First the “Caitlyn Jenner” Halloween costume brought out the ban-bots for its “problematic” approach to humor. Now the killjoys don’t want laughter over the Very Serious Matter of Cecil the Lion. The issue got attention on Wednesday in the Twin Cities, where dentist Walter Palmer used to practice before becoming social media’s Worst Person Evah for hunting and killing a protected lion near a refuge in Zimbabwe. The panel on the local CBS affiliate highlighted the reaction to both costumes and the push to shame retailers into dropping them:
That’s now turned into a Change.org petition, naturally, with those offended demanding a ban based on “bad taste.” It has attracted over 35,000 signatures, far surpassing the petition over the Jenner costume:
Doreen Harley, who generated the Care2 petition, said the retailer had agreed to pull the costume if she gathered 25,000 signatures. As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had 36,544 signatures.
The retailer, a division of Brands On Sale, Inc., says on its website that it will donate 15 percent of all proceeds from the costume to a “Wildlife Foundation.”
“I was sick to my stomach when I saw the costume,” Harley said in a news release. “The costume is in bad taste and makes light of what was a tragic and inhumane killing.”
It’s worth noting that Halloween and other similar traditions (Dia de las Muertos, the Latin American version of Halloween, for example) exist to poke fun at demons and death by ridiculing them. While this doesn’t apply to the Jenner costume, which is more purely a pop-culture reference, the Lion-Killing Dentist outfit does fit the historical context of Halloween. It takes what many people see as cruelty (fairly or not) and puts in on display, to laugh at and diminish. Laughter and joy are antidotes to grief and fear, not endorsements of them.
But that is no longer to be allowed, apparently, because laughter and joy have to fit the Cultural Imperatives. It is not enough to cluck one’s own tongue, or to organize a tongue-clucking exercise. Now the only appropriate response is to remove choice from other consumers because they might actually like what you dislike, and these cultural nannies cannot abide that kind of cognitive dissonance.
Could someone please come up with a Perpetually Aggrieved Neo-Puritan costume? I’d buy that for this Halloween.