Results of the Offensive Costume Vote

November 2, 2017 • 1:30 pm

I’ve compiled the data on yesterday’s vote about all 16 costumes presented by Insider as being offensive. For each costume, I’ve given the name, the percentages of “no” (not offensive) and “yes” (offensive) answers, and the total sample of respondents. We clearly have a group not prone to offense, but that’s no surprise. Also, I’m sure we have more than 15% women who read this site (and probably responded), though I don’t know how many members of minority groups we have. (I’m going to remedy this soon with another poll.) If we have very few members of the groups that are most likely to be offended, that would explain the fact that for every costume—save Anne Frank—a large majority of readers found it inoffensive. If you want to explain your votes on specific costumes below, and didn’t in the last post, I invite you to chime in.

This has been a useful exercise for me, at least—helping me think about why I found some costumes more offensive than others (only two, really), but, more important, how do we determine whether a). a costume is offensive (and presumably you’d have to poll those whom the costume conjures up, and get a large majority rather than just one offended Arab or Native American);  b). whether, if it’s offensive, you shouldn’t wear it; and c.) should you call out such costumes when you see them? I’m still thinking about these issues, but clearly polling people here tells us only whether the readers of this site find something offensive, rather than whether people whose cultures are represented by those costumes find something offensive. And surely the opinions of the latter group is more important.

For those costumes that were found offensive by 10% or more of readers, I’ll add my own gloss below:

Sexy Shooter

No: 90.0%
Yes: 10.0%
N = 492

I was surprised by this one, as the Mexican “stereotype” didn’t seem to be making fun of Mexicans so much (the sombrero is the Mexican equivalent of a cowboy hat, and if it’s denigrating, then every member of a mariachi band is denigrating Mexican culture. But of course members of a culture traditionally have a lot more leeway to use “offensive” terms, or wear certain costumes, than do “outsiders” (the use of the word “nigger” is a classic example). I suspect, but don’t know, that women dislike “sexy” costumes more than do men, and that played a role in this costume.

Dream Catcher
No: 83.8%
Yes: 16.2%
N = 488

Many Native Americans might find this offensive, particularly because of its “spiritual” connotations, and I suspect readers, guessing that, gave it a 16% offense rating.

Men’s Arab Sheik Costume

No: 87.0%
Yes: 13.0 %
N = 476

I was surprised that the “yes” vote was higher here, for (as Greg observed) the costume is accurate, and doesn’t seem to be making fun of anyone. One person noted that when he wore Arab dress one day a year on a national holiday in an Arab country, everyone liked it. Likewise, when I wear Indian clothes in India, people like it.

Golden Geisha Costume

No: 93.0%
Yes: 7.0%
N = 473

Rasta Costume

No: 91.4%
Yes: 8.6%
N = 466

I found this offensive, but most readers didn’t. Why do I feel this way? I’m not quite sure, except that I thought it was the equivalent of “blackface”: the fake dreadlocks and hat seemed to me to mock Jamaicans.

Anne Frank/World War II Costume

No: 50.6%
Yes: 49.4%
N = 492

This was the most “offensive” costume, and it’s clear why: it uses dress-up and fun by appropriating a terrible story of a girl killed in Auschwitz. It’s in bad taste. I wouldn’t wear it, but I wouldn’t tell other people not to, for what I consider offensive is not something I’ll enforce on others, or call them out about.

Dia De Los Beauty Costume

No: 96.2%
Yes: 3.8%
N = 467

Inflatable Ballerina Costume

No: 74.4%
Yes: 25.6%
N = 464

My guess is that this was pretty offensive to some because of fat-shaming: it makes fun of people being overweight, and overweight people are already somewhat ostracized.

Drooper Costume (Older Hooters Girl)

No: 70.8%
Yes: 29.2%
N = 456

My guess is that more women found this offensive than men, for it mocks an inevitable result of aging in women, as well as objectifying the sex by using the “Hooters girl” trope. (I have to say that I’ve never been to a Hooters and wouldn’t want to go.)

