Things were better when we were kids.
I remember Hallowe’en before the Tylenol Scare of 1982: Me and my brother went trick or treating without parental supervision; well-meaning hippie neighbors gave out apples, unwrapped candy was not considered suspect, and no one chided us if we wore sight-obstructing masks or ran in the streets. With that freedom to be unsafe came something else: The freedom to embrace and enjoy horror.
The rejection of horror that began as a respect for the dead and a reaction to the real fear of random poisonings did not go away the following year. Or the year after that. The idea that horror could or should be enjoyable–even for one day of the year–became itself a horrific idea. Monster masks gave way to goofy costumes–the guy who was the Incredible Melting Man in 1982, dressed up as a calculator in 1984.
Luckily, the tender, succulent brains of the children of the 60s and 70s had been shaped so much by pre-Tylenol-Scare pop culture–horror movies, television, and even breakfast cereal. Our inner zombies, mummies, and aliens could not be repressed.
A few years ago, my brother posted photos from a parade in which he, his wife, and their three children marched. It was the first Asbury Park Zombie Parade. I find it comforting that come October, legions of tax-paying, churchgoing families sit ’round the dining room table to discuss the application of blood, the proper positioning of externalized viscera, and the proper walk for the chosen amount of bone trauma.
My own little all-American town had a Hallowe’en parade. It was not zombie-themed, but there were enough of us undead (including a brain-munching cheerleader and a Michelle Bachman) to give me hope that we as a nation have once again embraced the macabre.