Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts on Female Halloween Costumes

If my last piece on Halloween costumes could be seen as male centric (particularly the last line, which was admittedly not the most feminist thing I've ever written), I thought this might be an interesting counterpoint to the issue of gore costumes... whore costumes!

I can't help but draw attention to the irony (hypocrisy even) of me opposing 'sexy' costumes. For years I've said that when it comes to censorship, what disturbs me more than any particular restriction is the dynamic between sex and violence, the utter backwardness of western priorities when it comes allowing gore galore to make it into R and even PG-13 movies while the MPAA threatens films like The Cooler and Boys Don't Cry respectively for showing too much pubic hair and a close up of a woman's face while enjoying an orgasm (see the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated for details). In general, I still think that if something needs to be cautioned or censored, violence is something parents should be more concerned about than sex. The nature of sexual content however does make that claim complicated. How is sex depicted in a given film, and what messages does it give? Is a film's depiction of sex, sexist, glorifying negative gender dynamics? Does it simply provide false or misleading information about sex? In these regards, sexual content dosen't necessarily get a free pass over violence, and for now I'm not even touching where the two blur together. However, even with this acknowledgment I must question if the concerns of sexual content fall truly explicitness or more precisely upon the context and specific substance--the happening--of the content. For example, a film showing explicit sex may allow sex to be depicted more realistically as opposed to unrealistically. Though it may be highly counter intuitive, is there not to some degree a higher level of responsibility in the graphic sex scenes of The Dreamers than the modestly show and romantically lit sex scene in The Terminator? The Dreamers has youths having sex with all the explicit biological complexities of virginity (the breaking of the hymen), but it also has skillful acting that conveys the psychological recklessness of the characters who ultimately through the film's climax are revealed to be utterly self-destructive in their decadence. In The Terminator, we may have adults having sex (excusing for the moment that they are still out of wedlock) but with them there are no complexities, nothing visceral and intimate and complex at all. It is simply this magical, idealized, wonderful thing, that looks utterly beautiful, sterile , and fun to do. Even the fact that she becomes a single mother is left as an overwhelmingly ok thing. It is attractive sex with no consequences, and when you think about it, PG-13 films are even worse about this kind of thing.

Returning to the costumes, I like Lindsey am not really opposed in the sense of wanting to deprive anyone of the right to dress like a scantily clad soft-porn star if they choose to, but the issue is rather one of availability. These are the images that costume stores and companies crank out as the female costume option. Your options every year are, cat skank, fairy princess skank, pirate skank (as opposed to say, Anne Bonny) and so on and so skankily forth (via FIFE comments section which I highly recommend!). Now, my reasons for generally defending gore costumes were pretty well explained previously, but taking the predominantly gender divided options into consideration, isn't this a pretty disturbing dynamic? Is this not the worst connotation of my closing line about "the sight of a kid wearing a Freddy glove, with a bucket of candy, saying, 'One, two, Freddy's coming for you...' to the annoyance of his sister" brought to the forefront? Costume companies encourage boys to dress up like phallic weapon wielding slasher characters while girls are to dress up like sexual objects. I.e., boys kill skanky girls is the visual narrative at play. But don't women and girls have gore costumes too? Well, yes, but there aren't many stores selling female killers as much as fetish witch costumes and the like. If anything, girls get to be victims any way you cut it (pardon the pun). At best, they get empowerment framed within male fantasy.

Back in 2002 a horror movie came out called May which I thought had a wonderfully iconic killer in it. A woman who wants to be loved but isn't, so she kills people to make a man who will love her out of their body parts. In appearance, she's like a not dead Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas, only rather evil with a pair of scissors. Not exactly the most feminist contribution to horror, she was nonetheless effective as a moder Carrie in her own weird way, ad I fully expected to see tones of girls running around in May (the character's name) costumes the fallowing Halloween. Nada. Not a single one did I see. A google image search has thus far found me not only no stores selling May costumes, but not even any homemade May costumes, which is surprising since as a seamstress herself, she should have been a big hit with the Gothy DIY crowd. Most of the other female killers of horror like Jason's Mother tend to be absent from costume companies as well. This isn't entirely surprising considering that there was little iconic about many of them in appearance, having no masks or special weapons that made them stand out, and my previous point being that it is the iconic image and look of Jason, Michael and Freddy that have given them lasting power, but May, like Carrie, had that striking look. Only Sally seems available, and for all her lovableness, she's really not a monster so much as an awkward girl that wants to get away from her parents and live with an angst-ridden guy who ignores her (sorry Lindsey). Sally is not exactly one to make bumps in the night.

Ultimately all I can really say about the issue is MAKE YOUR OWN COSTUMES! That and perhaps flood the internet with images of the ones you make. That way the costume companies that make this crap might catch on to what people really want and make a wider range of options. There really is something creepy about the gender divide in costume types; I say we close it, fill it, blur it.


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