Friday, October 30, 2009

Nearly Scary

(News-Herald, October 29) It’s that time again.
I don’t mean election time. This round of elections reeks of dullness. In Franklin most races were settled in primary season, except for the city council contest. We have two candidates running for three seats, which means the field is ripe for some sort of write-in campaign. I’m not sure if the seat is for a particular ward or an at-large, but I’m going to suggest we all write in “Christian Marshall” for councilman, because I think we could at least count on him to make council meetings more entertaining.
But, no. I mean that it’s Halloween time again.
There are lots of things not to like about Halloween, starting with its newfound role as the kick-off holiday for the Christmas season. When Tim Burton put Christmas and Halloween together for The Nightmare before Christmas, the result was one of the best movies ever. When retailers put creepy plastic skeletons next to fake Christmas tree displays, the result is just disturbing.
But for people-watching, Halloween can’t be beaten. Get a big vat of candy, sit on your porch, and the parade comes to you.
Incredibly Cute Children are the bread and butter of Halloween, and there is something pleasantly heartwarming about how they are usually part of a family field trip. I appreciate the ambition of families who spend the night piling in and out of the car after cruising for the next street filled with burning porch lights. And I’m always encouraged by the large number of parents who gently remind their children to practice basic courtesy. Most of the customers actually say, “Thank you.”
Of course, that’s only the customers who can actually speak. There’s something vaguely unethical about using around a trick-or-treater who can’t walk, talk or chew as a Halloween prop. I wait apprehensively for the year that someone comes carrying a stuffed or inflatable child as an excuse to gather sweets.
Halloween has lost a certain amount of its brand identity. Theoretically, it’s the holiday to be scary, but costumes both in the stores and on the streets don’t stick to the theme very closely. There are certainly many traditionalists who trot out the fake blood and creepy faces, but in many cases it takes extra effort to scan for scariness.
Small children generally stick with cuteness. Little boys dress up as super heroes, which is not at all scary, while little girls frequently turn themselves into princesses. The princess thing will eventually be scary to those super-heroes, but not for another couple of decades.
Grown men are encouraged to simply give in to our worst fashion instincts. Plenty of costumes look suspiciously like the clothes that many of us wore on purpose decades ago. I freely agree that lots of that is plenty scary, but somehow I can’t quite associate vampires with disco and tie-dyed vests.
Grown women—well, in the costume section of any store, you can see a certain pattern emerge as you walk down the aisle: sexy nurse, sexy maid, sexy raggedy ann, sexy nun, sexy grandma, sexy cable repairwoman, and sexy sexpot. Any character you can think of in the pop culture world exists in a “sexy” version for women; as God is my witness, a woman can buy a sexy Spongebob Squarepants costume this year if she wishes, and I have to admit—that is a little bit scary.
The tough costume demographic remains the teenaged crowd. Of course, many prefer the traditional ski-mask and dark clothes ensemble. (Question for grocery store managers—are more eggs sold just before Easter, or just before Halloween?) For those who hope to grab a little treat with their egg-flinging trickery, the choice is usually a little face paint plus A) something ugly, B) something torn, or C) the same sports jersey that you usually wear on game day.
Occasionally one finds teens who will commit to looking fully ridiculous, but most are torn by the tricky issue of trying to beg for treats while still maintaining their dignity. It’s a useful skill that many will need later in life; I suppose that’s a bit scary, too.
Perhaps Halloween has become a time to just sort of let loose and act a little silly. I can’t argue with that. It can be scary to get out of your box, but sometimes when you do the really scary things, you get the biggest rewards.
And that’s why I’ll be writing in “Christian Marshall” for city councilman in Franklin.


Bethann said...
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Bethann said...

All well put. Good to see you this weekend...of course now I'm trying to remember if my kids thanked you, and if I did my job as a parent to remind them, UGH! If we forgot, thanks for the treats, it was a great Halloween.
Sidenote, if I lived in Franklin I too would vote Christian Marshall, if for nothing else the comic relief he would DEFINITELY provide. I'll bet those televised council meetings would get a boost in viewership too, HA!

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