PC Police Ruining Halloween

Another Halloween has come and gone. A fun day for kids and adults alike dressing up in costumes and having some fun. This year, however, Halloween became less fun, more on the order of a college diversity and tolerance seminar. If the political correctness police have their way, Halloween will soon cease to exist beyond a few kids trick or treating for candy in their neighborhoods.

The kids may be immune from the PC police for now as they usually dress up as Disney characters. But it’s the adult revelers on the firing line. For daring to wear a costume reflecting pop culture or something deemed “culturally insensitive” that might happen to offend someone.

This year, a number of colleges placed posters around campus asking, “Is your costume offensive? Check yourself and your friends.” If you’re not sure about your costume, Wesleyan University, which created a poster, provided a bunch of phone numbers to call. Speak to the all-knowing tolerance expert about what’s offensive and hope they give their stamp of approval or else send you back to the costume shop.

Big no no’s for Halloween are “mocking cultural or religious symbols”, “representing an entire culture or ethnicity”, or “trivializing human suffering, oppression and marginalization”. Wow! That covers just about everything.

The University of Louisville president should have called the hotline before hosting a themed Halloween staff party where everyone wore ponchos and sombreros. Olivia Krauth, editor of the school newspaper, and mostly likely not of Hispanic ethnicity, was nevertheless outraged. “There’s a word for this,” she said, “It’s called racism.”

According to the Wesleyan poster, this would fall under “representing an entire culture or ethnicity.” I’ve been to Mexico many times and never saw anyone wearing a poncho and sombrero unless they were playing annoying music at a restaurant or poolside. It’s about as representative of a culture as dressing up as George Washington is to American culture.

The Huffington Post, a few weeks before Halloween, fortunately weighed in, providing a “definitive guide to avoid dressing up as an uninformed jerk this year.” No Caitlyn Jenner costume, despite his/her popularity in pop culture, as “transgender identity isn’t something you put on and take off for a night.” Indian costumes are out as is the above-mentioned poncho and sombrero outfit. Geisha costumes “hypersexualize an entire race of women.” The naughty nurse “objectifies a serious career.” Tell that to the harpies of “The View” who made fun of Miss Colorado, a nurse. Another classic costume, the hobo, “dehumanizes homeless people.” Will the 60s hit “King of the Road” be banned from the radio airwaves? And of course the skeleton costume “trivializes (or worse, glamorizes) the struggles of 24 million Americans with eating disorders.”

Even some of the sensitive and more-tolerant-than-thou celebrities were caught by the PC police this year. Kylie Jenner wore an Eskimo costume. The Huffington Post PC police deem Eskimo “a slur, the Inuit and Alaska Natives are real people, not costumes.” Nicky Hilton dressed as a sexy Indian insulting “real people with a real culture and therefore not a costume.”

Other celebrities caught by the PC police this year were Chris Brown as a terrorist, Ashley Benson as Cecil the Lion, and Heidi Klum as Hindu Goddess Kali. Oh the horror. But also inevitable when political correctness turns on itself. As Charles Cooke explains, it’s a virus, “And now it’s eating their movement from within.”

I was in medical school in Chicago during the tainted Tylenol murders in 1982. For my Halloween costume that year I dressed as a bottle of Tylenol. On Rush Street I got lots of attention and laughs for my morbid humor. Could I or would I do something like that now? Not a chance.

The NY Times advises playing it safe with, “A Crayola crayon, a cup of Starbucks coffee or the striped-cap-wearing protagonist of the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ books.” Fine advice, until the colored crayons offend those who are color blind. “In most Caucasian societies up to 1 in 10 men suffer” meaning plenty of men could be offended. Good news for Eskimos however. While they might be put off by Kylie Jenner’s costume, the crayons will be less of a problem, “only 1 in 100 Eskimos are color blind.”

Who is the final arbiter on what is offensive or not? The Huffington Post? The NY Times? Some college newspaper editor? The schoolmarm at the university office of diversity and tolerance? If offense is in the eye of the beholder, anything and everything can potentially be offensive.

Will a Barack Obama costume with black face be verboten but a similar Ben Carson costume be okay? No for Nancy Pelosi as a witch but yes for Paul Ryan as Eddie Munster? Hillary Clinton as Pinocchio is offensive but Ted Cruz with horns and a pitchfork is edgy? Who will decide? The CNBC debate moderators?

Want to play safe? Follow the diktats of the government. The Department of Energy has costume suggestions guaranteed to win you a prize at your next Halloween party. Be a solar panel or an energy vampire. No? How about a particle accelerator or a wind turbine? Unfortunately, these energy-themed costumes might offend residents of Seattle, where the sun doesn’t shine very much, or disrespect the birds chopped up by wind turbines. You can always carve energy-themed pumpkins, except for the problem of pumpkins contributing to global warming.

Even liberal Bill Maher observed that Halloween PC has gone too far. On his show he, “blasted ‘lazy liberalism’ that sees faux outrage and politically correct cries as accomplishing something.” Exactly right. How does being offended by a hobo costume reduce homelessness? How does outrage over a skeleton costume reduce eating disorders?

With 71 percent of Americans unhappy with the country’s direction, how about letting everyone have some fun on October 31 by throwing political correctness to the wind? What used to be a fun holiday will soon become no holiday. Why wear any costume and risk the wrath of the PC police, ridicule on social media, or a trip to remedial classes on tolerance and diversity?

The remedy is not to cave, but to fight back, with laughter and ridicule. Just as Ted Cruz and others fought back at the recent GOP debates. Otherwise the PC beast will continue feeding. Thanksgiving, Christmas and July 4th are all on the menu, all offensive in some shape or manner to the PC busybodies. Soon all we will be left with will be Seinfeld’s “A Festivus for the rest of us.”

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based retina surgeon and writer. Follow him on Facebook  and Twitter