In the rush to come up with a creative and inexpensive Halloween costume idea in a hurry, don't make the mistake of confusing unique for tasteless or timely for tacky. It can be hard to draw the line between a costume that's clever and one that's inappropriate. After all, dressing your son like a hobo could be construed as an insensitive caricature of those living in poverty, and dressing your daughter in a bride or princess costume could be interpreted as objectifying women. You never quite know these days what's politically correct and what isn't.
There are some clues that you've gone too far, though. Good taste can be a matter of taking the kindest and most diplomatic approach, and the one that won't send the wrong message to your child. If you think a costume may be over the line, it probably is -- and these 10 costume ideas certainly are.
The green fatigues and the huge cigar are big tip-offs that your kid is dressed like Fidel Castro, but you might want to think twice before choosing this costume. The cigar alone sends a negative message about smoking -- we won't even get into the subject of dictators, human rights and political upheaval. If you don't know who Castro is, crawl out from under the rock where you've been hiding and know that he is the former president of Cuba and was a mastermind in the Cuban revolution. He ruled with an iron fist and a hard line. He was (and still is) a very feared world leader.
But let's not put all the blame on Castro's shoulders. You should avoid other politically and culturally questionable choices, too. There are always lots of despots, terrorists and violent militants to choose from -- just don't. Osama bin Laden, Ivan the Terrible, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein are all pretty obvious characters that you may want to steer clear of. While they would most definitely make a statement, it's probably not a good one for a child (or anyone for that matter) to make. Prince Harry tried it with a Nazi costume several years ago. Needless to say, it did not go over well. He was slammed by critics and issued a public apology for his "bad choices."
We don't want to start a controversy here, but naughty women who use their notoriety for personal gain without any respect for the fact that they're role models for a whole generation of young girls shouldn't be emulated, they should be ignored. Paris is a very visible example, but she's not alone in deserving some mommy wrath and a Halloween boycott. Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Kimberly Stuart and Alexis Neiers are all examples of "famous" people to steer clear or. All of these women have had public relationships with drugs, alcohol and/or breaking the law. Not exactly what every young girl hopes to become when they grow up.
The king of pop is such an iconic character that creating a costume that's immediately recognizable, like a single spangled glove, is easy. Unfortunately, it's also pretty creepy, and not in a Halloween-style good way. Because of all the unanswered questions about Jackson's dealings with children, this isn't the best occasion on which to show that you're a fan.
Beyond his legal troubles, Jackson had other issues that don't exactly shed a good role-model light on young children. He was so unhappy with his looks that he spent millions of dollars on surgery and drugs to change his appearance. He had such a tumultuous childhood that he spent his adult life trying to recreate a happy one and never really grow up. And he was so anxious to tune out of his life, that he turned to drugs, eventually resulting in his death in 2009. While many adults have fond memories of a young Michael Jackson and a special relationship with his music, kids today know him for the much more sinister portion of his life. This tragic pop star turned pop culture joke should be left alone.
The main character from the Showtime series of the same name, Dexter is a serial killer with a heart -- well, actually, he's a psychopath who specializes in killing killers. Like other notable names in the ever growing list of serial murderers real and imagined, Dexter isn't an appropriate stand-in for the Grim Reaper.
Sex Workers (or Anything Overtly Sexual)
We probably don't have to go into too much detail here, but there may be some gotchas you haven't considered. If your teen comes to you with an idea for dressing up like a witch, don't assume she'll appear in a shapeless black shift with a wart on her nose. Female-based characters can be reinvented with more sex appeal than you may think is appropriate, and a sexy witch can easily show too much skin for a youngster, tween or teen. Look at Elvira. Get the specifics before you give the OK.
Zombies and Vampires
We actually like "nice" vampires, so we aren't ruling them out altogether. We just don't advocate excessive blood and gore. Dangling eyeballs (synthetic, of course), buckets of blood and other graphic measures designed to shock can be just too much. They frighten small children and spoil the fun. There's a difference between scary fun and glorifying violence. Chances are you'll recognize the difference when you see it, so keep a sharp eye out as your older kids design their costumes.
People can get touchy about their religious beliefs, so steer clear. In fact, don't go anywhere near there. If you think your friends and neighbors all have belief systems similar to yours, you may be surprised at how many cultures and religions are represented in your community -- and you really don't want to offend any of them.
Must we count the ways this is in bad taste? And yet, check almost any Halloween chat room and there'll be some lunatic who thinks this is a hilarious choice for a costume. For chuckles, it's right up there with sticking a needle in your eye. If an adult wants to be this tasteless, that's one thing, but don't inflict this kind of insensitive mindset on your child.
Any type of racial caricature as a Halloween costume is a terrible idea. As a culture, it's nice to think we've outgrown this kind of petty and insensitive behavior -- and no, it isn't in good fun. Exploring racial boundaries may be a great topic for a college class, but not for a child's costume.
Ku Klux Klan
Like black face, Ku Klux Klan sheets and hoods are so out of bounds they shouldn't even be a blip on the radar screen. We don't even like to think about people entertaining the idea of letting their kids wear them -- or being so lax about checking their kid's costumes that a huge misstep like this could ever occur. Your children may not be mature enough to understand what's appropriate and what isn't, but you are. Know what your kids will be wearing for Halloween, and make sure it's in good taste.
HowStuffWorks investigates tough-to-kill Halloween myths like razor blades in apples, drugs in candy and black cat abuse.
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