As debate rages on the actions and mental state of the alleged shooter, theater chains have come under criticism for their immediate bans on costumes and masks. The “ban” has hit a nerve amongst frantic film fans who traditionally dressed as their favorite character when attending midnight premieres.
Wearing costumes to a movie — other than on Halloween — is not a “new” practice. For decades, “Rocky Horror Picture Show” patrons have turned midnight showings of the quirky cult horror film spoof into a combination masquerade and dance party.
Beyond simply imitating the dress of cast members , troupes of fans “interactively” recreate the film’s scenes in the aisles of cinemas. As added touches of reality, they bring “props” (from the movie) and utilize them during appropriate scenes, such as holding a newspaper over their heads in a rain storm.
Pop culture has ignited new iconic heroes, such as the Harry Potter crew, the Twilight vampires and werewolves, and , of course, super heroic fantasies.
Sarah Jeffers, a Proctorville, Ohio, resident and Marshall University graduate explained, “It has always been part of the fun, growing up dressing up like your favorite characters. Banning costumes and masks from movie screenings because of one incident is taking it a little far. It would be taking away from children’s experiences of dressing like their favorite super heroes and going to the movies.”
A regular participant at “Rocky Horror Picture Show” screenings, Jeffers continued, “Even adults like dressing up like their favorite characters as well. Costumes and masks enhance the enjoyment of movies and the enjoyment of being a child and child at heart. Everyone has some character they enjoy dressing up as and enjoy watching. Whether its a child lost in the innocence of being a child or adults lost in the remembrance of what it was like when they were that age!”
MOVIE DRESS CODES?
Why would a dress code for watching a movie surface? A costume theoretically presents a “security” issue, especially if a viewer wears a mask, carries fake weapons (“Star War” light sabers ), or other disguises. A lawsuit has already been filed against the Colorado theater alleging that it failed to reasonably protect its guests stemming from the act of mass killing.
Facebook user responses have objected to this “knee jerk” reaction calling it another example of “fear mongering” and suggesting the birth of a “Theater Security Agency.” Denise Tharp wrote, “One of the reasons to go to a Midnight showing is to be with the die hard fans. The ones that work weeks just to get a costume perfect. One monster ruins the fun of thousands.”
A few agreed stating “it’s a movie, not a Halloween party,” and a minority appeared respectful of a short ban to prevent copy cats. Otherwise, the potential dress code has hit First Amendment , 9/11, and overreaction buzz.
AMC (American Multi Cinema) clarified its initial costume related statement: “Contrary to media reports, costumes are not banned, but we will not admit guests with face-concealing masks and we will not allow fake weapons in the buildings. We want all our guests to feel comfortable at our theaters and we will be closely monitoring.”
COSTUMES CLEAN FUN
Ken Epperly, co-owner of Magic Makers Costume Supply House in Huntington, WV, said, “What happened in Colorado is tragic. I truly feel sadness for the community, family and friends of the victims. But I also believe it was an isolated incident. He was not in a costume, unless of course you consider the riot gear he wore, as costume. A ban on costumes will not stop this from happening again. The perpetrator will just walk in wearing plain clothes.”
Epperly continued, “Tragic as it is, that is human nature. We were not created bullet proof, nor immune to thousands of dreadful diseases that lurk around the corner. We are all subject to what is just around the corner. Be it a terrorist, or an act of nature. We all have to live our life, like it is our last day on earth.”
ATV’s, PEANUTS, LAWN MOWERS KILL PEOPLE, DO WE BAN THEM TOO?
Stressing that neither a costume nor a film was responsible for the diabolical actions of the gunman with automatic weapons, Epperly applied the costume and film ban logic a step further:
“Innocent people are severely injured every year using a lawn mower, but they don’t ban lawn mowers. Children and Adults are injured or killed riding ATV’s, but they don’t ban the sale of ATV’s. So where does it stop. Children die from exposure to peanuts, and nothing on earth will absolutely prevent accidental exposure, unless you ban growing them forever. I don’t know what the answer is. Unless you live in “Pleasantville” , there will always be the chance you will be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Writing in a blog for Wired, the “Geek Mom” also took exception to a wide ranging dressing in costume at the movies ban:
“My husband and I both attend midnight showings of new movies often. We actually made a deal that if he got to see The Avengers at midnight, I’d get to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at its opening. Like with other movie openings, I was planning on wearing a costume because I love dressing up. Costumes aren’t the problem and they didn’t cause this tragedy to take place. All the costume ban does is make things a little less fun.”
NO IMPACT COSTUME RENTALS
No matter the decision of theater chains, Epperly said the determination would not impact costume rentals.
“I don’t think this ban will affect us much. I believe a person buys the costume because he or she want it, just to own. When the movie comes out, they may choose to wear it to the movie. The only exception I can think of is Harry Potter. Every time a new movie was released, customers would flood the store for a week or more buying everything Harry Potter to wear to the movie. Rocky Horror Picture Show is another movie that drives some costume sales for the purpose of wearing it to the movie.”
He suggested a more moderate approach related to masks and fake weapons.
“Perhaps, I can understand a ban [on costumes] that disguise your face, such as a mask, but costumes, in general, are very harmless and mostly good clean fun. Schools don’t allow masks during Halloween. Some bars require you to take off the mask to identify yourself , and to make sure you match your current ID and are of age to enter the bar.”
TRICK OR TREAT ONCE ENDANGERED BY TAINTED CANDY
Recalling a movement decades ago to “ban Trick or Treat,” Epperly explained, false rumors spread that razor blades had been placed in apples or candy. “Turned out the person that reported the tainted candy was the person who placed it there. To date, no one has proven anything was placed in candy by some lunatic to intentionally harm a total stranger. It was a hoax. The toy industry was forced to manufacture toy industry was forced to manufacture toy guns in bright colors because a child was shot by police enforcement. Sad truth is anyone can spray paint a real gun orange. There are actual guns manufactured in bright colors, such as pink for ladies. Making toy guns orange did little to stop the problem.”
Since opening their business in 1981, Epperly said the only costumes on which they have refused rentals are police costumes and Nazi costumes.
“We have them in the rental department, but they are only used for theatrical productions. We don’t want anyone to impersonate an officer, so we reserve them for a play. We have Nazi uniforms, that only go out for shows like the “Sound of Music.” They are not available to the general public. “
Magic Makers has stores in Huntington and Charleston. Online rentals/sales are available at their website: www.magicmakers.com or www.costumesuppyhouse.com.