We very rarely feel like our blog posts should serve as de facto public service announcements, because for the most part, barring borderline sociopathic behavior like standing still on the lefthand side of an up escalator, we don’t care what you do. We really don’t. But with Halloween fast approaching, and with more and more evidence that the public needs help—like a lot of help—so that they don’t all act like assholes, we figured we’d just say it once and for all: Do not dress like Ray Rice for Halloween this year. Or like a sexy ebola nurse. Or Zombie Mike Brown*.
We know what you’re thinking—you’d never do that! And maybe you wouldn’t. But clearly, many people would. Clearly there’s a market for costumes that traffic in the the ongoing grief and pain that everyone from Janay Rice to Brown’s family to the thousands upon thousands of people who have been directly affected by ebola continue to experience and work through. And maybe some people just think that they’re being funny, or that in the case of the sexy ebola nurse costume, they’re joking about something that’s so terrible that it’s almost impossible to fully comprehend. But, not to put too fine a point on it, this is bullshit.
Even though it maybe feels like it shouldn’t, it does, in fact, bear repeating that there are real people affected by ebola, and that there are parts of the world where ebola is actually prevalent and ravaging local populations, where the disease is not the set-up for a joke about hipsters and bowling. And turning the Mike Brown tragedy into a zombie joke is not only distasteful to an extreme degree, it also ignores the fact that the situation in Ferguson is ongoing—protests continue, arrests are still made, police continue to be evasive.
But it’s the Ray Rice costume that seems to be the most prevalent this year, popping up on adults and children alike, not infrequently accompanied by hashtags assuring us that #domesticviolenceisnotfunny, but then following up with #butthiscostumesureis. Although the Venn Diagram of who would wear a Ray Rice costume and who would wear a Zombie Mike Brown costume would probably have a great deal of overlap, we tend to think that even more people think it’s permissible to sport the Ray Rice costume rather than the others. Why? Well, not only is it because Rice didn’t kill anybody, but it’s also because Rice’s victim and wife, Janay, is still with him. It’s no secret that people victim blame all the time (including, obviously, in the case of Mike Brown, but also in the cases of the Americans who contracted ebola), but it’s particularly pernicious in the case of domestic violence. Victims like Janay Rice are thought to be complicit in the crimes committed against them, and because of that, they are tacitly encouraged to stay silent. We judge them harshly for not reacting the way we want them to in an impossibly difficult situation. Never has this been clearer than in these terrible costumes, in which Janay Rice is is reduced to nothing but a doll, a toy to be dragged around and discarded at whim. Even when we revile the crime of domestic violence, it seems, we rarely see the victim as anything more than a prop.
So, when you’re planning your costume for Halloween this year, stay away from costumes that minimize the debasement and deaths of your fellow man. Sure, you might need to think a little harder about how to get a laugh, or how best to embody a specific meme, but we have faith in you. We really do.
Oh, and one last thing: It is never, never, NEVER ok to wear blackface. Don’t do it.
*It doesn’t really matter that this costume isn’t “real.” The very fact that it’s been thought of and that it’s out there, pretty much guarantees some asshole will be wearing it or something like it.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen