Friday, October 5, 2007

Are you into gore decor?

LAS CRUCES — Las Crucens are crazy about costumes and gore decor.
And they aren’t alone. Americans will spend more than $5 billion on Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted in September, with the average person spending almost $65. Most of that will go, not for candy, but for decorating our homes and ourselves, including costumes for our kids, adults and even our pets.
Almost three-fourths of us will hand out treats, spending an average of about $20 for goodies, according to the survey, compared to almost $18 on decorations and more than $23 on costumes. Guess who will spend the most on costumes? The big bucks aren’t going to festoon those adorable little princesses, pirates and superheroes who show up on our doorstops. The big spenders are 18- to 24-year-olds who plan to spring for $35 for fantasy garb.
In the 1950s and ’60s, my prime trick or treating years, I don’t remember anyone much over 12 or 13 dressing up for Halloween. There were a few good sports — the odd teacher or scout leader and maybe the one or two people in the neighborhood who made a big deal of Halloween — who would dress up and maybe add some kind of door decoration in addition to the obligatory jack-’o-lantern. But you always felt they were doing it all in the line of duty, because they wanted kids to have a good time. I don’t remember adults or even older kids having their own parties and celebrations on Oct. 31.
All that has changed … a lot. Trust me, I know. I’ve been in the Halloween front lines for more than a decade now. With chronic costume aficionados (mostly adults) preparing for Halloween, Dia de los Muertos and RenFaire every year, dressing up is a big deal here. When I started in the mid-1990s, researching the annual costume outlook story was mostly a matter of going to La Vieja and The Gen and visiting a few superstores for a look around the toy department’s pretty standard offerings.
It took a couple of hours. Now, I could easily spend several days making the rounds. One major costume outlet, Toys R Us, has closed, but many more emporiums have arisen and those that have been here for awhile have expanded. ABC Party World is an almost all-Halloween store this year. Mesilla Valley Mall now has what amounts to its own three-store Halloween subdivison, in a cluster that features the Halloween Bootique, Spirit Halloween Superstore and Hot Topic (I must admit that I am now so old that it’s tough for me to distinguish some of their regular Goth gear from the official Halloween costumes). All the big superstores and several dollar, variety, discount and rug stores have huge Halloween sections.
Maybe it’s been creeping up for some time and it’s just hitting me now, but this year, the biggest costume stores seem to have more costumes and accessories for adults than for kids 12 and under.
When did Halloween become such a big deal and why? And when did adults start to take it all so personally and embrace it as a fiesta of their own?
Like most trends since World War II, I expect people to lay the blame at the feet (maybe clad, this month, in sequined ruby-red slippers or giant clown shoes) of my generation: the Baby Boomers.
But it’s the young adults — our kids — who are really going into full-tilt Halloween fiesta mode. Is it part of the whole trend of taking longer to grow up than previous generations? Is there something about life now that makes adults more eager to escape into alter egos and secret identities?
Or is it a healthy urge to celebrate life and explore alternative realities?
And speaking of alternative realities, the gore decor market seems to be blowing up. Literally. What’s with all the inflatables? People are snapping up animated and inflated items priced from $100 to $200 and more.
Maybe it’s the result of growing up with very impressive movie special effects. Every year things seem to get bigger, more animated, more elaborate, more realistic and more disgusting.
If I had any doubts that things have gone too far, 2007 is the year I’m officially calling it. There’s so much truly horrible stuff out there, I’m not sure exactly which gory masterpiece finally put it over the line for me. But my nomination is a fountain that features an anguished, screaming figure gushing blood from a torso severed at the waist. Ugh.
Have we become so desensitized by graphic violence in movies and the daily news that we need this kind of thing to get a reaction? Has real life become so scary that we need an ever-gorier annual fiesta as a kind of vaccination to prepare us for fresh horrors on the horizon?
Haven’t we been scared enough?
What do you think? Drop me a line, access my blog by going to, click on the Blogzone and then click on the Las Cruces Style icon or send me an e-mai at the address below.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at



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