A mom friend of ours, Melissa Rayworth, wrote a great story for The Associated Press examining why very gory, scary costumes are so popular this year even for the youngest kids.
“Gory Halloween costumes aren’t new, of course. …
“But in a year when Abraham Lincoln was depicted as a vampire hunter and zombies are everywhere, gory costumes that were once reserved for preteens and teens are now available in ever-smaller sizes.”
“One example among many: The national chain Party City’s “Boys Skinned Alive” costume will fit, according the company’s website, “most children over 4.” Even costumes that were once benign now have violent twists: The sweet, simple “sock monkey” is now a bloody zombie sock monkey with razor-sharp teeth, sold in sizes small enough for kindergarteners.”
“For the last couple of years, darker is where it’s been at,” says Melissa Sprich, vice president of Halloween merchandising for Party City. For babies and toddlers, Sprich says “darker” may mean dressing as a devil this year, rather than a cheerful dinosaur. But for all other ages, many parents are seeking vampires, zombies and “the Freddies, Jasons and Chuckys” even for kids too young to see those characters on screen.”
Here are some theories about why these costumes are so popular from AP:
“David J. Skal, who has chronicled America’s fascination with horror since the 1990s in numerous books, including “The Monster Show,” says he’s surprised at the level of “monster-ization of children” we’re seeing this year.”
“He points out that for centuries, frightening masks and “scary stories have been used to pass on a kind of coming-of-age message to children that the world is not always a safe and welcoming place.” Perhaps, he says, this year parents are especially preoccupied with just how unwelcoming the world seems.”
“Researching his history of Halloween, “Death Makes a Holiday,” Skal spoke with people who grew up during the Great Depression, and remembered dressing up as what they called “hobos and bums.” At that time, he says, “people were very concerned that the whole social fabric was coming apart. The idea of the rise of the unwashed masses kind of has a parallel with our fascination with zombies.”
“Chris Alexander, editor-in-chief of the long-running horror magazine Fangoria, says in the 1930s, characters we now see as relatively harmless like Frankenstein’s monster or Count Dracula were unsettling moviegoers just like Chucky or Michael Myers.”
“But, Alexander points out, those characters were effectively defanged through decades of adaptation before they became dress-up fodder for preschoolers. Frankenstein’s monster morphed into bumbling Herman Munster and Dracula eventually translated into Count von Count on “Sesame Street.” No such softening has happened with characters like child-killer Freddy Krueger: They are realistically depicted in latex and fabric, then wrapped around little trick-or-treaters….”
So does it matter if kids dress up like killers:
“A single day spent surrounded by horror imagery probably won’t have lasting impact on kids, says Cynthia Edwards, professor of child psychology at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. But some children will be unsettled by dressing up in realistically gory costumes or by seeing classmates dressed that way.”
“What can be especially confusing for kids, according to Fangoria’s editor in chief Chris Alexander, is that “parents, by and large, will say ‘no’ to horror and say ‘no’ to gore for kids all year long. But once a year they have no qualms about taking them to stores with body parts everywhere and animatronic dead things coming at them” to buy disturbing costumes.”
“Then, he says, without offering kids any way to put all of this disturbing imagery and play-acting into context, “as soon as Oct. 31 is over, horror is buried again.”
I am personally very bothered by kids dressed up as movie killers like Jason or Freddy Krueger. I just don’t think it’s appropriate, or very creative, to emulate killers in movies.
I’m not as bothered by zombies or vampires. I guess because they aren’t real. People get killed all the time by murderers with knives. I don’t know of anyone who had died from vampires or zombies.
What do you think: Are you bothered by kids dressed as movie killers? Where do zombies, vampires or violent sock monkey fall on your scale?