Why Are People Surprised by Racist Halloween Costumes?
Welcome to a special Halloween edition of This Week in Racism. I’ll be ranking Halloween costumes on a scale of 1 to RACIST, with “1” being the least racist and “RACIST” being the most racist.
-This might come as a major shock to you, but wearing racially insensitive Halloween costumes is pretty popular. Blogs got their digital panties in a twist in 2012, 2011, 2010,2009, and pretty much every year that the internet has existed as a perpetual outrage machine. Halloween is like Christmas for racists, because it’s an easy way to cloak bigotry in the guise of fun.
It should be no surprise, then that Julianne Hough’s foray into the darker side of the holiday (pun very much intended) generated a ton of attention this week for her choice of costume. Bloggers slammed her for insensitivity, and friends came out in support of her choice to dress up like an African-American character from Orange is the New Black. I don’t imagine she’s a hateful person, nor do I think she was out to offend. That said, as a celebrity (even a reality star) who happens to be white, it’s definitely not wise to step out in public with a bunch of brown paint on your face… unless you’re going as a delicious piece of semi-sweet baking chocolate, which is such a great idea. Seriously, you can have that for free. 5
Implausible Literary Halloween Costumes That No One Will Get
Acquire a small loan from a local bank or a rich friend and use the money to buy the most expensive pair of black-rimmed glasses you can find. Maybe use a little hair gel or something, but only just enough so that you feel like you look cool but didn’t mean to. Wear a white oxford shirt and Duck Head pants with a braided belt and some penny loafers, maybe. If you want to be “edgy Jonathan Franzen” you could get a jean jacket rather than a blazer, but make sure it’s one of those jean jackets that costs as much as a blazer. You should smell a little musty, like a library mixed with birdshit, covered up with Annick Goutal’s Easu D’Hadrien cologne. I recommend practicing your disinterested-and-scornful-but-internally-knitting-suburban-majesty face in the mirror while blasting Michael Bolton. Make sure that throughout the night, when surrounded by people, this expression never changes. Maybe keep surreptitiously farting without gesture, always looking elsewhere while standing against the wall nearest to the exit, pretending to be reading an email from your agent instead of lurking through the profiles of single young women who’ve mentioned you on Twitter.
A Literary Agent
Dress like you did for Jonathan Franzen, but this time actually talk to other people, making sure to laugh more loudly than is necessary at jokes that aren’t funny. Don’t say anything yourself, just kind of stand there, awkwardly hovering near wherever the most active part of the room seems to be. Don’t be afraid to end an awkward or boring conversation by simply turning away from whoever’s taking up your time in mid-sentence and joining in with someone else. Make sure you spill some of your food on your shirt, but pretend not to notice. When it’s time to leave, accidentally walk into the coat closet. Then stay there.
What Not to Wear This Halloween
Oh, Halloween. The worst night to get a cab and the best night to take home a slutty Disney princess. Is it really a holiday, since we don’t get the day off from work? Of course it is, because when else could you get nudity in massive quantities, enough facepaint to excuse you for bringin home a five, and cauldrons full of shame the next day.
Before you skank-it-out at a house party, leave your credit card at the bar, or turn into a weirdo roaming graveyards, you’ll have to pick out a Halloween costume interesting enough to spark a conversation with that five. You’ll have to navigate the thin line between offensive enough to be clever and overcompensating with complete stupidity. For those not smart enough to use all three digits of their IQs, we’ve brought you a guide on what not to wear on Halloween, so when you only pick up your sexy pizza-slice costume off the floor the next morning and not also your dignity.
Who sells that? Amazon.
What’s it supposed to be? A “realistic black Kenyan man”—perfect for doing the Harlem Shake (um, what?).
Why shouldn’t I wear it? It’s racist.
What kind of person wears that? A bigot.
Who makes that? aleXsandro Palombo, for his website humorchic.com; a “daily society portrait blog, the best illustrated fashion chronicle, a point of view about costume, politics, culture, society, and celebrity. aleXsandro Palombo is the father of fashion satire, visionary artist, author, and critic.”
What’s it supposed to be? It’s a T-shirt of Amanda Knox holding a bloodstained knife.
