I have a knee-jerk fear reaction to realistic (or real!) pig costumes. Here’s why:
As an undergrad, I was involved with the Yale Children’s Theater as an actor, director, producer, costume designer, and probably other positions that I can’t remember right now. They did tons of productions every year for the local kids. Every Halloween, however, the group put on a haunted house that was most definitely NOT for children. Satan’s Playhouse was an opportunity for us all to shed our wholesomeness and indulge in some hardcore depravity. And oh boy, did we come up with some disturbing stuff.
The Satan’s Playhouse my freshman year had a Christmas theme. It was arranged in a series of tableaus, including a family dinner where the main course was a trussed naked woman, and a Christmas tree where the presents looked normal until lights went on inside them and revealed the cellophane boxes contained twisted, struggling and bleeding people (also naked…there was a lot of nudity…). But the most disturbing thing was the rotting Santa Claus. That image alone is disturbing, but what really got me was the pig’s head he would pull out of his sack, stick on a pike, and use to chase the spectators. It was the first and last thing the spectators saw: they were chased into and out of the house by a cackling Jolly Old Saint Nick.
What pushed that from disturbing to horrifying for me was that the pig’s head was real. They kept it in a large cooler between performances to keep it fresh, but the smell was still repulsive: raw meat, swine, an insidious whiff of decay. The rotten Santa “accidentally” touched me with the cold, slimy, bristly snout once, and after five minutes in the bathroom frantically scrubbing my skin, I spent the rest of the performances staying as far away from the guy and the horrible thing.
I think the pig’s head terrified me most because it was the one thing in the whole performance that broke the fourth wall, that could not be safely categorized as fiction. The flesh that was cut off the roasted woman and gobbled up by a ravenous family? Cold cuts. The blood that wept from the flailing half-dead human presents? Corn syrup dyed with food coloring. But that head, with its rictus grin, lolling tongue, clouded eyes? A day earlier that was a living animal that was brutally slaughtered. Its horror could not be denied. It was True.
What about you, dear readers? What sort of Halloween costume are you reflexively repulsed by, and why?