Friday, September 25, 2009

The Appearance of Evil

While my little guy was banging his way through his drum lesson earlier this week, I took a few moments to wander down to a specialty store that had opened nearby. It was a Halloween Store. Not a generic costume store, or a party store. The sole purpose of this store was Halloween costumes and decorations, which makes it something like Christmas Mouse for the Trick-or-Treating set.

Unlike the Christians who hide away from this event, I tend to enjoy Halloween a great deal. It's utterly innocuous. In my community and in most communities around the country, it's a wholly secularized time to get to know neighbors and their kids. The candy we hand out to little Yodas and Elves and miscellaneous Cartoon Characters is a source of pleasure for both us and the recipients. The little impromptu block parties and groups of mellow, chatting, friendly parents are a self-evidently good thing, no matter what Jack Chick tells us.

But the store Not..."good." Maybe it was my mood that day. But I got a mild but unmistakably negative feeling the moment I walked in, a soft gnawing discomfort that didn't yield until I left. It was, I think, because of the way the store presented itself. It was too intentionally dark. It was too commercial, too adult, and too fascinated with the macabre, with blood and blade and horror.

One entire wall was full of "grownup" costumes, by which I mean the costume options currently open to women. They can be anything, so long as it's Sexy. To reinforce this, there were plenty of images of scantily clad hotties on display, to the point that it almost seemed like it was another sort of store altogether. Not that I've ever been in one of those stores. Ahem.

The rest of the store was decorated with elaborate models of the mutilated undead, monsters, and howling, illuminated-eye demons. Full-sized rentable mannequins of serial killers and succubi stood motionless in the back, each framed in a black velvet sarcophagus. The effect was not festive, not silly, not outrageous, or goofy. It didn't even feel particularly creative. In it's zealous effort to market All Hallows product, the store managed to come up with an overall feel that was claustrophobic and mildly menacing.

What struck me was the reaction of the kids. Those few who were in there didn't seem excited, or like they were having fun. They weren't scurrying from section to section. They seemed slightly wary. They were sticking close to their parents.

Evil...even just the surface appearance of evil...just isn't something people like to be around.

Honestly, it was the kind of store that would even bug a self-respecting Wiccan.