A good Halloween costume should shock, scare or at least generate a few laughs. Most of all, it should be fun.
But what happens when anything shocking is considered offensive, when anything that scares could exclude those who don’t like to be frightened and anything that generates laughs is considered mockery?
Well, then there’s no fun to be had.
This week, we take a break from tracking the normal Nanny State abuses to survey the growing power of “political correctness” and how it’s wrecking havoc with one of the most fun days of the year: Halloween.
Let’s begin at Pamona College, where students were invited to a “mad scientist party” hosted by nearby Harvey Mudd College. The party was intended to mock Mudd’s reputation for being a science school (both schools are part of a the Claremont College system in southern California, so they’re not completely separate institutions).
The Associated Students of Pamona College didn’t think the theme was very funny.
“We are disappointed at your choice of the name for the event, as well as your rationale for allowing the name ‘Mudd Goes Madd.’ Your disregard of the concerns of the mental health community and their allies trivializes issues that we deem extremely important to our community. Further, the exclusion of the mental health community in the discussion of allowing the event name is inappropriate,” the student government posted on its Facebook page, according to College Fix.
You get that? Dr. Frankenstein and his ilk are now a protected class.
But the best part of this story is the Mudd students’ response to the outrage. They held the party anyway.
Unfortunately that was hardly the only instance of “political correctness” — which is a particularly difficult-to-combat strain of nanny state-ism — ruining Halloween this year.
At Penn State University, the student government took time away from dealing with issues that actually matter (like making certain parts of their university less scary — and no, not scary in the Halloween way) to address potentially insensitive Halloween costumes. According to the Daily Collegian, the school’s paper, Steffen Blanco, chair of Student Life Committee, said some of his constituents have expressed concern about people dressing up as different races and nationalities for costumes. The student government decided to hang posters around campus to help raise awareness about the “difference between appreciation and appropriation.”
At Wesleyan University, similar posters appeared this October, urging students to ask “Is your costume offensive? Check yourself and your friends” and giving students a number to call if they were unsure. There’s nothing like getting permission from the authorities to really make your Halloween a scream.
And at Louisville University, school president James Ramsey was called on the carpet by his student body for hosting a staff Halloween party where he was photographed wearing a “a rainbow poncho, standing with a group of people wearing sombreros and smiling while holding maracas.”
“There is a word for this. It’s called racism,” wrote Olivia Krauth in the school’s student paper.
Even the New York Times has noticed the trend, noting last month that it’s better to play it safe (read: be boring) on Halloween than wear a costume that risks offending anyone. The paper suggested dressing as “a Crayola crayon, a cup of Starbucks coffee or the striped-cap-wearing protagonist of the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ books.”
That’s all fine and good, but what happens when it’s decided that a crayon offends those who are colorblind, asks Brian Joondeph of the American Thinker.
But give the New York Times some credit for this bit of common sense, buried within 2,000 words of crazy talk by college students and professors too wrapped up in their own world of PC perfection:
“It’s always possible that someone will be offended by this or that costume or statement or position, but you can’t base your behavior on that chance,” Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, told the Times. “There has to be some room for stepping over certain boundaries.”
If you think this sort of nonsense is limited to college campuses, well, you’re wrong.
Newington School District in Connecticut canceled plans for a Halloween party because of “concerns that they exclude children whose families don’t celebrate the holiday.” Because if there’s a few kids who will refuse to have fun on Halloween, that’s grounds for ruining everyone else’s fun too, right?
At Milford School District, also in Connecticut, Halloween was just straight-up banned over similar concerns about offending students who can’t or don’t participate.
Evan retailers are now caving to the pressure applied by the PC police. As Bloomberg reported last week, Walmart set up a so-called “SWAT team” to stop people from making certain purchases that could be combined in potentially offensive ways on Halloween.
How does that work? Like this: “Wal-Mart customers haven’t been able to purchase the white hotpants and wig marketed as a Caitlyn Jenner transgender parody costume. A decapitated Cecil the Lion head sold with a dentist’s smock? Banned on Walmart.com.”
Look, Walmart is a private retailer and as such they can make whatever decisions they want about selling certain products in combination with other products. That’s not “nanny-ism,” it’s just an odd sort of thing to care about (since people can presumably just order the lion head and the dentist’s smock in separate orders and still be able to get their costume).
But the mega-retailer’s actions here reveal one of the consequences of the Nanny State in all its forms: to limit choices and behavior through group-think until entities that have no stake in the outcome (Walmart, presumably, just wants to sell as much cheap stuff as it can, no matter how that stuff will be used) are going along just to go along.
Here’s the thing: Halloween is not a history class. It’s not a women and gender studies class, either, nor a seminar on multiculturalism. Racism and sexism have no place, in our universities or otherwise, as official policy, but Halloween is — by its very nature — about subverting what we consider “normal” and “official.”
I wouldn’t be able to show up for work Monday dressed as a zombie any more than I’d be able to show up for work dressed as Caitlyn Jenner.
The best response to political correctness and other forms of nascent Nanny Stateism is exactly what the kids at Mudd College did.
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