Are Some Halloween Costumes Too Scary?
When my mother took me to see "Burnt Offerings" at the vulnerable age of 8 and "The Shining" at 12, instead of leaving the theater traumatized, I developed a healthy, even ravenous, taste for terror. And in accordance with my love for horror films, Halloween is my favorite holiday. Now that my kids are nearing that age range, I'd love to pass my passion onto them.
The costume search is perhaps the most exciting part of Halloween for my family and each year, we take delight in choosing costumes together. As the seasons have come and gone, my kids have dressed as The Cat in the Hat, Power Rangers, Mad-Eye Moody, Sam I Am and various witches and Star Wars characters.
But, these days, a trip through the Halloween costume section of any drugstore, mall, or website reveals something absolutely sinister. Even as a self-proclaimed terror junkie, I am appalled by some of the violent costume options that are hanging on the shelves for kids.
Co-mingling with colorful cowboys, benevolent ghosts and family-friendly TV characters are kid-sized costumes for sadistic murderers, knife-wielding rapists, and deformed homicidal lunatics. Most costumes are for children under 12, but in many cases, they shockingly also come in sizes 4-6.
To name a few: Michael Myers from "Halloween 1 and 2", Leatherface from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Pinhead from the "Hellraiser" series, Jason from "Friday the 13th," and Freddy Krueger from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" all come in kids' sizes. Just slapping an R rating on these films is like putting a surgeon general's warning on a hand grenade. Kids are likely to be drawn to these costumes and ignore the rating no matter how hard we as parents pull them in another direction.
The inappropriateness doesn't stop at the characters themselves. The costumes are accessorized with life-like bloody machetes, blood-stained knives, axes, chainsaws, severed limbs with bloody or bony ends, and other torture and murder toys.
Now, I am all for parents taking responsibility for teaching their kids good values, but when companies go out of their way to market patently inappropriate products to kids, it makes it that much harder for parents to instill and enforce these values.
And it's naive to think a kid would wear a movie-themed Halloween costume yet not be curious about the movie itself. Try to explain to your kid the difference between Leatherface and Bob the Builder. If kids in school are raving about how "cool" this Leatherface costume is, trying to convince your kid that what it represents is not-so-cool will send all kinds of mixed messages.
The real world is already saturated with violence; our kids don't need to be hosed down with it via Halloween costumes.
I admit that if my kids do develop cravings for creepy movies like I did, it may be my fault. But until then, there's plenty for them to sink their tiny teeth into, like R.L. Stine, Harry Potter and bowl after bowl of candy corn.
Joel Schwartzberg is a nationally-published essayist and author of "The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad"
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