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Line in the sand on offensive Halloween costumes

Walking around on Halloween night, you’re bound to see several enthralling costumes, including anything from cat costumes with strategically placed gaps in apparel, to people dressed as their favourite dictator.

And, while this is inherently good, as it is a way for people to express their inner kitten, or simply have a laugh at Stalin taking jello shots, it does make you wonder where the line falls between humorous and offensive.

According to an article by Douglas Quan in the National Post on Oct. 20,  the student union at Brock University in Ontario has developed a protocol to govern costumes that could be deemed disrespectful.

While this may sound like the intellectual safe space issues that have been blowing up over the past few months, this issue has more substance.

Unlike voicing different opinions that may offend people, it seems completely reasonable that costumes that degrade social, religious or ethnic backgrounds should be barred from entrance to Halloween social gatherings, along with those who don them.

However, the difficulty arises in finding the proverbial line in the sand for what’s considered too offensive, and what’s acceptable.

“Those St. Francis [high school] kids who dressed as KKK members last year was pretty offensive,” said Parker Jorgensen, a civil engineering technology student at SAIT.

In February 2015, two students from St. Francis High School wore outfits resembling KKK attire to a party. And while it was later discovered not to have been racially motivated, it serves as a perfect example of taking it too far, regardless of its intention.

That’s not to suggest, however, that this is the only unacceptable scenario.

For example, when Eric Cartman dresses as his hero, Adolf Hitler, in a Halloween episode of South Park, he comes under fire from the community.

On the contrary, Look Who’s Back, a German film released in 2015 based on a novel of the same name by Timur Vermes, depicts Hitler in the modern era, and the results are certainly different than those of South Park.

In the film, Hitler is transported through time to modern-day Berlin, and a portion of the movie is filmed as unscripted, man-on-the-street interviews with the citizens of Germany.

Of course, people assume it’s for a movie, or that he’s a street performer, but the way they react is surprising. Several people agreed with the political ideologies he presents, and even more were taking selfies with the Hitler look-alike.

Unsurprisingly, he falls out of favour in the movie. But, because of how the majority reacted, it does leave you thinking that dressing up as Hitler for Halloween could fall under the margins of the grey zone.

However, as a general rule of thumb, if the costume you don could be related in any way to the genocide of millions of people, maybe you should reconsider. And the same goes for all other offensive apparel.

“One of the most offensive costumes are those that appropriate culture, such as wearing sacred first nations culture clothing,” said Via Basit, a travel and tourism student at SAIT.

So, instead of wearing that ornate feathered headdress or Kim Jong Un outfit this Halloween, instead, you should opt for, quite literally, anything else.

There’s nothing wrong with sporting the classic cat costume.

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