By Kat Nguyen, University of St. Thomas Houston Alumnus
Halloween is meant to be a fun night when you can step away from your life and experience a “Cinderella” effect. But before you transform into your fabulous character, you should be considerate about what you choose to dress up as. In 2018, I recall reading about how Sachi Feris, a parent blogger, advocated that White children not dress up as Disney’s Moana. Feris sought to prevent her kids from mistakenly disrespecting or misrepresenting a person’s culture in any way. What followed her article was a heated debate, though I would argue that just as we should respect a person’s cultural customs, we should also respect religious rituals.
For children, Halloween is filled with harmless fun. It includes the tradition of dressing up as monsters, princesses, soldiers, and pop culture icons. But as we grow up, the degree of risqué costumes steadily increases. Every year, Halloween vendors advertise typical costumes like doctors, nurses, princesses, and even referees, but with the word “sexy” slapped onto the title. I cannot speak for medical professionals or soldiers, but as a Catholic, seeing companies advertise our religious vocational life and distorting it to make it “sexy” is an eyesore every October.
Entering the priesthood or religious life is an important part of the Catholic faith, and distorting these aspects to fit a sexual fetish is not only disrespectful to Catholics, but it creates a precedent for doing the same to other faiths. But while Halloween is only one day of the year, it reflects the broader trend of sexualizing Catholicism in pop culture.
Movies and TV shows tend to reflect this pattern of twisting the Catholic faith for entertainment. For example, a recent release, from the popular streaming platform, Netflix, titled “Yes, God, Yes,” contains a synopsis that says, “A devoutly religious teen grapples with her own sexual awakening and attends a Catholic school retreat in hopes of suppressing her newfound urges.” Another example is the entertainment app, “Tik Tok,” which lets users upload short videos. A popular trend is donning these costumes to mock prayer to God.
I do not mean to be a Betty Buzzkill on Halloween, but I would like to raise awareness of this issue. In light of movements that call us to be more aware of disrespecting certain cultures, we should also work towards removing the sexualization of the Catholic faith, and all faiths, in all aspects of entertainment and media.