Wasn’t she acquitted of murder? Yes.
What kind of person wears that? The kind of person who believes they are the “father of fashion satire.”
If you didn’t catch it this weekend, you can watch Arcade Fire’s new concert special “Here Comes the Night Time” right here.
Kukeri is a traditional Bulgarian ritual that takes place sometime between the New Year and Lent. Grown men dress up in furry costumes and go dancing around villages, in an attempt to scare away evil spirits and bring good harvest and health to the community for the year.
They do this by imitating various physiological acts—like sex and giving birth—and by wearing massive wooden dicks around their waists.
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PART-TIME HUNKS -
FIVE ELVIS IMPERSONATORS SLIP ON THEIR BLUE SUEDE SHOES AND GET PERSONAL
Robert McArthur, 44
VICE: How did you first become interested in Elvis Presley?
Robert: It all started with me being a fan when I was a kid. When Elvis died in August of 1977, I had just started listening to him and getting to know who he was. The very first concert I saw was his last TV special.
When did you decide you wanted to become a professional Elvis impersonator?
About ten years ago, my mom asked me if I wanted to go see an Elvis impersonator in Buffalo, New York, which is where I’m from. Seeing it brought me back to my childhood and gave me a renewed interest in Elvis. I became friends with these Elvis impersonators and told them about my childhood dream of dressing as Elvis. They said, “You should give that a try. You never know.” Eventually they convinced me to do it, and it turned out to be a great success.
Did you have any musical experience at that time?
Yeah, I had been in bands but never anything big. I didn’t do much singing. I mostly played guitar and used it as a way to get more confident with my voice. Throughout the years I’ve been in oldies bands, country bands, folk bands, heavy metal… In fact, I have an oldies band I jam with on the side right now.
How often do you perform as Elvis?
About three to four times per week. On the weekdays I perform at nursing homes and senior centers, and I also do singing telegrams. Then on the weekends I do birthday parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and similar events. I’m also an ordained minister.
Do you get asked to marry a lot of couples?
I do a couple per year. I marry people as Elvis and also do vow renewals. I do a package where I will marry them as Elvis, perform at the reception, and DJ the wedding.
Do you have other jobs, or is this it?
This is my full-time gig. In addition to Elvis, I also do other celebrity impersonations: Neil Diamond, Engelbert Humperdinck, and the Blues Brothers, as well as that oldies band I mentioned. That one is a superhero band—every person is dressed as a different superhero, and we do oldies and 60s surf music.
Which superhero are you?
Batman. We have Superman on drums, Green Lantern on keyboard, Aquaman on bass, Wonder Woman on trumpet, and Hawkgirl plays the sax.
Are people within the Elvis-impersonator community friendly with one another or is it more competitive?
Yeah, most of the guys get along. I’m friends with the local guys, but there are also national people. I traveled around when I first started out and went to the Elvis contests where I met a lot of them. I would say that 90 percent were great to hang out with. In the local community, if I can’t do a job I’ll call someone else and ask them to do it, and they’ll do the same for me. There are a few guys who aren’t very nice or sociable, though. There is a little rivalry between Elvises.
What’s the best Elvis song?
That’s a tough one. He has over 700 songs. I can’t put a favorite one out there, but I really enjoy a lot of his movie songs. He made 31 movies during his career and did the soundtracks to all of them, but none were very big hits. There are a lot of hidden gems in those films. One of my favorite movies is Live a Little, Love a Little, which he did later in his career.
Tunes aside, what’s your favorite thing about Elvis?
He was larger than life. He was loved by so many people. He had a very lavish lifestyle but was still down-to-earth and very generous as well. People would admire his cars, and he would give them the keys and say, “Enjoy.”
Do you ever run across female fans who have an infatuation with Elvis, and does that extend to you?
All the time. We were doing a party for this husband who hired Elvis for his wife’s birthday, and she was going crazy. She was acting like I was the real Elvis. She was practically fainting at my knees and hugging me as I performed. My girlfriend gets a big kick out of women trying to get close to me when I’m performing. It’s funny.
What makes your Elvis impersonation special?