Reality Star in the Making Costume (Kylie Jenner)

No: 96.7%
Yes: 3.3%
N =  449

Upside Down Honey Costume

No: 92.9%
Yes: 7.1%
N = 434

Sexy Convict Costume

No: 96.9%
Yes: 3.1%
N = 449

Restrained Convict Costume

No: 93.3%
Yes: 6.7%
N = 448

Hobo Nightmare Costume

No: 93.0%
Yes: 7.0%
N = 442

Gorilla/Harembe Costume

No: 94.3%
Yes: 5.7%
N = 441

Snake Charmer Costume
No: 94.3%
Yes: 5.7%
N = 401


I’ll add here one comment that reader Alex SL made, on the earlier post, in which he wanted to start a discussion. Feel free to respond to this comment.

Alex SL

Posted November 1, 2017 at 4:12 pm

I think at some point I would like to have a discussion about how the kind of harmless fun that is involved in a costume is ‘harmful’ to a group of people, or why something is called cultural appropriation if it does not involve actual harm or loss to anybody whatsoever. (The original idea was taking over somebody’s IP without re-compensating them for its use because they are powerless to make a case for their interests, and that makes sense; but who in Japan loses one dollar if an American wears a kimono?)

It seems as if this works as follows:

1. You have a costume with a sombrero.
2. ????

To say it with science, this theory does not seem to come with a plausible mechanism of action.

Then again, I was made uncomfortable by the Anne Frank label, and I cannot really demonstrate any harm or loss there either, so maybe it works the same way for other people in the other cases.

120 thoughts on “Results of the Offensive Costume Vote

  1. Like most of us I thought the Anne Frank costume was the most offensive, I find it hard to understand the mentality of anyone who would try to make fun out of her, unless they were far right idiots and we do have far too many of those in the world.

    Sorry to be pedantic but Anne and her sister were transferred from Auschwitz to Bergen- Belsen and they died there with typhus the most likely cause, although the way they were treated it was akin to murder.

    1. You’ve assumed the wearer wants to make fun of Anne Frank but I don’t see any reason why that would be the case. Not all costumes are “trump masks”.

      1. Paul, I was referring to the designer and marketers of the costume, probably should have made that clearer. Whatever, I certainly think useing her name for what is party material is offensive to her memory.

        She should be remembered but there are better ways to do it.

        1. Who gets to decide the “…better ways to do it”

          Whenever I hear the phrase “Cultural Appropriation” another phrase always comes to mind… “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.


      2. Seems the costume was originally named after Anne Frank. Totally offensive. Renaming it for refugee children of WW2, many of whom had harrowing experiences of their own is only slightly less offensive at least to me. I was born in 1939 England and could have easily been one of these children. If you want something with a label on it try a Paddington Bear costume.

    2. How does one differentiate “making fun of” versus “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”? Wearing a costume, putting on make-up, or altering ones hairdo, can easily go both ways. eg. a dad shaving his head to support his child with leukemia vs. someone shaving their head for a prison camp inmate costume. The person wearing the costume could mean no harm, but someone else might take offense.

  2. As one who voted “not offensive” on the Anne Frank costume, let me explain my reasoning.

    The costume itself does not denigrate Anne Frank in any way, and wearing it could be said to keep her in our cultural memory. Yes, she died tragically, but I don’t see why the costume “makes fun” of her.

    So why would I find it offensive? Is it just because her story was tragic and it’s a serious topic? Hmm … not convinced.

    Anyway, others here will see it differently, which is fine.

    By the way, here in the UK we have a custom of burning an effigy of Guido Fawkes at this time of year (I presume Americans know what he attempted to do?). No doubt Catholics could get offended, but few do.

    1. You would also have to recognize it as being an Anne Frank costume. You could also claim it to be a ‘French girl’ or ’50’s flight attendant’ costume.

    2. Are these costumes offensive?
      Abraham Lincoln
      Nicole Brown Simpson
      Harvey Milk
      Patrick Henry
      Charles I
      Erskine Childers
      The Unknown Soldier

      1. Depends on whether your date comes as Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, The Juice, Dan White, George III, Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, the Irish Free State, or the Unknown Soldier’s Widow, I suppose. 🙂

          1. If your partner was that gawd offal movie rather than the ship, then yes. It’s like taunting people that they can never have those hours of their life back.
            Otherwise, no, and a nice example.

  3. The Anne Frank costume made me pause, but I then voted it “not offensive”. It didn’t describe how I felt. The combination of too concrete and too grim makes a terrible costume, though — against the “spirit” of Halloween. But I wasn’t offended by it. Maybe I cannot imagine an actual person wearing this. Maybe I am not offended by a hypothetical situation.

