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7 Problematic Family Halloween Costumes That Just Aren’t Worth Your Time

by Lindsay E. Mack

Halloween is a truly magical holiday for kids and adults alike, because it invites imagination, creativity, and dress-up like no other day. And some families take the bonding to another level entirely by dressing up in a group costume. Although 99.9 percent of these getups are simply adorable, there are a few family costumes to avoid on Halloween because they could be seen as problematic. But as long as everyone in your family just takes a second to think about their costume ideas, it should be fine.

For the most part, thinking twice about potentially problematic Halloween costumes is simply a form of courtesy. After all, most everyone just wants to enjoy the holiday. "The first thing that must be understood when talking about this complicated issue is that cultural appropriation on Halloween is not implicitly born of malice," wrote Mark Shrayber in Uproxx. "Mostly, it’s just people wanting to have fun." That said, there are countless ways to have fun with costuming that don't involve stereotyping someone else's culture, belittling people who are incarcerated, or totally scaring the daylights out of your kid for decades to come. Read on for a quick reminder of what costumes your family might want to avoid, then go out and have a totally fantastic Halloween.


Overt Political Statements

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Granted, some families are all about politics from day one. But why not give politics a rest for one night and just dress your family as something fun and innocuous? Your kid would probably have more fun dressed as a duck or a dinosaur, not a political figure.


Cultural Appropriation

This term gets parodied a lot, but it's still a real concern. "If we lived in a perfect world, we could all dress up as one another without giving offense," said Susan Scafidi in USA Today. "But there are historical realities and ongoing social issues and we just have to respect that that's part of where America is right now, and maybe pull back from that kind of masquerade." Just be aware of whether your costume choice is actually mocking another culture or heritage.


Racist Costumes

Just don't do it. Anything that even seems like blackface is wrong for so, so many reasons. And the same goes for dressing up like a Native American. "It's 'redface.' Just like 'blackface,'" said Deejay NDN, a member of the First Nations DJ trio A Tribe Called Red, in HuffPost. Please pick literally anything else for your costume.


Prison Garb

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Adults, kids, infants, and even dogs can easily dress up in a convict costume this Halloween, because there are tons of prison-related designs at most every costume shop. But really, these costumes could be seen as trivializing the prison system, as noted in INSIDER. Give it a second thought if you're planning a family inmate costume.


Mocking Religious Dress

This isn't to say that all religious themes are totally off limits, of course. But just be mindful of what you're doing. "For many religious people cassocks, veils and turbans aren’t costumes, at all, but important elements of their faith practice. And it is never cool to mock someone’s faith," wrote Carol Kuruvilla and Antonia Blumberg in HuffPost.


Super Gory, Scary Costumes

OK, this is more of a case-by-case basis, because some kids are super into scary, ghoulish costumes from a young age. If this sounds like your kiddo, then by all means dress as a family of zombies or werewolves or anything else your spooky hearts desire.

But for kids who are a little more sensitive, just try to see the holiday from their perspective. The sneering, distorted Halloween masks that are kind of comical to adults can be straight-up terrifying to little kids. Maybe opt for a tamer group costume choice until your kid is a little older and braver.



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There's no universal reason to avoid this costume choice. I just don't want to run into an entire family dressed as clowns this Halloween. Please don't scare me, thank you.