If You Go Scary, Go With a Celebrity
Among the multitudinous motifs and telltale indications that accompany the holiday of Halloween, we have: a color scheme (orange and black), a consumable commodity (candy for kids, booze for adults), a representative fruit (pumpkin), a perverse and totally unnecessary manipulation of said representative fruit (jack-o-lantern), a celebratory pie (again, pumpkin), an asinine activity (dressing up in scary, sexy, or otherwise gimmicky costumes), and even a time of day (night). I’m sure I’m overlooking a few themes, but my point is that Halloween has been bastardized in different ways by different people, and there are various traditions surrounding the spooky holiday – some of which can be traced back to ancient irrelevant superstitions, and some of which are just irrelevant all by themselves, no tracing required.
As most of us know from some arcane history lesson long ago, Halloween has its roots in the Celtic pagan holiday of All Saints Eve, when people would don masks to scare away the supernatural beings who walked among them. Hence, dressing up as a ghost, goblin, or other supernatural product of the overactive imagination, goes back a long way, and its original purpose (however misguided) was to inspire fear. So when you see some kid dressed up as a vampire this Sunday (and, no, I don’t mean Robert Pattinson, who just looks like a teenager who could use some sun), you can applaud the little tyke for upholding to the general spirit of the holiday.
I would like to start a campaign, however, to shame and berate the 19-year-old girls who think it’s somehow in keeping with Halloween to throw on tights, a black bra, a headband with ears and get away with calling herself a sexy kitty cat. First of all, sexy isn’t scary, and second, even though certain members of the feline population can be intensely predatory and downright fatal in the fairest of fights, I would not rely on a sexy kitten to drive away the devil’s minions.
I might, however, be more inclined to rely on . . . oh, say, Sarah Palin, who was one of last Halloween’s most popular celebrity costumes, up there with Michael Jackson and Barack Obama. My point is that, somewhere along the way, an acceptable Halloween substitute for a witch or a warlock became – you guessed it -- a celebrity. Now, you might think from my general attitude as demonstrated on this topic (see rant above), I would disapprove of this burgeoning practice. Not as much as you think. Of course, there are certain rules surrounding the celebrity-as-costume trend, and I think this is the perfect place to share them.
Your chosen Celebrity Costume must be iconic, and ideally have made news that year. This is why people like Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and John McCain were fine for last year, but not necessarily this one. Chances are any year that precedes a presidential election, you’re going to have options. But the year after that, you need to draw from other areas of fame. Michael Jackson also worked last year for this reason. On second thought, I’m pretty sure Michael Jackson always works.
Your chosen Celebrity Costume must be, at least to certain groups and demographics, a little bit scary. All of the famous figures from Rule #1 qualify for Rule #2, also. For example, even if you don’t consider Barack Obama scary, I can assure you that some people do. Even though I cannot back this up with proof, I would bet the farm that Hilary had her fair share of cold-sweat-inducing nightmares about the dude. And, in case you were wondering, Michael Jackson works for this one too. You do the math.
Your chosen Celebrity Costume cannot just look like some normal bloke. There must be something distinctive about his or her person. For example, if you’re blessed enough to look a bit like George Clooney, you are not allowed to throw on a T-shirt and jeans and enter your local bar’s costume contest. If you resemble Edward Norton, you can neither claim that you are Edward Norton nor the Incredible Hulk when he’s not angry. This last example actually violates two rules, which brings me to number 4. (Oh, yes, this one also passes the Michael Jackson litmus test, and is also the reason why Robert Pattinson doesn’t work.)
Your chosen Celebrity Costume cannot be a character some celebrity is famous for playing. It’s fine if you want to dress up as an iconic fictional character, like Batman, but you have to say that your costume is Batman. You are not allowed to say you are “Christian Bale” in Batman, even if you resemble Christian Bale naturally. There are a few exceptions to this, such as if two or more celebrities have portrayed the same iconic character differently enough to justify dressing up as just one of them. For this reason, you can dress up as the Joker and specify that you are either the “Heath Ledger Joker” or the “Jack Nicholson Joker,” because they are recognizably different, and neither one wore a mask. But if you choose this route you have to use the word “homage” in describing your costume. Michael Jackson was distinctive enough in all his roles in life to qualify.
Your chosen Celebrity Costume cannot just be some excuse to look like a celebrity version of a sexy kitten. You cannot just squeeze into some skimpy dress, take off your underwear and say you’re Lindsay Lohan, even if you smear white powder on your upper lip and fasten an electronic gadget around your ankle. Actually, that might work. Disregard number 5. Looks like you “sexy kitten” types found a loophole. And, yes, MJ, you pass.
Your chosen Celebrity Costume cannot look more like a different celebrity than the one you are trying to mimic. For example, you cannot dress up like Sarah Palin and say that you are Tina Fey. Even if you are prettier than Sarah Palin. In general, you also should not dress up as someone else dressing up as someone else, anyway. That’s just too meta for Halloween standards. It’s a kid’s holiday, for the love of God. And Michael Jackson, check.
In sum, I will share a few costumes I expect / hope to see this Halloween. Of course, I won’t reward laziness, so representations of certain celebs have to at least refer to said celeb’s bizarre behavior:
1. Lady Gaga, but only wearing a meat dress.
2. Kanye West, sporting a red vinyl suit and teeth made of diamonds (if you don’t actually replace your teeth with diamonds, I don’t even want to hear from you.)
3. Joaquin Phoenix, in full beard / sunglasses / crumpled suit getup. Even though I would normally frown on written explanations (if you have to explain it, it’s not effective), I will overlook it this time if you carry / wear a sign that says, “Not only am I still here, but I won’t go the hell away.”
4. Snooki. You don’t have to do anything special for this one. It will be challenging enough just to find the right shade of orange.
5. The Situation. Yes, you must have a six-pack for this one. Otherwise you’re just dressing up like some chubby dumb dude from Jersey, and that, my friend, is less a costume than it is a tragedy.
6. Michael Jackson. He always works.
Happy Halloween, everybody!
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