What shall you wear for the Hallowe’en party? Beware, because the latitude for creativity, or for time-honoured traditional guise, is more restricted than ever. Take for example these hectoring guidelines from Hello Giggles: A Positive Community for Women on ‘how not to be a jerk this Halloween’:
- No problematic historical figures;
- Cultures are not costumes: absolutely no blackface/brownface/yellowface; absolutely no religious garb (eg hijab, bindi); absolutely no native headdresses; absolutely no gypsy-related costumes;
- Gender identity is not a costume: don’t dress trans if you’re not trans;
- Sexual identity is not a costume: don’t dress as a gay figure if you’re not gay;
- Don’t glorify violence against women.
Better put that Dracula cloak away, then. A sign of how the threshold for offence has been lowered is that thirty years ago fancy-dress parties were occasionally attended by someone in Nazi uniform. Such costume would cause a furore today, but back in the 1980s the wearer may have been merely depicting the German officer in the popular BBC TV comedy ’Allo ’Allo. In its Americanised form, Hallowe’en tentatively toys with the dark forces that fascinate us, but most revellers are not really honouring the Devil or earthly monsters. Consider Ozzy Osbourne’s response, when asked whether his band Black Sabbath promoted black magic: ‘Are the Rolling Stones into avalanches?’
A confession. As a naïve teenager I went to a fancy-dress party as an ‘Indian doctor’. At the time I thought I looked rather dashing with my dark tan, white coat and turban, and female colleagues were not averse to my offers of a medical examination. It seems very silly now, but I cannot abide the new puritanism enveloping our social mores. As always with the Left, the hypocrisy stinks. While Hitler is beyond the pale, mass-murderers Josef Stalin and Chairman Mao are not. Osama bin Laden would be distasteful, not due to his terrorist exploits but because of perceived Islamophobia. Vikings and pirates are cool, at least for now, but no gringos.
The tightening ratchet of identity politics is hollowing out Hallowe’en, but the problem is a lot bigger than that. The whole concept of humour is under attack, depriving us of a core facet of humanity. It’s no longer just the likes of Jim Davidson who are censored. Feminist comediennes are getting into trouble for insensitivity to transgenderism. ‘Edgy’ comedy is dying. Despite its being perpetually Left-wing, smug and condescending to the values of common people, I lament its passing, because I value freedom of expression.
A literal reading of the Hallowe’en guidelines suggests that to avoid cultural appropriation, a black man mustn’t wear a kilt. An Indian doctor should think twice about dressing as a Morris dancer. A gay man shouldn’t dress as Eddie Izzard – what, no gender fluidity? For the sake of equality, a homosexual bloke would not be allowed to dress as a heterosexual figure, say, Hugh Hefner. Limits to fancy dress and humour should be set by social norms rather than by narrow-minded activists. Of course, some outfits and jokes could be more distasteful in some contexts than others. But while the Left defend the burka by asking what harm is caused by a piece of cloth, can’t they apply the same principle to people having a customary night of fun? What a miserable society they are creating.