This Year’s Faux Halloween Trauma Has Begun

Apparently, supermarket Halloween decorations are just too gruesome.

Every year, it seems, someone somewhere will find something to object to about Halloween. Once, such arch miserablism was the domain of the religious fanatic, determined to see a demonic influence and the revival of pagan occultism in every mask, costume and pumpkin – that and furious British nationalists who objected to the influx of American traditions into UK culture, overwhelming our homegrown Bonfire Night excitement. More recently, it’s been more about complaints about bad taste and politically incorrect costumes that offend the perpetually offended. For those who make a living finding things to complain about – newspaper columnists and the like – it has been tougher to find things to complain about, but we should never underestimate their determination to do so. After all, the combination of ego and manufactured outrage is the sort of thing that builds careers.

So should we be surprised that i writer Allegra Chapman has taken to her column to express a ludicrous middle-class fear of ‘scary’ Halloween decorations? Apparently, her five-year-old was traumatised by the decor that was apparently front and centre of her local (unnamed) supermarket, where we are supposed to believe she does her weekend shopping for tins of beans just like the rest of us. What was this nightmarish vision? Well, for one, there was a ‘menacing’ witch mask. Now, let’s steady ourselves here. Witch masks might be many things – not least of which is a cartoon stereotype of witches, who in reality tend not to be green-skinned or fly on broomsticks. But this persona is nothing new and Allegra was not upset about this demonisation of pagans and women who died horrible deaths because of terrible superstitious paranoia – she (or, more accurately, Allegra Jr) was apparently scared shitless by this and by the doll-on-a-bike character from the Saw films – a character that her daughter must surely have no familiarity with. Well, five-year-olds find a lot of things scary, though it still seems a bit much to “edge inside, with her pressing her face into my back, until we were past the display“. Talk about reinforcing the poor kid’s trauma.

According to the column, Allegra used to love Halloween decor but has noticed – because of course she has – that everything has become more horrific in recent years. You, dear reader, might find that hard to swallow. I’ve been looking at Halloween decorations in shops for years and there is little different now than there was a decade ago. If anything, there seems to be less blood and less overt gruesomeness. But then again, I have no idea where she shops. “Do we really need to be able to pick up life-sized skeletal grim reapers next to the milk?” she asks, to which we might reasonably answer ‘no’ if such things really were dotted randomly across the store rather than in a specific area of the shop, easily seen from a distance. I’d counter this with another question – should Halloween decorations be dictated by the delicate sensibilities of jobbing newspaper hacks with a need to fill a weekly column and an inherent conservative take on culture?

In the same column, self-proclaimed ‘horror fan’ Allegra tells us that the “scariest stuff is what you don’t see” and that unnamed “genre masters” leave stuff to the imagination. That “slasher movies might make us jump and shock us, but they don’t stay with us.” News, I imagine, to most horror fans, but perhaps she is right – after all, who remembers Friday 13th or Halloween today? Who cares about those giallo movies anymore?

Let’s be honest here – Halloween decorations are no more grotesque now than they were ten, fifteen or twenty years ago and there is no way that supermarkets would ever risk frightening away customers with overly ghastly, gory imagery. There is no money to be made from doing that, unlike the ever-lucrative world of manufactured moral outrage, an industry that shows no sign of decline.


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