Why Are Kids' Halloween Costumes So Inappropriate?

I love going trick-or-treating with my 10-year-old son and his twin 7-year-old sisters because I love seeing them—and everyone else—in costume. Last year, my son was Mad-Eye Moody—Harry Potter’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. My twin girls were a sweet-looking witch and The Cat in the Hat.

But my kids often stand out in the costume department. Ringing doorbells alongside them, children are squirting blood from fake eyeballs, swinging plastic machetes, and dressing as blood-drenched zombie brides. It always makes me think, "Whatever happened to pirates and hobos?"

Contemporary kids’ costumes have gone from sickly sweet to just plain sick. A walk down the sadistic, splattered, fake blood-soaked Halloween aisle of your favorite drugstore proves a point last heard in 2000: Gore wins the popular vote.

When I went online this year to find my kids costumes, I found all forms of life-like bloody cutlery, clear masks that filled up with blood, and a wide range of disembodied heads and severed limbs. I saw a “zombie doctor” costume with “PVC rotting chest, pants with rotted knee, surgical mask and cap, and latex gloves” that came in size 4-6! I wondered: Heck, where’s the Texas Chainsaw Massacre costume for toddlers? Isn’t Leatherface more or less Bob the Builder with an attitude?

Just as puzzling: Many costumes for little children are based on movies the Motion Picture Association says "may be inappropriate for children under 13"—Wiggles-free flicks like The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars III, Star Trek, Transformers, and two of the last three Harry Potter movies.

If a costume of The Dark Knight’s homicidal maniac “The Joker” is too tame for your child, never fear! There’s a “Michael Myers” costume for sizes 10-12. That’s Michael Myers, the sadistic serial killer of Rob Zombie’s seriously R-rated Halloween franchise. Putting an R rating on those movies is like putting a Surgeon General’s warning on heroin.

I love Halloween scares more than the average grown-up, but I’m happy to wait for my kids to develop the same appreciation at their own pace, if at all. I only wish the Halloween costume industry and otherwise family-friendly stores would hold their fire as well.

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