Trick or Treat

October 31, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Lisa over at Sociological Images has been giving a lot of thought to her Halloween costume. And everyone else’s. One of the themes she notes is the ethnic caricature: Asian, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, etc. There’s a “Rapsta” child’s outfit. And costume companies even have outfits for dogs.

(Click on the image to see a larger version.)
(Note that the above costume is in the “Religious Gifts” section of the Website.)
The other theme is Sexy, especially in female costumes. I was going to say “women’s costumes,” but as Lisa and many other commentators have pointed out, even the costumes for girls are often sexualized – fishnet stockings and the like.

During the recent (and future) flap over Roman Polanski, there was some talk of the idea that while American attitudes condemned categorically sex with younger teenagers, Europeans were less absolute, more tolerant. I don’t know whether that assessment of sexual mores is accurate, but you certainly wouldn’t know it by looking at the Halloween costumes on sale here in the US. Not only are costumes for girls sexualized, but as Lisa notes, the costumes for adult females include sexualized versions of young girls. The sexy schoolgirl is probably the classic example, though this year she is joined by her classmate from Hogwarts.

But you can also now find Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Alice (from Wonderland), Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, a generic Girl Scout, and probably others.

I wondered if a French costume site would have similar costumes. Admittedly, this is not thorough research, but everything listed under enfant>fille was Disney-pure. Perhaps the French draw the line between enfant and adulte at a lower age. But in the costumes for women, I didn’t find the variety of sexualized pre-teens that Lisa found at the US site. One Little Red Riding Hood, one Gretel, and one schoolgirl, as opposed to the dozens of variations at the US site.

The French site did have several different nun costumes. This fits with the strategy of sexualizing a status that in reality is usually unsexy: soldier, police officer, nurse, pirate, witch, angel, etc. Or even sponge.
(Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Note the price of the Bob l’Éponge Sexy costume, more than twice the nun. Must be the licensing fees. (The Olive Oyl costume – not shown, and not sexy – goes for 79€.)

Happy Halloween

3 comments:

FRANCESCA said...

Interesting Jay. Thought I'd check out costumes in Italy-couldn't find much.
Halloween has never been celebrated there until recent years, but America's culture is catching on. For the past 8 years it appears to be surpassing beloved Carnevale- a breathtaking extravaganza when Italians parade in magnificent masterpieces that are works of art! I'd suggest Venice in Februrary to anyone-puts a new spin on sexy.
http://www.lifeinitaly.com/culture/halloween.asp

Man of Letters said...

Whenever I see high school students walking around in the traditional short, plaid skirt with the white blouse, my first thought is always, "Why haven't they gone back to the drawing board on this one?" I mean, I don't really expect the Catholic Church to be hip to the cutting of edge of pop culture or more specifically sexual culture, but it seems like the "sexy Catholic schoolgirl" cliche has been around long enough and has become generally known to the point where for many people, the first sight of the uniform immediately brings to mind a costume rather than school attire.

But certainly there is a rather upsetting trend towards both sexualizing young people and sexualizing things associated with youth. The sexy schoolgirl is in fact not the most egregious of this. Pigtails have become incorporated into sexual imagery along with things like lollipops, and those are associated with PRE-pubescent children. But is this confusing men at all?

It's interesting to note that while there seems to be this weird and somewhat creepy trend going on, our society has probably never been more opposed to sexual relationships between adults and children, and the socially acceptable age range between legal partners seems to have narrowed considerably as well. Gone are the days when a 50-year-old man could marry a 16-year-old girl without serious consequences.

Accurate Psychic said...

This stuff is so cool!Nice costumes.:D