    The fate of witches isn’t exactly hilarious either, but in their case the association goes to fairytale and pop culture, not to the pyres of the early modern period.

    Some were tasteless, though I found none offensive in the end.

  4. I agree with Alex SL. It has become far too easy to take offence at things not meant to offend. On the Anne Frank costume I was not offended as there seemed to be just a girl in a dress. If people did not know it was to be Anne Frank, they wouldn’t have given it any thought at all. Was not much of a costume anyway. I was not offended by any of the costumes because there was no intent to harm that I could perceive. For me the offence would be in the actions of those who were wearing the costume, what they did and the ideas they intended to portray. I think people need to remember how to laugh at themselves again. Hugs

      1. You are reading more into the comment than was there. If you saw this girl coming down the sidewalk just as she is you wouldn’t think twice about it. You would not know it was to be Anne Frank. There simply would be no reason to take offence that I can see. Hugs

  5. I look forward to people’s opinions on the discussion proposed by Alex SL.

    In my comments below please note that I am not referring to costumes that are intentionally provocative; most of the issues around costumes involve people who are not deliberately trying to provoke outrage. I understand that there are some grey areas here but I’ll use the SCOTUS pornography definition.

    For my part, it seems that there are essentially two groups of people who get offended by costumes – those who are offended for whatever reason because the costume reflects a part of their culture or heritage and there are those who object on behalf of people whose culture or heritage the costume is intended to evoke.

    IMO, some in the latter group are doing little more than virtue signaling and those we can dismiss with prejudice. Some are offended because they imagine how a costume might be offensive to others – they are trying to put themselves into other’s shoes. Empathy is good and I’m all for it. But there is some evidence that it is little more than imagination – someone here recently posted polling results from various groups asking if they were offended by popular characterizations of them. Significant majorities of the “targeted” groups reported that they weren’t offended by the characterizations.

    It is worth noting that most people who wear “problematic” costumes are completely unaware they are problematic. People wear costumes for lots of reasons; they are simply trying to be funny or ironic or peculiar, or they are paying homage to a culture or people they honor and respect or even simply because they like how they look in the costume. Those who take offense at what others choose to wear should keep this in mind.

    1. It is worth noting that most people who wear “problematic” costumes are completely unaware they are problematic.

      I’m somewhat skeptical of this. Why would we not also assume that donning such a costume is a form of virtue signalling to their own ‘non-pc’ tribe?

      1. “Why would we not also assume that donning such a costume is a form of virtue signalling to their own ‘non-pc’ tribe?”

        The opposite question could just as easily be asked.

  6. I, too, voted “no offense” to the Anne Frank costume.

    I think some of the “take offense” process is confusing reminder-of-bad-things for making-fun-of-someone.

    I don’t see the costume as making fun of Anne Frank. Sure, it isn’t a very robust way to learn about her story, at least not by labeling the costume with here name. But maybe (in principle) it could provoke someone to ask “Who was she?” That could lead to a net improvement on the planet.

    1. Let’s test your thought experiment. Next Halloween, would you be offended if someone dressed up as JFK with his brains spilling out of his head? I mean, so many are not aware of his story.

      1. Coming in late to the discussion, but that would not offend me. If done well it might gross me out, but that goes for a number of Halloween costumes.

      2. Short answer, no. I would not be offended. I think the idea of being offended by costumes is foolish. There are far more important things in the world to worry about than halloween costumes.

      3. That’s a false equivalence. If the Anne Frank costume had been of her in a concentration camp uniform and with make up to look like she was dying of typhus, that would be closer to what you are describing.

      4. I’ve gone to Halloween parties as someone with his brains blown out. Everyone liked it. If I would have thought to make myself look like JFK, I would have done.

        Blood spattered, edible wounds, oozing scars, It’s Halloween.

        It’s a great day to show off artistic talent and show how horrifying you can be at the same time. Some of the comments here have provided me with ideas for future costumes.

        If any of that offends you, well, you can read Stephen Fry’s quote in comment #29.

  7. I saw a news item that a German railroad company caused a furor by naming their new high speed train after Anne Frank. It was intended as an honor but given that Anne was shipped off to Auschwitz in a cattle train, it touched nerves.

