It’s Irony, Not Sexy, That’s Ruining Halloween

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Oct. 30 2013 5:22 PM

This Halloween, Don't Dress Up Like a Meme

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Good costume.

Photo by CHRISTIAN CHARISIUS/AFP/Getty Images

On the eve of All Hallows' Eve, ghouls roam the streets, goblins lurk just outside of view, and Internet commentators run wild with critiques and defenses of the Sexy Halloween Costume.

I’m impressed that the cultural concern over Sexy Halloween has persisted for so long, but as my colleague Dan Engber noted on Twitter today, Sexy Halloween Costumes—sexy maids, mafiosos, and mythical creatures—are mere straw men that rarely show their underboobs at real life haunted homes. “The non-ironic ‘sexy [blank]’ costume barely exists, except in those cheap pre-fab outfits sold at drugstores,” Engber wrote. The real scourge of modern Halloween is intellectual posturing: As he puts it, “the ‘sexy’ costume is far less annoying than the ‘clever rebus’ costume, or the ‘literary pun’ costume. At least it's something to look at!”

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Sexy Halloween Backlash, aka Ironic Sexy Halloween, is here, and it’s worse than Sexy Halloween ever was. All those prepackaged sexy Minnie and Miley costumes have resulted not in a cursed generation of earnestly oversexed tarts, but rather a terrifying class of overly cerebral meme-knowers who compete to elevate themselves above the Sexy Halloween mainstream—ideally, while also appearing sexy themselves. Let's be done with the “clever” interpretations of VMA appearances and costumes based on niche YouTube stars. It’s time to get weird. Stop fixating on pop culture phenomena and start mining the depths of human grotesqueness.

In this case, the pre-Internet generations had it right. It requires no viewing of viral videos or awareness of topical news stories to appreciate what this lady was going for when she draped her entire body in cabbage leaves. Do you think this couple, who valiantly crafted absurd mole beaks and haunting sad googly eyes out of paper mâché, cared if their costumes communicated a smart take on the zeitgeist? No: They cared about looking freaky as hell. These women were so committed to their mushroom costumes that they appear to have anchored their toadstools into the actual ground, and I salute them. Weird can be sexy, too: This lady who strapped a rotary phone on top of her head is looking pretty fine.

Halloween, at its best, is an opportunity to shed our bodies of the cultural insignia that rule our everyday lives and to step into an otherworld for an evening. Costuming ourselves in the emblems of the Internet news cycle—or in the case of Ironic Sexy Halloween Costumes, the Internet rage cycle—deflates the mystery of the holiday and moors the evening in the most banal aspects of the culture we’re attempting to escape. May your Halloween be blessed with garden vegetables, wet paper, and overgrown fungi—and no furry legwarmers, no matter how mockingly worn.

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

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