Great piece in Fatherly by Lauren Vinopal about how TV recycles and reinforces the idea that our kids are in mortal peril on Halloween:
Every year around this time, television leans into seasonal programming with special Halloween episodes. Data shows that crime procedurals, the CSIs and Law & Orders and Criminal Minds of the world, get into the spirit of the holiday by heavying up on stories about all the murderers and molesters emerging from hiding to hurt children. This makes sense on some level, Halloween celebrations often take the form of a morbid twist on the everyday–are we as safe as we think?–but the annual tradition of scaring the crap out of parents has real negative side effects for kids.
“The fusion of candy poisoning and serial murder forms an enduring urban legend framing the perils facing children journeying into public spaces on Halloween,” Lindsay Steenberg of Oxford Brookes University wrote in a recent study, published in the Journal of Popular Television. “This is the Halloween propagated on crime TV – an urban legend steeped in forensic realism.”
"Forensic realism" is now my favorite new term. It explains so well why it FEELS like those TV shows with all the morgue shots and forceps and DNA swabs are so bone-chillingly convincing. It's not just realism. It's FORENSIC realism, and our rational minds are no match for it.
And so, continues Vinopal:
Steenberg analyzed Halloween episodes from 2000 to 2015, along with Criminal Minds from 2005 to present, and Bones from 2005 to present. Her findings suggested that these shows present Halloween as both a motive for crimes against children and a means of getting away with it. Put another way, these “ripped from the headlines” stories are fear-mongering fictions.
True crime shows leading up to Halloween drive this idea that the only people moms and dads can trust is their spouse (and sometimes they can’t even do that), forcing kids into constant supervision, or worse, isolation.
“Halloween is a time where we test market our fears,” Lenore Skenazy, founder of Free-Range Kids and President of the nonprofit Let Grow, explained to Fatherly. Skenazy, who made headlines in 2008 for allowing her 9-year-old son to take the subway home...argues that this fear-forward approach to popular entertainment sends a bad message to children as well as adults. “You’ve told them they’re living in a hell hole filled with psychopaths who want to kill them,” she laughs. “Happy Halloween!”
Which brings me to my request: PLEASE TELL US ABOUT ANY RULES, REGULATIONS OR NEW PRACTICES RELATED TO HALLOWEEN IN YOUR SCHOOL, COMMUNITY CENTER OR TOWN.
Let's take a look at how Halloween is changing, and whether or not any of the new ideas make sense. Thank boo!