  8. I said yes on the Anne Frank costume because it just seems to make no sense as a halloween costume. She was a victim in history of a terrible thing. Would we have costumes of the 9/11 victims for Halloween or any victims of the past. How about a George Custer costume with arrows sticking out. And he was not even a particularly nice guy.

    1. On a trip out west I bought a t-shirt that read “Custer wore Arrow shirts”. I think a shirt with arrows sticking out would be a great costume.

        1. If I may be permitted a slight digression, but along the themes of “cultural appropriation” and “offense” and that sort of thing.

          My Inuk friend was once asked “If you’re so into traditions and doing things the old way, why do you hunt with a rifle?” The answer, was something like “I am not into traditions per se, I am into allowing people to do what they want, including borrowing (appropriately) from anywhere and having the freedom to make those sorts of decisions themselves without the tribes or the white guys telling us what we can do. And, more to the point: the tradition is *not* ‘hunt with a harpoon or a spear’, the tradition is ‘hunt with the best available weapon’.”

          When people are accused of “cultural appropriation” or hypocrisy there of, etc. one should be careful figuring out what is going on …

  9. I’m surprised the offensive percentages are so low for so many of the costumes. I find all of the ‘sexy’ costumes to be in poor taste, and I’d certainly try to avoid anyone wearing such a costume, but I’m not actually offended. The rasta costume is in similarly poor taste, because of the wig, I think (too close to blackface?), but the other cultural costumes seem mostly boring.

    The Anne Frank costume, however, is beyond the pale. To combine such a tragic figure with running around gathering candy? I think I may actually be offended!

      1. Precisely. I have opinions about them all… whether I would wear one or not, whether I might roll my eyes seeing a neighbor wearing one. Whether I’d see irony in the wearing of this or that costume. But offended? Why on earth would I take offense at someone else dressing up in a costume?

        1. Yeah, I fear this sort of poll is like the polls that Brian Leiter runs on philosophers. There he asks who has been “important” or the like, and people sometimes take it personally as in important for their own intellectual lineage, etc. Here, I do not take offense at almost any costume – even a SS uniform would not be offensive, just really stupid to wear.

  10. Thanks for featuring my comment.

    For clarification, I did not so much expect lot of a discussion here judging from the opinions most commenters have expressed in the past, it was meant mostly to the effect of hoping to one day have a discussion with a strong proponent of the concept of cultural appropriation etc., to understand for example if they can set out a mechanism of action that makes sense.

    Regarding Anne Frank, an additional factor may be that I am German.

  11. I glanced at this yesterday but didn’t vote. The only one that stood out to me as offensive was the Anne Frank “costume”. Someone else wrote this too but it isn’t even a costume. I don’t think anyone mentioned this but it’s also the only “costume” worn by a child. That means an adult encouraged the child, presumably not knowing (the child) much about the Holocaust, if anything, to wear it. That could be damaging to the child. It’s especially offensive and inappropriate. If I saw a parent with a child wearing that trick-or-treating, I would definitely say something. If it was an adult, that’s a different (somewhat different) story. I think I’m over my quota here for calling out offensiveness, but this was important.

  12. To give my take on the questions:
    a)I found only a couple to be barely offensive.
    b) I would not wear any of them. Not just because I don’t look good in a sexy Indian princess costume. I think most are considered in poor taste now that I would defer out of consideration for other viewpoints. But…
    c) I would not call out anyone for wearing any them, except maybe to caution them that they might get into a confrontation with someone who was offended.

  13. Naming a costume “Anne Frank” is despicable. Anne Frank was a victim of Nazism. It’s equivalent of dressing up as a very slim jew with a striped dress. Why would you even want to be dressed like that?? It should not be on sale… Do it in the private of your home, but don’t go out.

        1. I suppose you could argue that Marie Antoinette got what she deserved and therefore cutting off her head did not make her a victim. But Abraham Lincoln? That one seems indisputable to me.

          1. I’ve always has a soft spot for MA. Sent off to marriage at a young age, a pawn of much more powerful players, too uneducated to understand what was happening in the world around her and then…. well, the guillotine.

              1. which she didn’t say and the claim she did say it could be considered defamation. I therefore declare your comment as offensive*.

