Halloween is my favorite holiday for a few reasons. It’s the first day of Holiday Super Season, wherein a major celebration occurs every month for five straight months. Secondly, Halloween encourages people of all ages to leave the mundane behind and embrace the weird, abnormal, and creative. How many other times in your life are you actively encouraged to dress in costume, play tricks with food, or scare random strangers as an adult?
It’s not ironic nor surprising that the most extensive research on Halloween as a holiday is paid for by the National Retail Federation. I don’t need to go in depth about the commercialization and gentrification of Samhain and Dia de Los Muertos. Halloween is so shamelessly commercial that we don’t even feign outrage 0ver the amount individuals spend decorating ourselves and our surroundings like we do with Christmas. This year, Americans were estimated to spend a record high of $9.1 billion on Halloween. Costume companies rake in the largest portion of that revenue by far, an estimated $3.4 billion.
Some people might add Halloween to the growing list of things Millennials are killing, turning the once sacred and mystic holiday into a bacchanal of booze, masks, and makeup. But I think the fact that we won the generational superlative of “most likely to dress up for Halloween” says a lot more about our generation than most statistics. Dressing up as your favorite character or putting on a mask harbors deep psychological and sociological roots, whether it’s done consciously or not.
Halloween is a time for me to express my inner nerd, at least nowadays. But not too long ago, it was a time where I expressed my inner “vixen” as the researchers call it. There was a sharp turn in 2013 during my junior year of college when I realized I no longer wanted to attract just any guy on Halloween, but the right kind of guy. I stopped dressing sexy and started dressing nerdy.
Let me be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dressing like a hooker for Halloween. When I dressed as Olive from Easy A all those years ago, I wanted to feel sexy. I wanted other people to think I looked sexy, too. But I was also secretly hoping deep down that I wouldn’t have to explain what the “A” on my corset meant. I was hoping I would meet at least one person, romantic or otherwise, I didn’t have to explain the reference to.
A Halloween Retrospective:
2011: Olive from Easy A, 2012: a sexy gangster, 2013: The Tardis from Doctor Who,
2014: Frankie from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, 2015: Furiosa from Mad Max Fury Road,
2016: Eve from Wall•e, 2017: Mariette from Bladerunner 2049 and Dolores from Westworld
That’s why I love Halloween. The people who should be shamed on this holiday are not the sluts, but the people who don’t dress up at all. Because that’s the thing when you put on a costume. You’re never actually becoming someone different than you really are. You’re putting your deepest desires, fears, and fantasies on the surface for everyone to see. If you dress up as a superhero, you probably want people to think you’re bad ass and super hot. If you dress like “slutty Trump” then you want to be viewed as sexy and politically aggravating. And if you dress up as Olive from Easy A, you want somebody to be in on your joke (and also to say you look like Emma Stone). That’s what we all want, to have people think we’re hot and cool and to be in on our jokes.