On the lighter side: Inappropriate Halloween costumes?

Last night was was contemplating a Halloween costume for a party I was supposed to attend. My wife suggested and went as a “homeless person” complete with a cardboard sign reading “will work for candy”.

At first blush it seemed wrong to make light of homelessness by using it as a costume. Don’t misunderstand me here, I’ve never had this impression that it might be inappropriate before — not about any costume as a matter of fact. I’m not asserting some moral superiority here but for some reason it struck me last night . I ended up going as a mailman only because the plaid shirt didn’t fit, otherwise I would have worn the “homeless” costume.

I’m curious what you think. Are there costumes that are inappropriate to wear for Halloween? Not so much because they are demonic or evilish and offend those with religious sensibilities. I mean like a couple wearing a Nazi uniform with Ann Frank in handcuffs or something like that.

Is anything off limits when it comes to costume choices for Halloween?


  1. Oooohh… No time to get too much into it, as I’m just taking a break before I have to haul a table down the stairs, but this is a HUGE can of worms you’re opening – and I had no idea it was a thing until the past couple of years.

    Halloween is a holiday where people dress up in incredibly offensive costumes, but are blissfully unaware of it. You’ll find many a blog discussing the inappropriateness of costumes that turn culturally/ethnically/religiously important themes and reduce them to horribly offensive stereotypes, except the people wearing them don’t usually know enough about the culture/ethnicity/religion to know that they are being offensive. Think “Native American” costumes, with the sacred headresses, or “Mexican” costumes with the somberos, ponchos and giant mustaches, etc.

    Worse and more blatant is the sexism. Check out costume companies and compare male and female versions of the same costumes. Women can’t just dress up as a [fill in the blank], she has to be a *sexy* version of it, displaying a lot of flesh. What’s *really* creepy is that the same thing is expected of little girls. Nothing like a “sexy” 5 yr old Snow White! Oh, and Boy Superman looks like the comic books. Girl Superman (Supergirl?) is pink and looks nothing like the comic Supergirl, which is already a sexy version of Superman with the mini-skirt and CFM boots.

    Some examples. http://www.theroot.com/multimedia/racially-insensitive-halloween-costumes

    • So of we take stereotypes and exaggeration out of the mix, what are we left with?

      I mean a stereotype is nothing more than a character isn’t it?

      • “… stereotypes and exaggeration out of the mix, what are we left with?”

        Hmm.. I’m tring to figure out if you’re being facetious with that question or not. There’s a LOT people can dress up as the doesn’t involve cultural appropriation, racism or sexism.

        I worked a local radio station’s Halloween bash one year. My favourite costume was a group of people who dressed as Tetris pieces. They were awesome!

  2. I think we should all just go back to dressing in a manner that hopes to scare the crap out of people. After all, Halloween has no connection to Spiderman, cowboys or doctors, unless those characters are dripping with blood, are zombies or some other evil being. But that’s just me.

  3. John,

    In your wife’s case, it’s hard to be sure. Is it offensive to dress up like a homeless person? I don’t know. What does a homeless person dress like, honestly? I’ve seen supposedly homeless people wearing nicer clothes than me, which totally destroys the stereotype we all know from television. My experience has taught me that homeless people come from all walks of life, with apparel and appearance as diverse as the people.

    However, if your wife is dressing up like Adolf Hitler, waltzing through, as Jesse Jackson would say, “hymie town,” then obviously the costume is purposely provocative and thus offensive. Intent is what matters, I believe, and there are certain costumes, historical figures, and costume alterations that are, in the mind of any sane individual, clearly outside the bounds.

  4. I’ve noticed an increasing number of teenaged and younger girls who appear to think that dressing as a hooker is a vise costume choice.

  5. I think Halloween is inappropriate itself for Christians.

  6. Assuming Christians won’t be practicing necromancy or otherwise communicating with the dead, I fail to see the spiritual conundrum Halloween creates for believers in Jesus Christ.

    These days, Halloween is a secular holiday and most participants are unaware of its true origins, opting instead for the greedy candy company explanation. So I think as long as Christians behave as though enlightened by the truth of Jesus Christ (e.g., rejecting Pagan beliefs), then Halloween is a fine opportunity for them to enjoy themselves. I see nothing inherently evil about costumes, candy, or trick-or-treating. Do you?

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