Thursday, October 19, 2006

The New York Times style section has an article on the prevalence of trampy pre-fab Halloween costumes for women. The article treads fairly lightly stating the obvious that adult women are wearing increasingly sexier outfits, many involving the sleazification of childhood characters and themes: Little Bo Peep Show, being perhaps the nadir. Dr. Deborah Tolman, the director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University is quoted as saying: “It’s not a good long-term strategy for women.” Though she hopes that Halloween could be a place to examine our roles.

An opposing view is presented in Pat Gill, the interim director of the Institute of Communications Research and a professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who is quoted as saying: that perhaps the uber-sexy costumes are a way of “embracing fictional characters that women loved as children while simultaneously taking a swipe at them…The humor gives you a sense of power that merely being sexy doesn’t.”

Now I write “quoted as saying” because every experience I’ve had with the press involved being misquoted, and having my name spelled wrong to boot. I think that’s what they teach ya in Journalism school. For all I know, Ms. Rosenbloom’s article was eviscerated by her editor.

Anyhoo, the article seems to hope we can find something subversive, or at least humorous, in dressing sexy for the male gaze. In short, enjoy serving the patriarchy, ye pirate wenches. Feh.

Ann at feministing hilariously asks if she can find dichotomy costumes like Virgin/Whore. The comments section is good too. They also point out that all these crappy costumes are store-bought—which the article doesn’t seem to notice.

In my day, a Halloween costume was something you made, rather than bought. I know, I know, that’s like saying: in my day we had teradactyl eggs for breakfast. I find the increasing consumerization of Halloween (Halloween, goddamn it!) repugnant. Those pre-fab slut costumes show zero imagination. And what a waste of polyester. Is no one capable of making something out of tinfoil and fabric paint anymore? Does no one own a glue gun? Does everything have to be made off-shore by children in sweatshops?

However, I don’t think that the strumpet costume is all that new. I have a photo of my Mom and her friends dressed as Playboy bunnies circa 1977. (And she was also sporting an awful poodle-perm—total blackmail material for sure.)

My older sister’s Halloween costumes had the same theme for about 10 years: hooker. There are photos of us together over the years. Me as a ballerina and she’s a hooker. I’m a witch and she’s a hooker. I’m a fortune-telling gypsy (complete with tarot deck), she’s still a hooker. Then began the years of my high concept costumes, when I was Gregor Samsa (no one got that one), Simone de Beauvoir (no one got that one either), and finally the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (death, pestilence, famine, and war made more of an impression), and she was—well, you got the idea. True, what she actually wore always changed, but she was very devoted to her concept.

Halloween is the closest we come to Carnival or Mardi Gras. Ideally it’s a time for subverting the dominant paradigm. It used to be the only time a man could go out in drag without being arrested. That’s why it’s called “legal drag” on Halloween (it’s gay lore, trust me on this one). But perhaps all our fantasies are tainted by false consciousness. My costumes over the past years have been way too princessy. Perhaps I should finally make good on my promise to go in drag as a sailor from the perverse imagination of Jean Genet’s Querelle by way of Fassbinder. Get me a false moustache and some spirit gum and see if I can't stir up some trouble.

Alas, it will all pass me by this year. Far, far away from the bacchanal of my beloved Manhattan, I’m going to be stranded in Los Angeles where everyone goes to bed at 10:30. No, I’m not kidding. You think television production starts la-de-da at 11AM? No, Ma’am. You gotta be on the set at 6 in the morning for make-up. Think working stiffs are immune to this schedule? Many office-type places open super early to stay in sink with New York’s 9:30 opening of the Stock Exchange. Feh.

I saw Annie Hall again last night, which I think is Woody Allen at his best. His take on LA/NY rivalry is priceless. At an L.A. Christmas party hosted by Paul Simon, we see a very young (handsome!) and confused Jeff Goldblum on the phone saying: “I forgot my mantra.” I think that will be my mantra for this trip.


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