This article was originally featured on VICE Canada.
When I first heard a few weeks ago that Home Depot was removing the Scary Peeper Creeper Halloween decoration from its shelves, I was a bit skeptical.
The offending costume—a prop of a hooded man whose hands are at the sides of his face—has suction cups that can be attached to the windows of a home, so it looks as if he's peering inside. Very scary stuff. It was stripped from the hardware store's shelves after a Markham, Ontario woman said voyeurism is a crime in Canada and shouldn't be glorified.
Thing is, murder is also a much frowned-upon crime and yet deranged killers and their victims remain one of the most popular Halloween tropes. Still, I can understand the logic of those who are offended by the Peeper Creeper—the name itself, a nod to peeping Toms, doesn't do it any favours.
It seems this Halloween, more so than in Halloweens past, the Peeper has plenty of company. In a strive to be sensitive, we've seen students at Brock University issue a list of banned costumes that are considered to be in poor taste, including Bill Cosby, Caitlyn Jenner, and attire that belongs to cultural groups i.e. headdresses and bindis. Some stores, for the first time, won't be carrying any Indigenous-themed costumes, (though others are refusing to stop selling those same costumes, despite being called out as racist). And just this week, a group of US-based mental health advocates went public with its demand that mentally ill people shouldn't be used to scare people during Halloween (think: psych ward haunted houses). All in all, things are relatively woke, which is a good thing.
Some people are no doubt annoyed by what they see as a bow to political correctness. And while you may be struggling to figure out where to draw the line, I have figured it out for the greater good of all society.
The line is clown bans.
Hysteria over "creepy clowns" has been sweeping North America for months. I guess it started in Greenville, South Carolina, where kids reportedly spotted clowns trying to lure them into the forest with money (sounds like an OK deal tbh). Soon after, clown-related "incidents" began popping up in other parts of the US and Canada. Most of them appear to be dumb pranks—in Toronto two teens were arrested after one chased a fellow student around while wearing a clown costume and the other filmed it; Halifax police opened an investigation after a teen posted an image of a clown lurking outside a school with the caption "We stalking you so keep your eyes open. We ain't killing, we just creeping." In St. Remi, Quebec last week, yet another teen clown was charged with assault with a weapon after allegedly attacking someone—though, when reached by VICE, Quebec provincial police did not elaborate what weapon he possessed. (I have a hunch it might've been the costume itself.) The teen was also charged with wearing a disguise, and cops have asked people to call 911 if they spot clowns.
As a result of all the hype, some school districts including Fort McMurray have banned clown costumes outright.
"There was concern that some students were not reacting well to the whole creepy clown issue. I'm supporting our students, I'm supporting our principals in those observations," superintendent Doug Nicholls told the CBC. Meanwhile Canadian Tire has pulled two hanging clown decorations in an effort to be "sensitive," though a spokesperson admitted no customers had complained.
IMO catering to everyone's sensitivities—especially when their sensitivity is a fear—goes against the very principle of Halloween. Lots of people get squeamish around blood—are zombies, decapitated limbs, or vampires next to go? What about kids dressing up like Satan—the literal embodiment of all evil in the world? Won't someone think of the Catholics?
A couple years ago, some Canadian schools started replacing Halloween with "black and orange day" because it's more inclusive and doesn't have roots in "occultism." Gee, that sucks, I thought at the time. But if the only non-offensive thing left to dress up as is a sexy Bernie Sanders, that might not be such a shitty alternative.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.