At Halloween, there are few words that frighten me more than “Bring your kids to the mall for our annual ‘Safe Trick-or-Treat!'”
It’s not that I’m afraid that Halloween is a thinly disguised occasion for devil worship. Some fret over Halloween’s alleged satanic origins, but even if it were conclusively proven that the first jack o’ lantern were carved by virgin-sacrificing, blood-drinking pagans, I would hardly be concerned. I’m not that worried about five-hundred-year-old kooks.
I’m not particularly concerned about modern-day kooks either. The myth of the creepy old sadist who gets his kicks by slipping razor blades into apples or crack into Fun Size Snickers bars for random dispersion to legions of tiny, unsuspecting Cinderellas and Anakin Skywalkers has been conclusively debunked as urban legend.
So what is it that I find so eerie about the “Safe Halloween” celebration at the local mall? It’s the word “safe.”
Having the word “safe” in the name not only drains all of the spookiness right out of the party, but it also puts forth a much more problematic insinuation. When one thing is described as “safe,” the implication is that its alternative is unsafe; that the Halloween you celebrate in your own home, on your own street, with your own neighbors, is inferior to one spent with Orange Julius, Victoria’s Secret and Footlocker. When Halloween moves to the mall, corporate America commandeers what once was a community event and turns it into a commercial one, whispering into our children’s ears, “You can trust us; you can’t trust them” – “them” being the people who live in your neighborhood and in your town.