Most folks haven’t even picked out their pumpkin yet, much less figured out their costume. But with Halloween-themed goodies already overflowing on store shelves, it’s perhaps no surprise that controversy over some of the newest costumes is already heating up for the season.
On Thursday, Walmart pulled a purple “Naughty Leopard” costume for toddlers because parents didn’t think it was age-appropriate. Across the pond, two British supermarket brands withdrew crazy person getups because mental health advocates argued they perpetuated a misleading stereotype that all people with mental illnesses are dangerous; Asda’s “mental patient fancy dress costume” featured “ragged clothing, fake blood, a mask and a fake meat cleaver,” while Tesco’s “Psycho Ward” included an orange jumpsuit, “plastic jaw restraint” and optional machete.
Here are some other Halloween outfits that have come under fire in recent years.
“Illegal Alien”: “Illegal Alien Adult Costume” included a fake green card, a space alien mask, and an orange jumpsuit with “illegal alien” printed across the chest, and “Illegal Alien Mask with Hat,” a similar space alien mask with a dark-colored handlebar mustache and baseball cap. Members of the Latino community thought the 2009 costume implied that immigrants were “not one of us,“ while the head of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles called it ”distasteful, mean-spirited, and ignorant of social stigmas and current debate on immigration reform.”
Daphne from Scooby-Doo: For Halloween 2010, a 5-year-old Kansas City boy went to school as the female detective, dressed in an orange wig, magenta dress, and purple sweater and tights. Other kids’ parents were appalled, arguing the boy would become gay. His mother defended his choice on her blog and posted a photo of the outfit. She wrote, “My son is gay. Or he’s not. I don’t care” and argued that no one would make a fuss if a girl dressed like Batman. The piece sparked a national discussion about gender identity and bullying, while some psychologists argued that she should not have “outed” her son online.
“Anna Rexia”: The costume for women, which went viral in 2011, featured a black dress with a white skeleton over it, a headband shaped like a bone, a heart-shaped name tag, and a ribbon resembling measuring tape to be worn around the waist. Eating disorder awareness groups called the costume outrageous because it made a joke out of a deadly disease.
Michael Jackson: Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak tweeted an Instagram of himself in blackface, grabbing his crotch, and pretending to be the King of Pop for Halloween 2012. While some fans called the costume racist, the hockey player argued that it was “a tribute to one of my fave artists.”
Terrorist: Chris Brown showed up to Rihanna’s Halloween 2012 party in West Hollywood with a turban, bullet belt, and artificial beard. Before the party, the rapper posted a photo on Instagram showing him and some others holding fake guns and wrote, ”Ain’t nobody f***ing wit my clique!!!!” News outlets reported that he dressed like a terrorist, with some specifically saying he looked like a Taliban member. His mom defended the costume, tweeting: “HALLOWEEN IS FOR FUN NOTHING MORE THAN JUST FUN. GET A LIFE PLEASE.”