The balancing act of Halloween

When it comes to creeping out the neighbors, how far is too far?

We all know that cultural appropriation is harmful, but more issues continue to be overlooked during this holiday. It begs the question, “What other sensitivities are triggered during Halloween? 

It’s officially the spooky season! Leaves are falling, there’s pumpkin spice fever and the biggest indicator of the season, people are preparing for Halloween. Unfortunately, not all Halloween preparations are sensitive to the needs of our friends and neighbors.

Between decorating, dressing up and having an excuse to eat unlimited amounts of mini candies (they’re called fun-sized for a reason), it’s hard not to love this holiday. However, it might be a difficult time for some if the sights and sounds trigger upsetting thoughts or memories.

Halloween needs a glow-up

To further investigate this matter, I decided to visit my local Glow Halloween store to conduct some research. I was disappointed that nothing being sold struck me as fearsome. Although, many products appeared bizarre to me. 

In one corner of the store stood a scene of animatronic zombie babies performing acrobatics. While the dolls weren’t lifelike, the concept of a living dead baby could be hurtful to somebody who has lost a child.

Glow Halloween also sells animatronic nuns inspired by the 2018 horror film, The Nun. The character is fictional, but the religion it represents is real. This begs the question: is it okay to use religious figures in Halloween decor? If so, which are okay and which are off-limits?

The gross side of scary

As I looked at the products scattered throughout the shop I got the sense most of these decorations are designed to revolt the senses. 

I realize the horror genre comes in many forms, but I’ve never understood the connection between fear and disgust. Are people who hate the sight of blood afraid of it, or are they just disgusted by it? If this store is any indication, anatomy appears to play a huge role in modern trends of nauseating Halloween content. During my visit, I passed a whole aisle dedicated to various dismembered limbs. 

Cheesy haunted houses, like the one which used to grace the now-closed theme park, Upper Clements Park in Annapolis Valley, use these items in murder or medical horror scenes. The unsettling nature of the gore might evoke a good scare for some, but what thoughts might these scenes evoke for somebody who has undergone a medical amputation?

Where do we draw the line between good fun and being conscientious of others?

It’s a balancing act 

Are scary decorations and disturbing decor one and the same? Maybe. What is considered Halloween fun for some might be offensive to others. 

I’m not scared of dismembered bodies, but someone who has witnessed a horrific accident might be. This unknown territory of individual triggers makes it difficult to celebrate Halloween while simultaneously being conscientious of others’ feelings. 

It isn’t only gory or scary Halloween trends that can offend. With COVID-19 still an active worry in Canada and around the globe, the subject remains touchy, especially for those who have lost loved ones to the virus. Despite this, you can purchase COVID-19 inspired costumes, including one depicting a Corona beer bottle with a virus icon slapped on the label. 

As we choose costumes and decor, it’s important to consider some of the major participants in Halloween activities are children. According to Statistics Canada, the prime trick-or-treating age is between five and 14. While a 14-year-old might find bloody limbs on the lawn perfectly creepy, it could give a five-year-old nightmares. 

I have a policy about shopping. If I have to think twice about buying something, I probably shouldn’t buy it. This concept also applies to my Halloween costumes and decor. If we have to think twice about whether something could offend someone, chances are, it will.  

Being more mindful isn’t less enjoyable, it simply means that we are changing our perspective to create a more positive experience for everyone.

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