Let’s play what if. What if somewhere some butt monkey did something really stupid and let loose a curse that turned everyone wearing a costume on Halloween into whatever that costume was. A person wearing a sheet over their head becomes a ghost. A woman wearing one of those skeleton dresses becomes a skeleton. A couple arriving at a party as bacon and eggs becomes…well, you get the picture. If there is a reality where anything that can happen on TV is something that can also happen in the real world, then you should be afraid of this happening one day. Be very afraid. Because if TV has taught us anything about Halloween–and it has–it is that you should be very, very careful when choosing a Halloween costume. Because one of these Halloween nights, you just might get turned into that costume for real. Forever.
One of the most memorable juvenile performances in the entire history of television is given by a young actress named Kathryn Long in the “Goosebumps” episodes related to “The Haunted Mask.” Some sequels were made, but I am referring to the original. “The Haunted Mask” tells of poor put-upon Carly Beth who is an easy mark for stupid boys at school looking to scare someone on Halloween. Too easily scared, Carly Beth wants to make a stand and engage in some good old-fashioned Nietzschean Will to Power. She does this by nicking a particularly grotesque mask from the back room of a store because it is such a distinct alternative to the stupid duck costume her mom got her. Sure enough, the mask is more than enough to scare the poop out of her younger brother. So far so good, except she’s not at all sure why her voice changed so dramatically while the mask was on. Carly Beth is about to find out. She’s also about to get some sweet revenge on the boys from school. She even feels empowered enough to engage in some good old-fashioned Halloween vandalism. There’s only one problem: the mask is no longer a mask, but part of her skin. Long gives a performance of astonishing hysteria that manages to avoid going over the top while succeeding in presenting a young girl on the edge of losing her mind. It’s great, great stuff.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
“Halloween” is the name of the episode. Which doesn’t tell you much because just about every year, Buffy did a Halloween episode. It is the Halloween episode of season two you want to track down if you want to watch a Halloween episode about becoming the costume. Whereas poor Carly Beth literally became part of her scarifying mask, anyone wearing a costume on this particular Halloween in Sunnydale bought a particular Halloween store becomes that costume. Willow’s early season shyness overcame her original decision to tramp it up and she made the unfortunate decision to wear a ghost costume instead. As a result, she becomes a literal ghostly spirit, able to pass right through walls. Xander goes from costumed soldier to actual soldier. Cordelia does not become a cat because her costume was purchased from a different store. The really bad news for everyone is that Buffy chose a costume that turned her into a wilting 18th century noblewoman devoid of empowerment the gang needs to rely on Buffy’s physical prowess.
The very best title for a TV episode about becoming your Halloween costume goes to “The Simpsons.” It will go flying well over the head of anyone who thinks the greatest contribution to American music lies somewhere between MC Hammer and Katy Perry, but that’s okay. “I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face” is the final segment featured in Treehouse of Horror XVI. In a display of pettiness almost worthy of Maleficent herself, when an actual witch who showed up in Springfield is relieved of her first place award in a city-wide costume contest, she casts a spell that results in everyone in town becoming the costume they are wearing. Lisa Simpson transformed into Albert Einstein, Bart is a werewolf, Marge is a skeleton and Apu becomes R2-D2. Fortunately, baby Maggie Simpson was all dolled up as a witch so once again she can come to the rescue.