Volume 50, Issue 6: Editor’s Desk
Carlo Javier // Editor-in-Chief
“There’s only one hell, Princess. The one we live in now,” – Melisandre
Halloween is vastly different from what it was when I was a child. Granted, I did have my childhood in the Philippines, where cultural norms and religious practices were tied closely to Halloween celebrations. To celebrate the holiday, we visited cemeteries to commemorate those who had passed, we went to church for a special mass and children went door-to-door in their respective neighbourhoods, often receiving pocket change from homeowners – essentially our version of trick or treating.
There were similarities, too. Malls and popular streets hosted zombie parades, amusement parks modified their environment to add a spooky vibe to their facilities and haunted house tours were tremendously popular, especially real haunted house tours in abandoned buildings and homes.
When I moved to Canada nearly 10 years ago, Halloween started to change. People still dressed up for the occasion, but costumes were no longer predicated on terrifying, horror ideals. They were funny, like an exaggeration of a popular superhero’s costume. They were meta, like a literal representation of a road kill. Most popularly, Halloween costumes today are sexy, which basically applies to any possible costume, but with 70 per cent more skin.
While it may sound like I’m decrying the way Halloween has changed for me, I promise you, I’m not. I actually kind of like how Halloween has evolved. Ultimately, regardless of whether you like your Halloween celebration to be centred on cultural and religious values or exciting thrills and costuming extravaganzas, one variable about the popular holiday remains constant: fear. Haunted houses still exist, tours around the spookiest neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland are abundant and horror films seem to be going through a rejuvenation. Though it may seem like it’s walking the tightest of tight ropes, the Halloween spirit, even in the commercialized West, is still intact.
One of the best ways to underscore the differences in Halloween in the west and Asian cultures is through films. In many Asian horror flicks, fear is often predicated on the dead, on folklores and on the supernatural. You can see it in Asia’s most recognizable horror films, like Ringu, Juon: The Grudge and A Tale of Two Sisters.
While the same factors exist in Hollywood, many of the modern horror films are built around real, living characters. Often, Hollywood horror films depict sociopaths, murderers and other deviants. These movies also tend to favour gory and nauseating scenes.
Though almost certainly superficial, could this difference in filmmaking philosophy be inherently related to the way we celebrate Halloween? It could very well be that Halloween in the west is not about the dead, but about the living.
This very detail might be the reason why I don’t really find an issue with the way the holiday has evolved through time and culture. Yes, cultural appropriation in costumes is a no-no, but really, I don’t have any issues with people who see Halloween as a day to “hoe it up” or as a day to get incredibly inebriated at one of our many downtown clubs. These are all ultimately just facets of the holiday anyway.
Maybe it has something to do with the focus on the fear of the living, being afraid of the dead is natural – I sure as hell am, but we also don’t live in Westeros, the dead are not coming. Nobody is bringing the storm – it’s already here.
With our current sociopolitical climate, being afraid has become all too relatable. We no longer care so much about folklore and tales of the dead. Zombies and vampires are now just mere storytelling tropes and most symbols of Halloween have been humanized. The things we fear now are the things we live with. It’s the people that surround us, the guy that won’t stop messaging you and the government we elect. It’s anyone and anything, the only constant is that it’s real.
We tend to lambast the way Halloween has been devalued of spirit and tradition, but if Halloween is really about terrifying people, then it’s doing a pretty good job of reflecting reality.
The editors of the Capilano Courier regretfully retract parts of last week’s “Capilano Cleaners Join SEIU 2” story. Concerns about clarity were brought forward by the union and the online version of the story has been updated for clarity.