When you open your door to trick-or-treaters in a couple weeks, you might see a youngster wearing a hazmat suit, face shield, goggles, a respirator, latex gloves and rubber boots.
Personal protective equipment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s standard gear for health-care workers fighting Ebola, has been available online for some time. Amazon sells a knock-off “Ebola protective kit” for $34, but the Food and Drug Administration has said it’s not any good. Maybe a Halloween costume? The idea has occurred to merchants such as BrandsOnSale, which is selling an “Ebola containment suit costume” for $80. The real deal might give you a better bang for your buck.
The New York Post has already called it this year’s “hot” Halloween costume. But some in the field are saying it’s too soon to joke — as medical professionals are still fighting to stop the spread of the devastating disease that has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa.
“Normally I think that irony and humor is funny, but this thing with the costumes, is it really that funny? I mean, Ebola’s not even under control yet,” Philadelphia physician’s assistant Maria McKenna told the Associated Press. Two of her own have been diagnosed with the virus in the United States. Twenty-six-year-old Nina Pham and 29-year-old Amber Vinson, nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, both tested positive. They treated Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, who died Oct. 8.
Kathryn Getek Soltis, director of the Center for Peace and Justice Education and assistant professor of Christian Ethics at Villanova University, called Ebola costumes “disturbing.”
“It allows people to stay far from the situation and not to imagine the human suffering that’s actually occurring,” she told Time. “The issue isn’t that you’re a bad person because you have an insensitive costume, it’s that actually you’re closing yourself and the people around you off from trying to understand how you might be able to participate in this issue in a way that affects people’s lives.
“I don’t want folks to think being ethical means you can’t be fun. I think there are lots of things to laugh about. But … this isn’t funny.”
BrandsOnSale Chief Executive Johnathon Weeks said that’s not going to stop him from selling them.
“We don’t stray away from anything that’s current or controversial or anything like that,” he told the AP. He said he sold about a dozen Ebola costumes the first week he launched them. Now, the suit is listed in the site’s “most popular” section. “If I told you we had a toddler [Islamic State] costume in the works, your mouth would drop.”
Two Alabama high-schoolers dressed up as Osama bin Laden and a member of the Islamic State late last month for “villain day” during homecoming week. It created some drama at Talladega High School, 50 miles outside of Birmingham, Ala. The student who posted a picture of her classmates online told ABC 33/40 that “the boy who dressed up as Osama bin Laden is a very patriotic person” and “the same for the boy who portrayed ISIS,” another name for the group that’s killed thousands as it seeks to establish its “caliphate” in Syria, Iraq and beyond.
There has been an Osama bin Laden Halloween costume for years. And at least one merchant says an Islamic State costume isn’t a far-fetched idea. A homemade version has been circulating on social media. Mad World, a conservative news blog, posted a Twitter picture of a child dressed up as an Islamic militant, holding a doll by her hair in one hand and a toy knife in the other. It’s unclear whether that photo was meant as a joke.
Do a Google search for “ISIS Halloween costume” and you’ll find do-it-yourself costume ideas for ISIS, the Egyptian goddess of magic and motherhood. Or you might find some ninja costumes. But that doesn’t mean an Islamic State isn’t on someone’s radar.
“I will definitely let you know when that goes on sale,” Weeks told the AP. “I can tell you it will come complete with a fake machine gun.”
And perhaps less known is this year’s Slender Man costume, which riled up residents in Wisconsin after two 12-year-old girls allegedly stabbed a classmate 19 times last summer to please the mythological character. The costumes were put on sale at a Party City and Spirit Halloween in Brookfield, Wis., 10 miles outside of Waukesha, where the stabbing occurred in late May. The two stores have since agreed to remove them.
There’s also the celebrities who have been stealing the headlines. Amazon sells a messy blonde “Amanda Bynes wig” for $9.99. And a search on the site for Justin Bieber brings up an “MC poser wig” as well as an orange prison jumpsuit. Then again, if you would rather find a trendy costume that won’t bring the heat, try something like the “Ice Bucket Challenge” outfit. It comes with a bucket of faux water and ice cubes for under $40.
Or just go as a bent iPhone 6.