                *no, not really, but I do think you could find ways to be offended about almost anything.

      1. The thing is, Abraham Lincoln stands for much more than just having been murdered, whereas Anne Frank is first and foremost an iconic victim of the Nazis (what with sadly having been unable to become a famous medical researcher or suchlike). So I’d say the effect depends on the circumstances and why somebody is wearing a costume.

        Look, famous president costume is different from, look, my daughter is dressed as a person who is known pretty much only for her tragic diary and having been murdered horribly, isn’t that cute? And look, my daughter is dressed up as Anne Frank because the school is doing a play to raise awareness of the horrors of antisemitism is different again.

        1. And why would people raise awareness about a person in history in such a degrading manner with a holiday that has pagan roots that Christians appropriated?
          Religion does poison people.

    1. Why is a victim of Nazism a taboo subject for Halloween or any other time? Nothing is so sacred that we shouldn’t be able to talk about it, or make light of it. Calling it despicable seems very close to charging blasphemy.

      1. Although I found the Anne Frank costume shocking, and a number of the others in bad taste, I agree that we should be able to “talk” about anything/everything. The clothing one chooses to wear is a form of communication and we are free to express our individuality by the clothing or costume choices we make.

        I find it strange that we define cultural appropriation within such a narrow range of historical time. Mariachi bands which may be comprised of indigenous peoples or mestizos wear costumes appropriated from the Spanish. Much of what is currently viewed as Japanese traditional clothing probably originated in China. Much of what we view as traditional in native American clothing didn’t occur until contact with the encroaching Europeans (blankets, beads instead of quills, etc.)

        I have yet to see us appropriating the toplessness of female islanders wearing only short skirts, or something comparable, to hide the fig leaf area. Nor, have I seen men taking up penis sheaths as a mode of dress. So many possibilities that aren’t being appropriated!

        But, tattoos…pierced body parts…ear or lip plugs. What an interesting group of appropriations.

      2. Have times changed so much that young children bring to “our” attention topics we should talk about or in your own words- “make light of it”?

  14. … I suspect, but don’t know, that women dislike “sexy” costumes more than do men, and that played a role …

    Wouldn’t surprise me if some women (and, hell, maybe some of us men, too) found the way the women’s costumes were marketed, with voluptuous models spilling out undersized outfits, offensive. I tried not to take that into consideration (in voting) since it seemed to be beyond the scope of the issue presented.

    1. Yes, that would be a good assumption. I didn’t want to say anything as I didn’t feel like dealing with the inevitable “women hate men”, “you are being a prude”, “you’re a peck sniff”, “you are against sex”, “you are against natural male behaviour” replies.

  15. Re Anne Frank, I found it offensive because it trivializes a terrible crime committed on a child. Imagine someone dressing as a black lynching victim, or a slave, with lash marks on their back? Or as a 911 victim? Any of that would be in shockingly poor taste.

    1. What if it was a descendant of a black lynching victim, or a slave, who did so because they wanted to remind people of what happened in our society not all that far in the past?

        1. As if Halloween were a holiday known for its scholarly and historical leanings. Alert me as well, s’il vous plait!

          1. That is my point. Thank you.
            Halloween was kids with sheets over themselves with cut outs for eyes as ghosts and pillowcases for holding candy. Not the plastic pumpkin.

            1. And everyone must think of Halloween as you do? Not that it should necessarily concern you in the slightest, and I’m sure it won’t, but you might find it interesting that I find your apparent attitude throughout this conversation more offensive than any of the costumes. Seriously. Attitudes like you display here are, merely in my opinion of course, significantly more damaging to society than people thinking it is inoffensive for a young girl to wear an Anne Frank costume.

            2. “Halloween was kids…”

              You seem to think that Halloween is some small holiday for kids. It isn’t. It is a multi-billion dollar industry that is supported by adults who purchase costumes for parties they attend. The average adult male spends almost $100 on a costume. And averages, of course, factor people like me in…. I didn’t spend a penny. So lots and lots of money is spent by adults for adults.

              And some is spent on kids. But the costumes that are the subject of this web page are designed for adults (with one exception).

              1. I feel I should be offended by the commercial promotion of Halloween. But really, it’s only the offshoot of trick-or-treating that mildly offends me – because it’s a sort of moral blackmail. What adults buy to go to parties with is up to them.

