as a favourite storybook character. I was once Little Bo Peep and another time Red Riding Hood. I made my son a Snoopy costume which was later died pink and the ears and tail changed for my daughter to wear as the Pink Panther. I have a Jane Austen costume I often wear these days. I would never even think of making fun of people with mental illness. That is terrible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know it’s a big thing in North America, Darlene, and have nothing against that. But it has moved a long way from its original meaning, which I doubt many over there could describe. That lack of knowledge is partially responsible for some of the more awful costumes, I think. But there does seem to be a reduction in them of late, which is good to see: I’d like to think that many who wear such things are probably just unthinking, rather than deliberately trying to mock or be hurtful.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Clive, thanks for sharing this. I am not sure I want to go out with someone costumed in a “psychotic nympho Halloween ladies fancy dress.” They may emulate the Praying Mantis and devour their mate afterwards. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I would either, Keith. Far too risky. And if someone thought it was funny dressing like that I doubt they’d be a candidate for my friendship 😊

      Like

  11. HI Clive, Halloween barely makes a ripple here in South Africa and there are very few parties or celebrations that I know about. I’ve only ever been to one in my whole life and that was hosted by me and was actually more of a Harry Potter party. My son had a dress up for this last day of high school. I thought it was interesting that so many boys chose to go as a foodstuff. Hotdogs, hamburgers, pizzas and other food were the name of the game. Maybe that just highlights the main interest of teenage boys.

    Liked by 2 people

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