I connect with the audience. If I see they are not enjoying themselves, I make sure that they do. My performances involve a lot of audience interaction and I give away scarves or teddy bears, like Elvis did. I don’t have an attitude, and I very much become Elvis when I put the boots and shades on. I try to put on an authentic show Elvis would be proud of.
BARBARIAN, VOID OF REFINEMENT: A COMPLETE HISTORY OF GOTH
1) A: of music, in a style of guitar-based rock with some similarities to heavy metal and punk and usually characterized by depressing or mournful lyrics.
B: in fashion, characterized by black clothes and heavy make-up, often creating a ghostly appearance.
2) A barbarian, void of refinement.
What the fuck is Goth? Are we talking Bauhaus or Marilyn Manson? Siouxsie and the Banshees? The kids who buy their Jack Skellington socks at Hot Topic? As Supreme Court Justice Stewart said when asked on what would constitute ‘hardcore pornography,’ “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand … But I know it when I see it.” That’s basically where Goth Rock fits; difficult to explain, but there’s no denying it when it’s in front of your face. For me it’s a genre of music that gets lost in the shuffle, often confused with the slow drone of post-punk, or the horror-movie themes of ‘Death Rock.’ But to sit and listen to ‘Goth Rock,’ there’s no denying it deserves a bit of the spotlight. And if any time of year is the right time of year, it’s now, on Halloween.
The origins are murky. Legendary music critic John Stickney coined the term ‘Gothic Rock’ in 1967 when describing a meeting he had with Jim Morrison in a dimly lit wine-cellar as “the perfect room to honor the Gothic rock of the Doors.” Make no mistake; the Doors were not a quintessential ‘Goth’ band, but much of Morrison’s poetic romanticism endured. Born from the political frustration of punk rock and the drug-fueled weirdness of post-punk, ‘Goth Rock’ is a jambalaya of minimalistic music, sparse arrangements, bass-driven sexiness, soaring keyboards, and pounding, droning drums. The vocals drive the song with dark lyrics, spinning tails of unrequited love, death, isolation, and loneliness. Though popular in America, the genre was firmly British, invoking images often associated with English poetry and literature; dark fields, fogged city streets, abandoned cemeteries.
‘Goth Rock’ makes no excuses and proudly carries the banner of its predecessors; combining the sexiness of Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop, the vocal delivery of Leonard Cohen, the drone-rock of the Velvet Underground, the eclectic movements of David Bowie, and the theatrics of Marc Bolan from T. Rex. Taking these elements then fusing them together with modern technology, ‘Goth’ has championed the use of modern effects in songwriting, incorporating digital synthesizers, keyboards, drums, and programming.
DIY Halloween Costume: Torso in a Suitcase
Back in the day when Halloween was way cooler, Celts would dress up in scary costumes to frighten away demons. I like my costumes to follow the same notion because it’s badass and because we’ve accumulated a lot of frightening shit over the past five centuries. One of the scarier stories that I’ve heard is of more recent history: The Tale of the Troubled Man-Boy Who Wanted to Become Famous by Dismembering Kittens and People.) That’s why this year I decided to dress up as the infamous torso in a suitcase. Maybe I’ll be able to rid the impulse-to-produce-snuff kinds of demons.
STEP 1: FIND A VICTIM
You’re going to have to cut up a suitcase, so find one that you don’t really care about. I found mine at a second-hand store for eight dollars. At the same time, you can’t just pick any old suitcase, so this might be a bit of a scavenger hunt. You have to make sure that whatever you choose will be big enough for the core of your body to fit inside of, and sturdy enough to hold up its structure. You’re essentially just making a dress out of a suitcase, so choose something you’re going to feel excited about.
STEP 2: CHOSE YOUR WEAPON
What I didn’t realize before starting the project is that it would require the use of power tools, which in this context made me feel sort of nauseous. If you don’t trust yourself to use power tools without accidentally cutting off your own arms, get a friend to help! We used a Dremel mini-grinder. If you don’t have one of these at home already, I would suggest buying one because they’re awesome. That would bring the total cost of this costume up to 40 dollars, which is still considerably less than a shitty packaged costume you would find at a Halloween story. Plus you’ll be the proud owner of a tiny, electric-powered death-bringer.