                So it’s pretty low on the offence scale, for me. Way behind a thousand other things.


  16. I didn’t vote, but that was because I didn’t find any of them offensive as such. I thought some of them were in doubtful taste, especially the Anne Frank one.

    What really baffled me is why anyone would want to wear costumes like that for Halloween. Increasing numbers of adults in the UK seem to want to dress up for Halloween parties, or to accompany their kids on Trick or Treat (which I am sorry to say I regard as a wholly pernicious and unnecessary import from the US, like Father’s Day); but they usually dress up as something relevant, like a zombie or a witch. But what have Arab Sheikhs or Sexy Convicts got to do with this time of year?

    Truly, we are two nations divided by mutually incomprehensible social traditions!

  17. Offense is more often taken than it is given. I had a friend who was an ardent anti racist who suggested we all go to a nostalgia theater to see Blazing Saddles. This was a man who would leave the room if a joke with racist overtones as being told. When the black hero was told, “sing us a nigger song” and the man responded with “I Get No Kick From Champagne”, I loved it. My friend was still cringing from the word “nigger” and totally missed the moment.
    BTW, I wouldn’t recommend the movie. 🙂

    1. It is actually not a very good movie, even if one somehow puts aside the constant swearing and other offenses.

  18. I found the costumes of aboringals offensive. I think this could be a uniquely Canadian perspective. Canada is going through a truth a reconciliation process right now regarding how First Nations were treated when they were taken from their families as young children, even up until a generation ago, and sent to residential schools many miles away where they were often physically and sexually abused by their teachers while having their language and culture stripped away – many were punished for speaking their language. We are also dealing with a large group of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and an inquiry is taking place. So, seeing shoddy costumes of white peoples’ ideas of what a First Nations person looks like, to me, is just horrendous, as horrendous as black face.

  19. I found the ‘drooping breasts’ costume very offensive.I am a straight male and I’m surprised that you suggest only women should find it offensive. I think it inappropriate to make fun of aspects of the human body over which the owners have no control. How would your voters feel about an aged man costume trailing a flaccid penis?

        1. So it wasn’t Too Much Information when cnocspeirag hated them, but it was when Michael liked them?


          Further TMI: I thought the cossie was funny, too.

          (I had to look up ‘TMI’, by the way. TLA alert).


  20. Googling for images of offensive Halloween costumes is pretty bizarre, I will have to admit. The things people think of….

    1. Like several others I didn’t find the Anne Frank costume offensive and was surprised that so many people did. I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl and being impressed by her courage and spirit and really her ability to act and think like a young girl in the face of what she was going through. If Anne Frank costumes had been available at that time I think I might have wanted to wear one as a tribute to her.

        1. Whenever anybody who is participating in it decides to do so. Perhaps you’ve led a sheltered life but I’ve seen plenty of people doing so throughout my life. Positively common.

          I admit the more I read the more confused I am. Are you offended that people don’t respect what you think Halloween should be about? Or do you think you are special enough to tell people when and how it is appropriate to honor other people that they admire?

    2. Costumes of World Trade Center towers, with flames and little jumping people. A dead Steve Irwin with a sting ray attached to his chest. Yikes!
      Still, I can see a point that some costumes are done to get a strong reaction, and to not be ordinary. It can be a provacative art.

      1. If adults were doing the Halloween thing, you may have a point.
        We are talking about kids, usually young ones for the most part that have no idea about the controversial topics you are pretending are the reasons for these costumes. Young kids do not ask their parents to get them controversial costumes.
        Religion is another thing that kids usually do not have a thing to do with outside of the parents influence over them.

        1. “We are talking about kids, usually young ones for the most part…”

          We are? Did you count how many of the images were of children?

  21. I’m a US Army veteran who served in Iraq about a decade ago. The year I got back I hosted a Halloween party at my house. I have an Egyptian-American friend (born in Egypt, lived in US since he was 15 and now a citizen) who came to my party dressed as a ninja.

    Another friend from work who was Moroccan, wanted to come to my party as a suicide bomber with an ‘explosive’ vest made out of hotdogs. My Egyptian-American friend told our Moroccan friend that would be a bad idea because I just got back from Iraq…and my dog is a pitbull who may go after the hotdogs. So he came as a generic ‘terrorist’ with a plastic AK47 but no hotdog bomb.

