This Is Halloween … But also just October Advice on handling offence over the holiday

On Halloween, we take our costumes off, and you can see us as we see ourselves.”
Zac Gorman

I’m no stranger to courting controversy around Halloween. “We are a Culture Not a Costume” felt that when I responded to the vague way they attacked Halloween using the banner of “culture” to decide which costumes were more acceptable than others. Why dress as Hitler or a suicide bomber when you can dress as a spooky ghost or ghoul instead? My answer to that lies in rejecting the assumption that the undead are any less offensive than dictators and fundamentalists.


Anyway. It has always been my standpoint that Halloween costumes and performances should be about one of three things: how you see yourself on the inside, embracing the thing that terrifies you, or shaking foundations with the uncanny and the unsettling. It’s that last idea that probably causes the most contention. What shakes your foundations might utterly shatter those of┬ásomeone other house. You might be slightly unsettled by what deeply upsets or offends someone else.

Somewhere along the line a majority of costumers seem to have decided that causing offence is more important than allowing offence. Too often it isn’t about defending freedom of speech or allowing possibly hurtful forms of expression, but rather about going straight to those hurtful expressions with a stubborn intent that rejects dialogue and context under the banner of free speech.

It doesn’t have to be Halloween for you to accidentally fuck someone off, or trip the wrong painful memory in the wrong person. This could happen at any time, and is not about the incident itself but how you respond to it. Halloween shouldn’t get a free pass just because of its apparent holiday status. If someone takes offence then it is down to you to handle them, not down to them to suck it up or get out.


Equally, if you are offended by someone or something, don’t think that hanging back and sulking is enough, or that loudly proclaiming “I AM OFFENDED!” is sufficient without discussion or debate. If something is designed to unsettle, it is designed to engage, not as a singular moment of hurt but as an ongoing dialogue that explores exactly how and why it offends, and the intent behind it.

In short… don’t be a dick. Whether you’re the one causing contention or the one being hurt by it… don’t be a dick. Unless you’re dressed as one, in which case be the most uncanny and unsettling dick that you can.