Earlier this year, a sociologist wrote a piece for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) to suggest that, despite the pandemic, Halloween events should still go ahead as planned. "I do believe people will want to, and should, head out to haunted attractions where they can safely gather with friends, laugh, and scream as loud as they want," she typed. "Right now, we could all use reminders of hope and strength, fictional and recreational horror can be a surprisingly rewarding way to get there."
At the time that piece was published, the United States had 1.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and almost 92,000 deaths, but those numbers have since climbed to more than 6.5 million cases and 194,000 deaths. Although some theme parks have opened against the advice of health officials (we see you, Disney World), a 'normal' Halloween looks increasingly unlikely, even if we're all willing to keep screaming inside our own hearts.
Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios, and Carowinds have all called off their annual Halloween events. Toms River, New Jersey, has cancelled the country's second-largest Halloween parade (New York City's is the biggest) for only the third time in its 80-plus year history. And, just last week, Los Angeles County said that there could be no trick-or-treating, no parties, and no haunted attractions for any of its residents.
That's not to say that Halloween is totally over though. Yandy.com, your aunt's go-to retailer for crotchless body stockings, has released a "Tiger Queen" costume that takes Joe Exotic's unmistakable fit and reimagines it as a sequin tiger print bodysuit with a denim-look brief, a leg holster, and a hot pink trucker hat.
So far, that's the site's only nod to 2020, and its most topical new offering. But what else can they do? Last year, they could roll out Sexy White Claw, Sexy Beyond Burger, and Sexy Chicken Sandwich costumes, but it's hard to imagine that there's anything about the past nine months that could, or even should, be sexualized. (The one exception would be Sexy Anthony Fauci and honestly that's redundant.)
Although Halloween is still more than six weeks away, it looks like the costume of the year might be "The Karen." One Etsy seller is offering Karen wigs, styled in that asymmetrical haircut that has become synonymous with screaming about having to wear a mask at Wegmans, and leaving one-star reviews for understaffed chain restaurants.
An Amazon seller (whose store is called "Funny Halloween Shirts Internet Memes") has printed $25 shirts that say "I Want to Speak to the Manager: This is My Karen Costume," while Look Human goes with "THIS IS MY SCARY KAREN COSTUME," adding that this T-shirt is all you need to "pretend to be entitled and toxic."
And Jason Adcock, a Los Angeles artist, has added made-to-order latex Karen masks on his Etsy shop, calling it "the scariest thing you can be." Each $180 mask is handmade, with painted makeup, blond hair, and a scrunched open-mouthed expression that looks like she was sculpted while screaming "ALL LIVES MATTER" in a stranger's face.
"I was quarantining at home and wanted to make a new mask. I just started sculpting, and out came Karen," he said. "I've spent most of my life working retail in the cosmetics industry, so I have seen countless Karens in their natural habitat."
Adcock says that he's been making the masks as a way to pay his bills during the pandemic, but it's not easy work: Each Karen takes him between four and six weeks to complete. And it's both disappointing and unsurprising to learn that some people aren't hype about his latest creation. "For the most part the response has been positive and fun, but I have gotten a few death threats, a lot of people saying it's racist, or that I should be disgusted with myself," he said. "But if the one thing you're pressed up about right now is a rubber Halloween mask of an angry lady, you need to wake up. People are literally being killed every day for their race and gender identity."
If you're still upset about his hand-crafted Karens, he has another suggestion: "If your name is the only thing that defines you, you should be at Camp Crystal Lake wearing a hockey mask [and] terrorizing camp counselors."