Halloween has the best traditions: creative costumes, trick-or-treating for candy door to door, crazy horror films, and scaring kids who come to your house. The last one may be just me, but if you want my fun-size, you gotta have the gumption.
It's too bad the years have allowed some traditions to destroy all that childhood wonder I still have in my ancient heart. As you gear up for your Halloween, consider dumping parental paranoia, and lousy shows that ruin the fun of the season. Here are some traditions we can live without.
Stranger Danger Alarmism
Stranger abductions have a nearly zero percent chance of occurring, and yet we have made society completely paranoid over it. With the aid of mainstream media and their audience whoring, stranger danger changed us from people who can rely on the kindness of strangers to people scared to death of it.
Strangers out to harm you in every imaginable way is a core theological principle of soccer mom cultists. Failure to follow their warnings will produce mommy moral outrage, and even intervention by police and child protective services. This has become so ridiculous that states are now having to pass laws to legalize "free-range parenting", or what pre-1990 parents called, "parenting". It's time to call bullshit with the largest bison available.
During Halloween, stranger danger alarmists scream an air raid siren of warnings to every helicopter parent. A good portion of society is now convinced that every neighbor, known and unknown, is secretly part of an abduction syndicate that operates only on the 31st of October.
I prefer to answer these claims by relying on statistics. Unfortunately, recent experiences have proven that numbers don't matter to those convinced of their own moral superiority. Suffice it to say that child abductions by strangers are extremely rare and are non-existent on Halloween. Those that abduct and harm children are known to the children. It’s your family and friends, not the strangers, you have to watch closely.
The idea that strangers are lurking everywhere to take your child is a groundless paranoia. The biggest risk to children on Halloween is pedestrian accidents which is also one of the biggest risks during the rest of the year.
Admittedly, a miniscule, infinitesimal, Higgs-Boson sized risk of stranger abduction on Halloween exists. Nobody wants to go through the torture of losing a kid. So moderate, reasonable precautions make sense'; like having kids go out in groups. Things kids already do for the fun of it.
Hovering over kids, convinced that some guy has spotted the number of kid stickers on the back of your SUV and is ready to leap out of a hedge and snatch them suggests a mental disorder, not good parenting. Don't believe me? I'll defer to to LetGrow.org and hope others will discover reasoning enough to unpucker their overprotective rectum from now till November 1st.
Tainted Treat Hysteria
There is no better home for Halloween than my Sorceressister's mountain estate. Her decorations are spectacular. Last year it included a Pirates of the Caribbean set complete with sailboat and skeletal swashbucklers. This year is covers both her front and back yards. It’s a wonderful spectacle, but that’s not even the best part.
Her crowning achievements are miniature cupcakes with a perfect frosting that she gives to trick-or-treaters from the tray. Yeah, you heard me, homemade, unwrapped, and given to children on Halloween.
Are you impressed at her devotion to her craft and her generosity? Nope. You're thinking "She's drugging the kids!!”
In spite of the fact that we live in a time of unprecedented safety for us and our children, we still believe the ridiculous. We have convinced ourselves that no normal minded person would make a treat completely from scratch, with a flavor that warrants its own cake making reality show, and give it to children on Halloween. That is, unless they were trying to turn the children into junkies.
Does any of this make any sense? Bake and give away homemade desserts any other time and you are Martha Stewart's cellmate fantasy. Do it on Halloween and you're Jigsaw in an apron.
Year after year I received PTA produced warnings about the risk of unwrapped treats. I've been told they're baked with marijuana, laced with LSD, and sprinkled with Ecstasy.
Let's be honest, if even a small percentage of this happened, there would be a lot more teenage trick-or-treaters on the street. I live in a state where marijuana is unlawful in either recreational or medicinal forms. If I thought it was out there for the cost of ringing a doorbell, I'd be in costume and hunting for unwrapped treats by Two O'clock in the afternoon. It's not like I don't already have a She-Ra costume in the closet for special occasions.
I try to avoid conspiracy theories, but I have one. I really think that the whole unwrapped candy scare must have been fabricated by M&M/Mars or Nestle'. I say that with complete admiration for guerilla marketing tactics. If they didn't start this, they really ought to find the person who did and put them on the board of directors.
Much like stranger danger, tainted treat fears lack any real foundation in fact. Investigators into these myths have found that of all the reports, only one was verified. The culprit was the child’s father who was looking for a some lawsuit money. The remaining were hoaxes started mostly by kids wanting attention. So, the little cretins that you’re trying to protect the the actual problem.
Trunk Or Treats
Stranger Danger and Tainted Treats have given rise to the lamest of Halloween traditions. The trunk or treat. If this is unfamiliar to you, I will explain it and resist using green text to reflect my envy.
