Olympia Comes Out in Their Costumed Best
By Sara Fabian
The idea of masquerading as someone or something else seems about as old as humanity itself. From masquerade balls of 15th century Europe, to Carnival and Shakespeare plays, the idea of disguise have come from old mythologies: the supernatural beings of Europe, the phantoms ghouls and monsters. You could dress as a black-caped Dracula, a stitched-together Frankenstein’s monster, a furry werewolf. Now through the magic of popular culture, we have a new mythology, a new set of creatures to be— or pretend to be. This isn’t simple make-believe. Think about it. In our day to day life, we have obligations, homework, bills, tuition, family etc. At times we may feel powerless, but when we put on a costume, an alter ego takes place and with it all, implied super strength. Nobody tells a witch to do her homework. Nobody tells Spider-Man to pay his electric bill. Even as an adult, this holiday gives us freedom. On Halloween, all the doors open. As we celebrate the night our costumes command importance, beauty and power. The M&Ms, the Reese’s Pieces, and perhaps, some alcohol too, becomes ours. We are in complete control. Carnival, Halloween, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, all of the festivals of olden times inverted the power structure. The serfs could put on the masks of kings and queens and gods and monsters. The feeling like we’re anonymous is enough to free us from the normative constraints–the unwritten rules of civilized society–that usually govern behavior. Wearing masks, hoods, costumes, and anything else that obscures identity or produces anonymity also makes it easier for us to do that which we might otherwise hesitate to do. Halloween allows people to be non- judgmental, non-conforming to stereotypes and biases present in today’s societies. Besides the obvious pleasures associated with Halloween, our donning of disguises may be a way of enjoying the possibility of being someone that we didn’t know we were or could be. Halloween tells us something important about its essential playful nature. In this way, disguises help us wonder about what it would be like to be a version of ourselves that is more humorous, less empathetic, more surprising, or simply more interesting.