Two days ago, my colleague, whom I respect deeply, posted an incendiary article on this blog regarding the shortcomings of a certain beloved festival in 20 ludicrous points. We haven’t spoken since, so deeply was I effected by her cutting remarks and scrooge-ish attitude to a day that brings joy to so many, including myself. To make her see the error of her ways, I have no choice but to deconstruct her points, and smash them like pumpkins in the streets.
Believe me when I say that my passion for Halloween would allow me to write lengthy pamphlets addressing each of Megan’s 20 points. But I think really they boil down into four big issues:
- Scare Culture
- The Nature of Fear & Pleasure
This shit is about to get academic.
One day a year, everyone is granted amnesty to gorge on all the refined sugar they can find. They are encouraged to go to their neighbors’ homes and steal this candy. You don’t even have to buy it, people just hand it to you in a show of goodwill that even Christmas doesn’t wring out of most Americans. How can you not see the glory in this?? And I’m not talking about the shitty old school sweets – candy corn, those weird peanut butter taffies in orange and black wax paper that people STILL buy – I’m talking about the mini candy bars, the popcorn balls, the caramel apples…that’s some legit, festive cuisine my friends. Keep your Thanksgiving turkeys, your dyed hard-boiled eggs, your gingerbread. Give me your mini KitKats and funsized (Fun! It’s in the name!) Snickers and I will put as many in my mouth as I possibly can. Megan, the calories don’t count today.
Guys, as I write this I’m listening to my specially curated Halloween playlist. That’s right, the world has produced enough songs relating to this holiday that I can choose 3 hours of hot tracks to put me in the mood. And it’s not just music – this fascination with spooky scary stuff extends to ALL of the arts. The painter Peter Doig did an entire series of works based on the final image of a canoe on a lake lifted from Friday the 13th. Arguably Francis Bacon’s entire oeuvre is terrifying. Composers like Camille St. Saen and Mussorgsky have used sinister, supernatural themes in their highbrow works. And film! The horror genre out-produces every other film category out there EVERY YEAR, that is how awesome it is. Serial killers, psychos, movie monsters and gore. The people have spoken. And don’t get all snooty on me, saying that slasher films don’t qualify as art – I will throw the steamy, bloodcurdling works of Hitchcock and Kubrick like hot coffee on your junk.
And I don’t even know where to begin with literature. We could argue that Halloween began with the oral tradition of myths and ghost stories, and now we’ve got Poe and Lovecraft and King. And this is the shallowest sampling of art created specifically to frighten! We could go on for hours. This is getting me all worked up.
Megan takes issue with costumes as a whole in her post. They’re cute on kids, weird on adults, and grotesquely over-sexualized for grown women (and increasingly for girls, you leering weirdos). This is why I promote eschewing the Slut Factory Inc. costumes this time of year and going the homemade route. Megan claims this is too much work. Nay! This isn’t necessarily so. Let’s look at Halloween 2009 – Erin dressed like Erin, but put on a pair of glasses. While drinking, she occasionally slipped in snatches of song lyrics, particularly, “You say….I only hear what I want to….”. That Halloween, I had gone as Lisa Loeb, the laziest Halloween costume of all. Triumph!
Costumes are for superheroes, spies, con artists, stage actors, and servers of subpoenas – all people far cooler and more interesting than YOU, except on Halloween. On one glorious day of the year you get to join their ranks, you get to exceed your sad little life and be a werewolf or a zombie or a firefighter. Seize this opportunity! Even if you only throw on a pair of glasses and call yourself a 90s songstress, you’ve at least tried to join the festivities. You’re being a good sport. And at this age, it’s not so much about the costume you’ve created as about how much drinking you can do while wearing the costume. Just sayin.
The Nature of Fear & Pleasure
It’s common knowledge that fear and pleasure are closely linked. (Educate yourself on your amygdala, yo.) It only takes a little common sense to see this illustrated by the popularity of all forms of horror entertainment capitalizing on our desire to be scared. We crave it. We want to exist in that intense, bodily, animal fear response to gross stimuli. We want to be washed with relief and pleasure when we “escape” the haunted house, or turn off the DVD, or turn the lights back on. We get off on this, I get off on this, and it’s awesome. I just watched Paranormal Activity alone in my basement, I’ve never felt more alive!We particularly like this at Halloween because, well, it’s safe fear. It’s one night where you can expect people to try and spook you, removing the element of surprise that REAL fear requires. Same with movies – that topless chick isn’t really getting chainsawed in half. That’s corn syrup, not blood. Those are a lot of bony people in heavy makeup, not zombies. The guy with mask on over there is probably NOT a serial killer. Simulated fear is far more fun than the real deal. It’s luxurious, and a little bit gross, but we do it anyway.
I get that some people aren’t into Halloween, but I just can’t see HOW. Because what I really love about this time of year is that it’s basically a ton of people agreeing to the impossible – sure, dead people can come back, and guess what? They want to eat your brain. It’s a ban on boringass rationality. It’s a month of twisted creativity. It’s exactly like Christmastime, just, you know, a lot fucking darker. So unto all you Halloween naysayers, I say, loosen up and enjoy yourselves. Buy a tshirt at Hot Topic, eat a Milky Way. Get the shit (and perhaps the stick up your ass contained therein) scared out of you.