Sunday, October 14, 2007


Yesterday, I had to visit a Halloween store to find the all important Ninja Ice Wolf costume. Yes, it is part of the culture of violence in America. Yes, it is far more materialistic than the happy hobo, zombie, or greaser costumes we used to cobble together as a kid. I've decided to lower the bar of my moral outrage and let my principles float. While there, I scoured the shelves looking for festive articles from a customs classification perspective. As far as I am concerned everything in that store is a festive article.

Two things struck me as a I wandered among the decapitated ghouls, gravestones, and ghosts: Halloween is far more extreme than when I made the rounds of my neighborhood with my friends and a pillowcase for candy. The gore factor is very much ratcheted up. I guess this is the trickle-down of Hollywood special effects and makeup technology. But it is not just the realism, it is also the context. Look at this picture I took with my cell phone; it depicts a plastic human brain and a plastic severed hand packaged like meat at a butcher shop. There were hearts available as well. The nutrition label says that they are from the Cannibal Meat Market. I gather these are festive holiday decorations.

I'm not saying this is the end of western civilization. Nor am I calling for industrial self restraint or regulation. I really don't care that much. I just think it is an interesting example of how taste changes and how what once would have been considered way over the line is now available for retail consumption. Same goes for what can best be described as the fetishization of Halloween.
The second thing is that I wonder what must the Chinese factory workers must think of us? I have no idea how widespread the American version of Halloween is these days. Have the commercial haunted house and CD of eerie noises been globalized? Surely, the workers putting these body parts on Styrofoam trays must think the U.S. is a bizarre and blood-thirsty culture. To the limited extent I care, I can only hope their image of the U.S. at Halloween is tempered by reruns of this.

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