Retailers end up in the headlines year after year for offensive Halloween costumes. Where do we draw the line? And should we be outraged?
Offensive Halloween costumes have become a yearly tradition in themselves.
Last year, both Asda and Tesco withdrew “mental patient” Halloween costumes after thousands reacted angrily to them on social media.
This year, Ebola-themed Halloween costumes appear to be all the rage, with one site selling a hazmat suit for $79.99:
One healthcare worker told MailOnline Brands on Sale’s “Ebola containment suit costume” wasn’t her idea of a funny Halloween costume. Physician’s assistant Maria Mckenna said: “Normally I think that irony and humour is funny, but this thing with the costumes, is it really that funny? I mean, Ebola’s not even under control yet.”
But Brands on Sale’s chief executive Johnathon Weeks didn’t see the problem. He told the Atlantic: “It’s Halloween. It’s one day. If people are that serious about it, they don’t know what Halloween is about.”
Meanwhile, in the UK, bloodstained cheerleader and American football player costumes are being sold by the Walmart-owned supermarket Asda.
Child-sized blue and white cheerleader and American football uniforms featuring bloodstains and extruding bones, muscle and cartilage, “sure to be scaring everyone at those Halloween parties”, are being sold on its website and in stores.
A petition calling for the supermarket to remove the costumes from sale is being backed by Asda customer Sheila Pinney, who claims the costumes have “an obvious bullet-style pattern”.
Yet sales are strong: on Sunday, the bloody cheerleader outfit was sold out in ages 9-12.
A spokesman for Asda denied the bloodstains represented bullet holes, telling the Telegraph: “We appreciate that it isn’t for everyone but the majority of our customers love dressing up at Halloween, especially in spooky or gory costumes which inevitably can include fake blood.”
Some may argue that discussions about tasteless Halloween costumes take the silliness out of what is, for the majority in the UK and US, a light-hearted celebration. Halloween should be a time when wearing a zombie glitter ball or dressing as a bloodthirsty Whole Foods cashier is acceptable.
In the 14 months after the Newtown shootings in December 2012, where 20 children and six carers were killed, there were a further 44 school shootings, resulting in 28 fatalities. Of those, 20 involved shooters under 18.
And while the Ebola outbreak continues, is it right to make light of the epidemic with a Halloween costume? Or is it all meant to be in good fun?
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This article was written by Carmen Fishwick and Elena Cresci, for theguardian.com on Monday 20th October 2014 12.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010