Back in the day, the most frightful offense on Halloween was either a teacher who banned costumes in the classroom, a torrential downpour starting at roughly 4:45 p.m. or being on the receiving end of a house doling out pennies for UNICEF and small packs of raisins instead of a pumpkin bucket or glass bowl full of miniature Snickers bars and M&M snack packs.
That was the era when local toy stores sold plastic superhero masks that wrapped around the back of your head with elastic, accompanied by some kind of a vinyl bodysuit and cape that fit awkwardly over the warm clothes that lame parents forced their children to wear underneath.
Determined kids vowed not to come home until they achieved an entire pillowcase stuffed full and overflowing with candy.
At the end of the night, dads rifled through the bounty, sampling the loot for any loose razor blades or sprinkles of cyanide — you know, just to be on the safe side.
It was a much simpler time.
The costumes these days make, say, the hobo costumes of yore seem downright politically correct. After all, weren’t the kids dressed like a kind of Charlie Chaplin tramp really just raising awareness for and eliciting sympathy on behalf of the beleaguered homeless population?
It’s not so much the Halloween getup available online today called “Road Kill Child Costume” — which “includes a gray jumpsuit with printed tread marks and three-dimensional ‘guts’ and a funny headpiece with a face opening” — that signal times have changed, and for the much, much worse.
Nor is it necessarily the “Child Mac Daddy Pimp” ensemble, which is tween-sized and comes with a jacket, pants and “pimp hat” (although the description says it’s up to you to get the “bling bling”) that is a sure sign we’re all going to hell on Oct. 31.
Part of the problem lies with the classic costumes that have gone wild. As in, totally slutty — and not Julia Roberts-“Pretty Woman”-high-class-hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold-and-even-better-hair kind of slutty. More like HBO “Real Sex” in the back of a cab with an STD-riddled stranger, or some kind of a Bunny Ranch type of whore-y.
It’s not enough to dress like a cute little kitten anymore. Now girls are compelled to dress as cats in heat, desperate to attract a mate with skin-tight bodysuits and sky-high heels. Or as a cupcake ready to show exactly the flavor of frosting that’s lurking inside, with vagina-length skirts and tops that dip down in an apparent effort to objectify the poor sternum.
Pretend-cop uniforms for small girls seem less appropriate for Halloween and more apt to be worn by someone at a bachelor party who would likely say something such as, “I hear somebody’s been a bad boy,” while smacking a baton in her palm.
No longer is a skeleton costume for girls just a frightening mess of bones. Now it’s a psychologically terrifying spandex bodysuit that calls attention to the parts of the body most normally on display in gentlemen’s clubs and skin magazines.
Even Hello Kitty is in on the action, with a namesake costume available for kindergartners that would make them appear as if they’ve joined the world’s oldest profession by donning something that’s only notable for how little there actually is of it.
But it’s not just sex that’s found its way full-force into Halloween for the younger set. It’s also other general inappropriateness.
Spend a couple of minutes on Google and find a kid with dynamite strapped to his chest in an effort to disguise himself as a suicide bomber while trick-or-treating. There are baby girls dressed as Hooters waitresses and pole dancers, but those costumes are probably better — emotionally, anyway — than the one showing a very little girl dressing up as a dead version of Dora the Explorer.
There’s a viral photo of a baby in a marijuana-leaf costume. Another shows a small boy dressed as Hitler. Yet another tot has a pint-sized Ping-Pong table over his head, with a game of beer pong happening on either end.
It’s hard to say which is more disturbing: a photo of a toddler dressed for Halloween in a life-size condom wrapper or another of a small child wearing a pack of cigarettes as a costume as he asks strangers for candy with his dad, who is dressed as a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
Without wishing a bad Halloween on today’s generation of eager trick-or-treaters, maybe rain or snow, and therefore nowhere to display costumes that would make poor Vincent Price spin in his grave, wouldn’t be the worst thing to befall Oct. 31.
More at www.meredithcarroll.com.