Bob and Steve, here. It’s that time of year again for huge parties, ridiculously expensive costumes, and over-indulging. Oh yeah – there will probably be some Halloween activities for kids as well.
When we were growing up Halloween was for, and celebrated by, kids. Sure, sure, the adults joined in the fun – playing Frankenstein at the local haunted house, that sort of thing – but it was for kids. Now it seems to mostly be about the adults. Elaborate parties at the singles bars. Elaborate parties in the neighborhoods for trick-or-treater’s parents. Elaborate decorations to rival Christmas displays. Endless marketing to convince adults to fork over their dough.
And that brings us to another thing, Halloween was modest. By modest, we mean cheap. Costumes were either homemade or chintzy inexpensive things that were broken and torn before even leaving the house. And they were seriously dangerous. Paper cuts and puncture wounds abounded. Studies show that if everything spent on today’s Halloween costumes was diverted to something more useful, like rubber-band-ball manufacturing, we’d now have one whopping big rubber-band-ball industry. And what the costumes have gained in cost, they’ve made up for in tastelessness. Or something like that. The point is, for $79.99 you can either look like something from one of the inner circles of hell or the red light district. Those are your options.
No doubt there’s quite a bit of psychology in all of this. And if we were psychologists* we’d probably have to entertain all manner of complex behavioral models and pathologies like arrested development, diversion from the frightening realities of life and so forth and so on. Fortunately we’re not psychologists , so we can just spout our own half-baked theories. Even more fortunately, we don’t have to research and justify our theories (since we’re not, you know, psychologists), we just have to think them.
One theory is that all of this is spurred by nostalgia for a simpler time (e.g. pre-Obamacare, pre-civil unions, pre-internet, pre-just-about-everything-that-qualifies-as-pop-culture). This was a past unknown to anyone college age or younger, when Americans weren’t perpetually engaged culture wars and war in the Middle East and Islamic Extremism had not reached our shores and no one was under the delusion that anything on TV was “reality”. This is not to say that the 70’s and 80’s were perfect mind you – the seeds of our current discontent were germinating even then. There was also something terribly wrong with our pants, first bell-bottoms and then parachute pants. But by today’s standards those were simpler times indeed.
And by the way, what’s become of Mischief Night? Back in the day, Halloween morning yielded a panorama of soaped windows and toilet-papered trees. Not that we miss this mind you – just imagine the damage that could be leveled with today’s giant, economy sized rolls of toilet paper? But where is everyone? But could it be, perhaps, that most every night is mischief night, but lived out in virtual realities, viewed on LCD’s and communicated in pidgin-English sound bites sent by blazing thumbs?
Halloween is also a perfect time to enjoy a little scare. We like to do this by thinking of really scary what-ifs. Here’s one – what if Hillary Clinton was elected president? Brrrrrrr. It makes us shudder. The horrifying activities of her and her “Stranger Together” minions (we always wondered why her editorial staff never caught the repeated typo in her “Stronger Together” slogan).
Equally scary would be if a crude, egocentric, megalomaniac got elected. Ummm, anywho…. When we get too scared, we get relief by thinking of silly things that make us giggle, like Joe Biden. Or Trumpkins.
Back to the psychology of Halloween, our second Halloween operating theory, and we’re pretty certain about this, is that the recent and disturbing shift in Halloween is a giant mind control program orchestrated by the government (the reeeeal government, the people that never leave). You know, like 9/11, Area 51 and Joe Biden (there’s no way he was really our veep).
Here’s how it works; the government wants to scare us. “Scare us about what?” you ask? The answer is – everything. Our health. Our work. The economy. The environment. Remember, “don’t let a good crisis go to waste”? The government wants us to see everything as the big, bad boogieman so that we’ll want the government to make the big, bad boogiemen go away. And what better place to start instilling fear and scariness than on Halloween** ? It primes the pump of what our government calls the brain’s Total AnXiety system (also known as TAX). Once TAX is fully engaged, it keeps TAXing more and more and more until the affected individual is completely TAXed out.
While we’re pretty sure about the TAX conspiracy, it could also be that much of the Halloween overkill is simply a case of adults behaving badly and yet another example of a secular world that really is as crazy as we think it is. Off we go to Radio Shack.
*We’re engineers. If you wanted us to fix your noodle we’d do so by dismantling it, measuring each part with great precision before judging it to be inferior, tossing it, and then remantling your brain, but with more expensive parts from Radio Shack.
**Interestingly enough, studies show that for most Americans tax day is far scarier than Halloween, but the government still thinks of it as the happiest day of the year.