    Another friend came as Steve Irwin with a fake stinger sticking out of his chest, just months after the real Irwin died.

    Of these, I only found the Steve Irwin costume offensive I guess because his death was so recent.

    But I didn’t like the generic terrorist costume and told the wearer so. Then I offered him a drink and we partied.

    1. Hate to admit it, but your description of the Steve Irwin costume was so unexpected it made me laugh, twisted fuck that I am.

      Guess it’s no longer too soon, at least for one of us.

  22. I wonder what we mean when we say ‘such-and-such-an-image is offensive’? Does it awaken personal indignation and anger? Are we viscerally revolted? Probably not, for most of these, since they’re familiar tropes that we know how to react to;e.g. ‘That demeans women. That one is a racial stereotype. That’s fat-shaming.’ etc. Most of them don’t bother me personally, since I’m an elderly WASP, and I don’t think there’s a hallowe’en costume for that, but I recognize the injury done to the feelings of women, the overweight, aboriginal people and people and colour, and make my vote accordingly.
    I suspect that a number of voters are not doing this, but are bending over backward in the effort not to be among the Eternally Offended, and that this might have skewed your figures seriously toward the ‘NO Offence’.
    I other words, the poll was not unbiased.

  23. Talking about, and parading at Halloween, are two different things (lol).
    Also, Halloween is a festivity, a (spooky) joyful celebration. Wearing an Anne Frank costume to pay tribute to her is a bit ludicrous.
    And by the way the “Anne Frank” costume was the only one, the only one, that i found offensive, exactly because she was/is a victim of the nazists.
    Anyone who thinks it’s ok to wear a striped dress with a star on it, shave his head and be the “holocaust jew”, is as empty inside as some neo nazi, and has a quite shallow definition of what is good and what is evil.

    1. I happen to think that people who claim that dressing as Anne Frank are simply raising awareness are the very same people that would need to catch their breath if they opened up their door to a trick or treater child that was dressed up as a 12 year old girl who was impregnated by God. Is the Catholic God a pedophile? He “knows” everything.

  24. I was surprised so few people were offended by the Upside Down Honey (or more accurately, ‘sexy twelve-year-old’). I can only assume most people reading this page haven’t seen the show it’s based on.
    On reflection, I don’t think the Anne Frank costume is offensive *in itself* – it would be fine if a child wore it for, say, World Book Day. It’s just wrong in the context of Halloween.

  25. The Anne Frank costume depicts a specific historical personality who suffered under the hands of the Nazis; all of the other costumes are either generic or fictional characters. However, the Anne Frank story is relatively recent and I might be less offended in another 50 years or so, as I am no longer offended by Guy Fawkes or Jesus-on-a-cross depictions. As for the Rastafarian costume I do not regard that as representative of all Jamaicans but see it as something adopted by a small religious group of which some elements transferred to the broader society in a diluted fashion.

  26. Interesting discussion, but I don’t see any direct answers to Alex SL’s observation:

    “It seems as if this works as follows:

    1. You have a costume with a sombrero.
    2. ????

    To say it with science, this theory does not seem to come with a plausible mechanism of action.”

    My suspicion is that really digging into step 2 would uncover subjective, psychological motivations for taking offense rather than any objective, measurable harm, but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

    I’m also reminded of Stephen Fry’s quote:

  27. Weird. I voted No for all of the costumes. I wonder if some of the miniscule percentages who voted yes to some of the more obviously inoffensive costumes voted Yes across the board as well. IMHO, wearing anything you like or even wearing nothing at all is not inherently offensive but thinking makes it so… and what is vastly more offensive to me is the idea that someone should judge another harshly based on choice of costume especially Halloween costumes which historically were supposed to be kind of an anything goes thing.

  28. I have two categories here. There is “offensive to me” and there is “I can see how that might offend”. Some of the costumes in this list didn’t offend me, but I can see how someone else might take exception to them. I won’t comment on any individual costumes here except to say that I found the Anne Frank outfit particularly disgusting.

  29. Costumes are supposed to be amusing, but there’s nothing amusing about the holocaust. So to even present it in such a way goes beyond mere bad taste to something truly offensive.

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