In Hindsight

Behind the Mask

This October, while you were shopping for fake blood and a glue-on mustache to complete your zombie Tom Selleck costume, others were dressing up and making the news.

Costumes are tricky—you can’t always tell what’s underneath them. On October 7, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer was forced to apologize to “Catholics at large” for giving Holy Communion to two gay men from an activist performance group called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The Sisters showed up for Mass dressed as nuns, with one wearing “a large flowered hat or garland.”

The day before, white students at Oregon State University wore blackface to a football rally, and students from the University of Louisiana at Monroe reenacted the “Jena 6” attack in blackface, and posted the video on Facebook.

It seems a political costume speaks louder than a thousand op-eds, and some just plain give the wearer’s allegiances away. For example, this month supporters of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who on October 28 was elected as Argentina’s first female president, dressed up as penguins. Her husband Nestor—Argentina’s current president—is nicknamed “Penguin.”

But not all election-inspired costumes this month were so complimentary. On October 19, outraged Australian comedians dressed up as white rabbits and worms to ridicule Prime Minister John Howard’s ability to pull a rabbit out of his hat and find a way to win re-election.

An extreme outfit won’t just win your school’s costume contest, it also helps drum up attention for your plight. Take the unemployed Colombian man who, on October 15, sewed his lips shut and locked himself in an iron mask to demand government assistance for himself and his family.

Not quite ready to go on a hunger strike for your cause? Maybe a Lady Godiva outfit of pasties and a no-nonsense attitude is more your speed. It felt right to the British woman who dressed up as the famous reformer while protesting a proposed plan to close an elderly care home.

In fact, the weekend before Halloween also gave protestors across the U.S. a great excuse to dress up in politically motivated costumes and openly criticize the Iraq war. Because nothing says “War is not the answer” like Bush in prison stripes. Except maybe a Guantanamo prisoner costume, or a polar bear costume—oh, sorry, the polar bear was protesting global warming.

But for every costumed man and woman fighting injustice this month, there were dozens of monster-masked criminals just plain causing mayhem. A man in a Scream mask robbed a scrapbook club at a Morgan Hill, Calif., hotel, and on October 17, a teenager wearing a mask from Saw robbed a bank because he wanted money to help his mother pay bills and buy his sister a birthday present. On October 10, a man wearing a Friday the 13th-inspired hockey mask robbed a Dollar General Store with a toy pistol.

I would empty my bank account, hand over my car keys, and go into a coma. I am that afraid of Michael Myers. Also this month, two masked men—one in a green number with fake blood drops—robbed a motel in East Shelby County, Tenn., and a pair of gorilla-masked robbers have held up at least one ATM in Orlando.

What rash of October masked robberies would be complete without an appearance by a knife-wielding thief in a Halloween Michael Myers mask? If someone in a Michael Myers mask came up to me on the street holding a bouquet of flowers and politely asked me if I could tell him how to get to the kitten store, without hesitation I would empty my bank account, hand over my car keys, and go into a coma. I am that afraid of Michael Myers.

So pervasive and threatening are these masked marauders that the city of Cocoa, Fla., made it illegal to wear masks in certain public areas. If only they’d outlaw some more overplayed costumes, like the sexy nurse, the sexy kitty cat, and the sexy devil.

But hate the criminals, not the costumes they wear while committing petty theft; after all, some costumes actually prevent crime. Like the Japanese vending machine disguise we learned about this month. Aya Tsukioka’s experimental fashion design allows women to “elude pursuers” by dressing as a vending machine when in danger.

Sometimes costumes just give regular folks a chance to be someone else for a day. Like the Rotterdam, N.Y., couple who dressed up as the Munsters for their October 28 wedding. Wedding guests included Wonder Woman and Bat Girl. Costumes even played an important role in setting world records this October. Zombie-costumed dancers who participated in Thrill the World on October 27, set the record for the largest ever simultaneous “Thriller” performance.

Sometimes the urge to dress up as your favorite characters can be so enticing that you’ll end up in a jam like the three-year-old who got an orange traffic cone stuck on his head while imitating Harry Potter.

For some this month, dressing up wasn’t about pretending to be someone else, but about being yourself. Goth kids at Edward Little High School in Maine were kicked out of classes because they wore black makeup under their eyes. But their offending dress wasn’t a costume, it’s “what they want to wear.”

Real-life superheroes like Street Hero and the Cleanser, who convened in Times Square on October 28, wear costumes, not uniforms, when they fight crime and clean up the streets.

And I wouldn’t consider the denim miniskirt Virginia preacher Thomas Dale Tester was wearing when arrested for drunken driving and offering sex to a police officer a costume. That’s just a uniform for washing down painkillers with half a bottle of vodka.


TMN Editor Nicole Pasulka believes she could beat a lie detector. When she sits in a chair she almost never puts her feet on the floor. Even though she likes the internet a lot, she is convinced that people will always read magazines and she is secretly building one in her basement. More by Nicole Pasulka