Can cultural appropriation be applied to fictional characters?

Brianna Adkins

Halloween is the perfect time to experiment with the looks of your favorite vines, cartoon characters, actors, and many others. While this holiday tradition seems harmless, some fans of the activity decided to take a more controversial approach to Oct. 31. With costume creations that mock cultures, gender inequality, and even deaths of loved ones, it’s becoming apparent that more thought needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to choosing a Halloween costume.

For several decades, businesses have supplied the most outlandish costumes to consumers looking to impress their peers. The limit to this harmless fall activity has been debated due to the presence of cultural appropriation in their costumes of choice. This thought was furthermore challenged on Sept. 21 when lingerie retailer, Yandy, dropped a costume appropriating a fictional culture.

The criticized costume consisted of a bonnet, a red cape, and a red mini-dress: a sexualized version of the oppressed character, Offred, from Hulu’s hit series and Margaret Atwoods’ novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The hit series documents a fictional universe in which men have complete control over women, including Offred, who is among the women charged with populating the next generation of children.

The costume based off of the television series caused a media storm echoing with comments of disappointment and outrage. A twitter petition expressed the opinions of social media users, demanding to have the costume removed from online stores.

“Unfortunately, your company failed to realize how dangerously close we are at this point in history to events from “The Handmaids Tale” to actually happening,” expressed Twitter user, Mae West. “When our rights and freedoms are being taken from us, it is a time to fight these ideals not embrace them.”

 Another Twitter user, Leah McSweeney, commented an opposing side,People were mad about a Handmaids Tale Costume so @Yandy removed it from their site. This is what happens when upper middle-class women don’t have anything to be mad about and want to get outraged.”

Yandy eventually decided to pull the production of the Offred costume. Amidst this conflict, another controversy resurfaced—the continued production of “Sexy Native American” costumes. Cultural appropriation has been a major topic of discussion throughout recent Halloween celebrations, with many opinions having been expressed in the media.

An enraged Twitter user, Shay, expressed, “This is why I didn’t give a shit about the Handmaid’s Tale costume. They were so pressed over a fictional T.V. show, but actual people have had their culture [turned] into costumes for years.”

While the Handmaid’s Tale costume was petitioned and removed from the website, the Native American costumes remain on Yandy’s page, even though both costumes received roughly the same amount of petition signatures.

This debate only continues the conversation that is cultural appropriation. Whether it is fictional, or fact, any representation should be carefully considered during this fall season.