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The Scary Rules of Halloween Costumes

Halloween costumes have changed a lot over the years, moving with the times and reflecting popular culture in the decade they’re in. Back in the 1930’s the rise of Disney had a huge impact on Halloween fancy dress, adding a range of cartoon characters to the previous collection of ghouls and ghosts costumes. In the 60’s the rise of superhero popularity was mirrored in the public costumes of choice, and in the 2000’s celebrity crazes meant that people were leaving behind fantasy and fiction in favour of dressing up as real life characters. It’s no surprise then that in 2018 Halloween costumes are being affected by two different but equally prevalent trends: political correctness and internet memes.

Some classic costumes are still popular today. This year there will still be plenty of superheroes, monsters and princesses, and in 2018, 200 years since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published, Frankenstein’s Monster remains one of the most popular costumes going.

But there are also some classic costumes that are being called inappropriate and even offensive in today’s world. Some of these are fairly obvious, but 2018 has also claimed victim to some costumes you might have thought were fairly harmless, with certain Universities even issuing guidelines on costumes that won’t be tolerated. University of Kent Student Union has issued a list of banned costumes including cowboys, Native Americans, priests and Mexicans, while Indian costumes and Ninja costumes are amongst others that have been accused of being offensive or culturally insensitive. The once popular gorilla outfits have even come with a warning this year, with some saying they’re insensitive in light of the killing of popular gorilla, Harambe. These newly proclaimed insensitive costumes have caused some debate, with people against them saying certain costumes enforce negative cultural stereotypes, while those in favour say it’s a wholly innocent act and any complaints are Political Correctness Gone Mad.

costumes used to be based on what's been famous in the last hundred years, like cowboys and gangsters, or presidents and astronauts, now it's what's been getting attention in the last few years, like minions, avocados or 'being ghosted'.

However, if 2018 could see the end of some costumes, another of today’s primary cultures is doing a good job of replacing those that have been left behind. Halloween is now not only an opportunity for people to dress up in classic Halloween costumes, but also in new fancy dress outfits based on the movies, television shows, celebrity and politics stories that have generated the best online content and got people talking in the last twelve months.

So whereas people have always dressed up as movie characters, they now dress up as the famous scenes or iconic images that have been made popular as memes or gifs; while celebrity costumes used to focus on a particular outfit or image the celebrity was famed for throughout their career, now they change year on year, based on what outfit or music video was most popular in the previous twelve months; and although most costumes used to be based on what has been famous in the last hundred years, like cowboys and gangsters, or presidents and astronauts, now it’s what’s been getting the most online attention in the last few years, like minions, avocados or ‘being ghosted’.

All this means that in Halloween 2018 we might see a few less of some costumes and a few entirely new ones, and in today’s cultures of political correctness and constant online content, this is likely to continue in the years to come.

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