Costume Controversy

It’s Halloween! Time to choose a costume, dress up and get some candy, candy, candy! As a theatre-type-person, I have always loved dressing up and pretending to be somebody else, whether for a holiday or otherwise, and my daughter is much the same – having a wardrobe of costumes and accessories of such magnitude I could start my own theatrical company…as long as all the characters were princesses. When, however, does a costume cross the line? I think we all know that dressing up an 8 yr old in some slutty French maid outfit is inappropriate (though I think a few of my neighbors didn’t get the memo on that one) and wearing a really freakin’ scary mask and scaring the crap out of the little kids who ring your doorbell is uncouth (scare the teenagers who are too cool for a costume all you want though) – but what else is deemed “off-limits” or “in bad taste” ?

The reason I ask this is because the question was foisted into my brain this Sunday when I went to take my daughter trick or treating with her cousins. Upon arriving at my mother-in-law’s house, my 7 year old nephew comes bounding down the driveway…as Flavor Flav. I don’t have a problem with his choice of persona to portray. I don’t have a problem with the Bulls jersey. I don’t have a problem with the big horned Viking hat. I don’t have a problem with the cheesy sunglasses. I don’t have a problem with the novelty sized clock as necklace. I DO have a problem with the brown face and body paint.

My husband had an even bigger problem with it – and when he asked his Mom who allowed this addition to the costume, she said she did and, “What? It’s not like we painted him black.”

SO, a-trick-or-treating we went, and my husband stayed a safe, non-committal 20 feet away from us at all times. Not one person seemed to have a problem with Flav’s costume, in fact some women were downright cracking up about it.

Well, were we overreacting? Was it tasteless, possibly racist, & inappropriate? Or was it just another part of the costume and creating the character? Obviously, the kid isn’t racist, he thinks Flavor Flav is awesome, heck, that’s why he wanted to dress up like him. In the end, he didn’t understand what was wrong with painting his skin brown so he could look more like the character – so I let it go. My husband, on the other hand – was considerably irked. Well – who is right? Is there a right? Does it really matter? Double standard aside (it’s ALWAYS funny when Eddie Murphy or Dave Chappelle do a black guy disguised as white guy routine – but would Jay Leno or Dave Letterman get away with such antics?) We don’t have a problem with letting kids put on green makeup to be a ghoul, white for a ghost, or wearing a red wig to be the little mermaid – so what’s the big deal with changing your appearance to match a different ethnicity? It’s all about becoming the character…right?

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