It’s true. In a country of 350 million people, some of them might dare dress up as one of the most talked-about cultural figures of the entire year with the easiest-to-execute signature outfit, and some of them might not do it with the intention of being assiduously sensitive to the varied journeys and struggles of the trans community. Some Americans might, in a pinch, throw on a white dress and a wig for a last-minute party, scribble a sash that says “Call Me Caitlyn” or clutch an ESPY-like statuette they won in adult kickball and head out the door. Some of those Americans might be men who are not as expertly coiffed as Jenner.
It’s nowhere near October, but one ensemble is already on track to be named the most controversial Halloween costume of 2015.
Social media users were out in full force on Monday criticizing several Halloween retailers for offering a Caitlyn Jenner costume reminiscent of the former-athlete’s Vanity Fair cover earlier this year.
While Jenner’s supporters condemned the costume as “transphobic” and “disgusting” on Twitter, Spirit Halloween, a retailer that carries the costume, defended the getup.
“At Spirit Halloween, we create a wide range of costumes that are often based upon celebrities, public figures, heroes and superheroes,” said Lisa Barr, senior director of marking at Spirit Halloween. “We feel that Caitlyn Jenner is all of the above and that she should be celebrated. The Caitlyn Jenner costume reflects just that.”
There’s a Change.org petition to have this outrageous white dress costume discontinued, naturally, whose author cites Spirit’s “history of problematic costumes.” And, a number of people on Twitter are freaking out, with such pronouncements as:
There is actually such thing as a Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costume? Literally the most offensive thing ever…
— abigail (she/her) (@nothingbutabz) August 24, 2015
That is literally the most perspective ever.
Twitter activists seem genuinely confused that one of the most talked-about figures of the year is even a consideration as a Halloween costume, and that some of their fellow Americans might consider donning Halloween costumes that would not pass muster at a sharing circle of transitioning trans Americans. Jenner is of the Kardashian clan, with immense fame, and a reality show. Of course there’s a Halloween costume! Of course some people aren’t going to like it. Of course some people are going to wear such a costume without perfectly culturally sensitive motivations. Welcome to a free country.
I generally prefer good-humored Halloween costumes (though I am very SERIOUS about them) to more edgy, gross, or tasteless ones, but sometimes I think our country’s capacity to still produce the occasional gross and offensive costume is a reaction to and bulwark against outrage culture. That, and Spirit Halloween probably knew this would get a ton of press. In that way, this is quite Kardashian of them.
As is usual with the outrage industry, the story and the coverage it generates is bigger than the actual outrage. Some people are mad on Twitter, and some people are quickly making sure they signal on social media that they think Halloween costumes can be very problematic, indeed.
In other news, a fictional scene in which a fictional comedy writer wrote a fictional joke that freaked out fictional Twitter freaked out real Twitter over the weekend. Because even a scenario in which a comedian contends with outrage culture—even if it’s on the way to learning a lesson or part of her development—cannot be countenanced lest we offend any real people with the joke that is meant to offend fictional people in this fictional scenario.
Amy Poehler should definitely be fired and apologize and stuff.
They should all be fired and apologize. We cannot have any of this.
Someone should write a book about this kind of thing. Also, to stay on top of All the Problematics, click here.