October is one of my favourite times of the year, for this is when the autumn presents itself at its most magnificent.
The temperature has suddenly dropped, but the crisp air feels fresh and invigorating. What I love the most though is the splendid array of colours on the trees: yellow, orange, red, and even purple. Walking down the street where I now live and which, fortunately, is lined with plenty of trees, I feel as if I am part of a vast autumn painting.
My youngest daughter collects fallen leaves of all sizes for her collage making. She sticks them onto her daddy’s white printing paper and spends so much time perfecting her artwork that we’re rushing to get to school on time.
For many people, children especially, the highlight of October is Halloween. My eldest daughter is sewing herself a cape for the occasion and her little sister is already parading around our neighbourhood in an enormous witch’s hat with long green hair. Halloween is every day as far as she’s concerned. By the way, the green hair rather suits her.
For my children and their friends, Halloween is all about having fun, and that’s great. But there’s another aspect of Halloween that troubles me: the intent to dress up to frighten. Witches and vampires no longer qualify as scary, so people go for blood, zombies, and Freddy Krueger masks.
At its worst, Halloween plays into the age-old stereotype, perpetuated by the film industry, that facial disfigurement equals bad and evil. Take the villains in Bond movies and Batman movies for example; you can often spot them on account of some disfiguring feature, such as a scar across their face.
When Disney released a remake of The Lone Ranger in 2013, featuring Johnny Depp as a Native American, the legendary media conglomerate came in for a lot of criticism from the Native American community.
Few, however, objected to William Fichtner’s portrayal of Butch Cassidy – the film’s arch villain – as “a ruthless outlaw whose terribly scarred face is a perfect reflection of the bottomless pit that passes for his soul.”
Fichtner spent hours having makeup applied to get his villain look: a scarred upper lip that bore a striking resemblance to a repaired cleft lip.
Helping out at Changing Faces yesterday, I was asked to take a look at supermarket websites and fancy dress sites, to see what kind of scary Halloween costumes are on the market this year.
I found endless zombie outfits, mummies, Freddy Krueger and Joker masks on sale, one gorier than the other.
But the culmination of the lazy, ignorant and offensive disfigurement=evil equation was the plethora of “serial killer” masks. In case you didn’t know, a serial killer can apparently be easily recognised by his (yes, it’s sexist too) severely burned, scarred or otherwise disfigured face.
If you don’t want to splash out on an overpriced Halloween outfit, you can make it easy for yourself by purchasing a few fake scar tattoos. Here we go again; scars are apparently scary, and evil people are scary so they must wear scars.
I wrote about my scars in a blog post a few months ago (Beautiful Blemish, 13 August) and I’d like to reiterate what I said then:
I love my scars, and there’s nothing scary or evil about them. And the fact that I may sometimes be a bit of an ass has nothing to do with my cleft.
So when you get ready for Halloween this year, please be mindful of the thousands of people out there who walk around with real and permanent scars. There’s nothing evil about them and if you got to know them a little you’d soon discover that they are just as beautiful as you are.