Hilary Duff & Jason Walsh’s Couple's Halloween Costume Is Just The Latest Example Of A Problematic Trend — UPDATE
In their first public appearance as a couple on Friday, Hilary Duff and boyfriend Jason Walsh's couple's costume made waves, but not in a good way. The actor and her trainer partner attended George Clooney, Rande Gerber, and Mike Meldman's Casamigos Tequila Halloween Party dressed as a pilgrim and Native American, respectively, and the racism and historical ignorance of the costumes have led to internet backlash. Social media users have called out the stars' costumes for ignoring the realities of living Native Americans, painting a rosy picture of colonialism, and being very poorly timed, considering the struggles and violence many Standing Rock Sioux are currently facing at the hands of the U.S. government while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Update: Duff responded to the backlash on Sunday, tweeting, "I am SO sorry to people I offended with my costume. It was not properly thought through and I am truly, from the bottom of my [heart emoji] sorry."
Update 2: Walsh has also apologized on his Instagram page.
Earlier: Dressing as another race or ethnicity is never an acceptable costume, as it engages in a tradition of impersonating and mocking other races and cultures while maintaining one's own privilege. "Native people are not in positions of power," wrote Adrienne K. in an open letter on the Native Appropriations blog. "By dressing up as a fake Indian, you are asserting your power over us, and continuing to oppress us." Additionally, the Native American / pilgrim couple's costume ignores the historical reality of the relationship between European colonizers and Native American tribes. While friendly relations between the groups are often portrayed in children's stories and even history books, what really happened is considered by many to have been a Native American genocide.
Many offensive, racist costumes surface every October, and it's especially upsetting to see celebrities sporting them. Not only is their influence greater, but these are people who typically have stylists, agents, and PR teams. How is a costume that mocks another's culture able to slip through the cracks? Many people, including Donald Trump, have complained that the more racially sensitive "PC culture" has left many Americans fearful to say or do anything for fear of offending someone, but costumes like Duff and Walsh's demonstrate that casual racism remains the prevailing cultural norm.
Of course, Duff and Walsh are not the first celebrities to draw criticism for their Halloween costumes. In previous years, the Hilton sisters, Chrissy Teigen, and Rachel Zoe, among others, have come under fire for dressing as Native Americans (not to mention Julianne Hough's infamous blackface for her Orange is the New Black costume in 2013). Apparently, Duff and Walsh missed the message of Chris Hemsworth's recent apology for once dressing up as a Native American. The actor described himself as "stupidly unaware," and announced his support of the Standing Rock protesters.
In 2016, no one should be wearing these costumes in the first place, but backlash and apologies aren't useless. Hopefully, the pushback against Duff and Walsh's costume will dissuade at least a few people from dressing similarly on Halloween.