Spirit Halloween faces backlash over culturally insensitive costumes


Jay Signer, Contributing Writer

With Halloween approaching quickly, many people debate over costumes that some have deemed culturally insensitive that most Halloween retailers, such as Spirit Halloween, sell to the public. Many people on social media have pointed out these costumes, and how they can be seen as culturally insensitive but little to nothing is done about it on the company’s end. 

Last year, a TikToker by the name of @courtwashere pointed out the fact that Spirit Halloween was selling wigs of black hairstyles and labeling and selling them as costumes. The video was captioned with the words “Do better” and the video itself gained over 170,000 views and 43,000 likes. The video continued by showing photos of wigs labeled “Dark Magic Dreads,\” and “Afro Mullets,” all of which the models who donned these wigs were white, to make matters worse. 

Out of the 958 comments, most expressed outrage over the video and the products.

“Since when is Black hair a costume?” one TikToker said.

This isn’t the only example of such products being sold, as many other party stores, such as Party City, have been seen selling similar products to Spirit Halloween. One of the products that is similar is the “Afro” wig that Party City sells. People have expressed outrage for years about these insensitive outfits, but little change has been made.

Many petitions on sites like Change.org have been started in response to these insensitive outfits, such as one that was created in 2018 in response to the “Native American” costumes that Spirit Halloween has sold for years. Multiple Native Americans have pointed out how offensive and disrespectful these costumes are to their culture. The petition reached over 10,000 signatures, but still did nothing to persuade the company’s mind about selling these items.

People also deem that it is immoral for others to profit off of the lifestyle and culture of those who have suffered for thousands of years, and are still suffering to this day. These costumes can make the culture or people it is depicting seem “laughable” or as if they are not people at all. Some have compared these costumes to minstrel shows, which were shows in the early 1900s which depicted stereotyped African Americans in “comedies” where white people performed in blackface and acted incredibly racist for money. Many have argued online that the costumes are not “to that extent,” but a resemblance between both minstrel shows and these racist costumes can still be seen.

As mentioned earlier in this article, little progress has been made in America to help combat these offensive costumes, but Canada has a different story. In 2018, Spirit Halloween agreed to stop selling some of their culturally offensive costumes that depicted sexualized Native Americans, and just Native Americans in general, at their stores in Ontario. Many people were surprised at this response from Spirit Halloween in Canada. In fact, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, was pictured wearing brownface in 2001, along with the fact that Canada has other laws which have been called out for being racist to immigrants. While this is a small step in the long term, it is a step in the right direction. 

On another good note, with people rebelling against these offensive outfits, it brings awareness to others about these cultures  and how to help fight for fairer depiction in America. Many people have not had a second thought about these costumes when they enter a costume store, but the more people talk about these issues, the more traction the movement gets, and more people will realize what is so wrong with these outfits, and why people should not act as if other people’s culture and identity is an outfit.