Since scaredy parents equate Halloween with The Purge, church groups and community centers started to have all the neighborhood parents park their cars in a parking lot. They then let the kids pick up the candy as the adults distributed it from their trunks. Rather than letting kids roam freely and have adventures exploring the neighborhood, adults march them a few steps from car trunk to car trunk like they're shopping for pirated DVDs. Ten minutes later, the kids have all their trunk candy and mom makes it home without missing her episode of The Bachelor.
Trunk or treats always start out as being hugely festive with lavishly decorated cars and other activities, but the next year, it's just about getting kids the candy as fast as they can and getting out of there.
Similar events are mall based trick or treats because we somehow believe that the shirtless guy at Abercrombie & Fitch is safer than your next door neighbor.
This takes all the fun out of Halloween while parents pat themselves on the back for keeping kids safe. Parents are killing a magical time for kids. Not only that, they destroy yet another opportunity for them to learn how to be independent. Maybe safety-above-all parents should start flogging themselves on the back instead.
Hocus Pocus Marathon Airings
All of the previous entries are somewhat related, but they also have another thing in common. They’re all products of the 1990’s.
We like to think of the 90’s as the era that gave us Kurt Cobain, Seinfeld, and My So-Called Life, and it did. We forget that these were crowded out by a ton of saccharine mediocrity. Grunge music played background to boy-bands. Cutting edge comedy was outnumbered by sitcoms like Full House, Family Matters, and Step by Step. My So Called Life lasted less than a season even though the serialized drama’s of today are created from the same pattern. Even Saturday Night Live couldn’t make a decent comedy sketch based on the Clinton/Lewinsky affair and that is comedy rich fodder. It was a decade where the public embraced anything that wasn’t special.
It was also the decade that turned parenting into a fear driven industry that resulted in our other entries. It’s was a decade that tried to polish all the dangerous jagged edges from our lives. It was the decade that believed that self-esteem was achieved by shielding kids from failure. It imagined a bland, fat-free, danger-free utopia. It’s no surprise that the pick for the Halloween show of the decade is the absolute wrong one.
1993 produced two Halloween films for kids and family. One was a paradigm shifting, visually stunning, masterpiece of storytelling that also was a musical. The other was a humorless, scare-less, ridiculous story with one gratuitous song that doesn’t compare to the original. Guess which got treated as the Halloween TV event of the year?
Halloween and horror films are the ultimate marriage. If you need a good primer for horror films, the Sorceressister has you covered. Quality isn't even the first requirement where horror films are concerned. Campy horror, quality horror, funny horror, and bad acting with over the top gore horror all tickle the gigglies. And yet, Hocus Pocus fails by every standard.
Hocus Pocus lacks any of this. It piles on the cheese of bad horror without the horror. Its attempts at humor fail every time. Some of the jokes are sexual in nature and still don’t work. All the characters are relentlessly annoying. Not even Bette Midler's requisite song number provides a worthwhile return. It only makes me wish Screamin' Jay Hawkins was still around. It gives so little that one has to ask why it’s considered a holiday classic.
It’s value as a family Halloween classic stems only from the fact that it used to be one of very few films in the genre. It’s the same reason Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer is considered a classic. Rudolph sucks as a kid’s holiday film. Rudolph’s world is a fascist, master race society whose only redemption is when he makes a good headlight. Unfortunately, films like these Rankin-Bass travesties were all kids had. When all you have is Miracle Whip, everything tastes like fake mayonnaise. It would take the Star Wars Holiday Special before somebody realized the whole children’s Christmas movie genre needed some help.
Hocus Pocus benefitted from the same deficit. Your Halloween family viewing consisted of Hocus Pocus, Nightmare Before Christmas, and It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. The final two are gems and worthy of being called classics, but they’re hardly enough for the season. So, Hocus Pocus became a Holiday film tradition by default.
Now, like Christmas films, we a much larger library of quality to fill the gap. The Nightmare Before Christmas relaunched a once dead animation style (ironically, the same style that Ruldolph type films killed). This resulted in a studio that has produced the absolute best animation in this decade and it’s all Halloween oriented. It’s not Disney or Pixar either. Seriously, if Laika Studios isn’t familiar to you, I don’t think we can be friends.
Laika films alone represents 10 hours of quality Halloween films. It’s predecessors, The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, both directed by Laika Studio’s top creative mastermind, make your kid friendly Halloween viewing complete and top quality. I’ll even throw in Halloweentown if Freeform will just stop airing that mascot to everything tragic about the 90’s every day in October.
I know Hocus Pocus is a part of your childhood; that makes be feel bad for your youth. Unless you have Gogurts stockpiled, you’re ready to cut the 90s blandness loose. I know I haven’t bothered watching Rudolph and the Orwellian Conformist North Pole in over a decade.