October 30, 2011

Halloween, from communal rite of rebellion to egocentric business as usual

You couldn't pick a worse time to try to socialize in a night club, bar, house party, etc., than the Saturday around Halloween, when everyone goes out.

Before the great wimpification of the '90s, it used to be a "rite of rebellion," where the normal order of things is inverted for a little while, until everyone goes back to life as usual. We all recognize the need for the occasional break from our routine roles, and these rites allow us to all coordinate on the same time, place, theme, and so on, to make it a communal affair. Plus it helps to level ranks and distinctions, which makes for a closer feeling of community, though without greatly upsetting the social order, since it's only temporary and since the "rebels" are not directly accusing or confronting their superiors. Something just came over them, they couldn't help themselves, etc., but don't worry because now it's out of their system and they'll go back to their normal roles.

In the case of Halloween, it was mostly females and young people who indulged in a little rule-bending. Children and adolescents pursued greater independence than would normally be allowed to them, and girls behaved more sexually than usual -- meaning behavior that leads toward getting it on, not attention whoring.

Stepping outside the boundaries of their usual roles requires a loss of self-consciousness; otherwise their internal alarm will sound, reminding them what their proper role is. Today Halloween parties show the opposite: nobody is so self-conscious as during the implicit contest over whose costume is the most clever, meta-ironic, just plain kitschy, or slutty.

Guys are bad enough, laboring to signal how long the conception and execution took. They're more like salesmen making a pitch than revelers getting lost in the crowd-vibe. Girls, however, don't even show that level of extraversion. They're just there to soak up a lot of free attention without having to interact with anyone. Their costumes don't serve as a disguise in order to pursue what they normally could not, but instead as a "this is why I'm hot" broadcast. It only amplifies girls' basic tendency toward egocentrism and frigid attention-whoring.

As for young people, children hardly go trick-or-treating at all anymore, and adolescents (which now includes anyone through their mid-20s) have no impulse to seek out greater independence when opportunity knocks. They'd rather fart around someone's basement watching TV or playing beer pong, probably the most snore-inducing activity ever invented, and one that prevents anyone present from pairing off to make out, listen to music, or do anything else exciting. Why helicopter parents are so paranoid about their kids getting into trouble these days is beyond me -- this generation of passive, cocoon-loving dorks only knows how to rebel by whining on Facebook or pretending to be a girl in a video game.

I harp on these changes about Halloween every time it rolls around, mostly because it they were so fast and so great. Other things just kind of faded away, like cars with T-tops, but this holiday was turned into its polar opposite. I still go out to the parties because I can't resist a crowd around Halloween, but I don't expect much carnivalesque fun anymore. That's more for '80s night, which (at least here) is more of a standard rite of rebellion.

Still, there's usually at least one colorful episode at Halloween parties today. I never thought I'd get the chance, but tonight I got to dance to "Goodbye Horses," aka Buffalo Bill's theme song from Silence of the Lambs. Although hardly my favorite, it's a fun groovy song, especially played around Halloween, that I've never heard in a club before. It's also a treat to hear some of the very late New Wave songs, which got lost in the shuffle. The drag queen out on the dance floor only added to the slightly unsettling vibe that the song gives anyone who saw the movie.

1 comment:

  1. Finally the System has won. The whole world has become conformist.


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