One striking aspect of the Star Wars behemoth is how the bad guys have become hip1. The triangles and chevrons of the Darth Vader and Stormtrooper mask have become iconic in their way, and adorn T-shirts, rucksacks, pin-badges, and even baby clothes.
He's a fictional génocidaire so it's totally fine to dress your kids in his image pic.twitter.com/KnC7R7cWaK
— robertsharp59 (@robertsharp59) December 23, 2015
It therefore seems natural that one can buy Darth Vader and Stormtrooper outfits for your kids.
But take a step back: isn’t that rather weird? Darth Vader is the bad guy in the movies. The very first time he appears on screen be personally chokes to death a prisoner of war. Later, he uses the Force to suffocate under-performing military officers. He also presides over the destruction of the entire planet of Alderaan, with the attendant loss of life that entails. He is not a role model or a hero and we do not encourage our kids to emulate him.
But hey, it’s all a bit of fun, isn’t it?
Likewise with these other costumes that we adults are happy to don for our Halloween parties and fancy dress balls. There was a big debate at Yale University last year about cultural appropriation and fancy dress, but that seems rather subtle compared to mainstream British taste. I was recently in a fancy dress shop and spotted some exceedingly politically incorrect costumes.
Here’s a Crusader outfit:
Doesn’t he look funny, dressing as a religious warrior, famous for rampaging through the levant, imposing their ideology on whomsoever happened to cross their path?
And here’s a pirate: Robbery and murder, mainly. Their spiritual descendants roam the East Coast of Africa and the South China Sea, boarding oil tankers and kidnapping tourists. And then mudering them. Japes!
Ah yes! The Godfather Gangster: Peddling drugs to communities; stunting their growth with protection rackets; and murder murder murder in the name of honour and business.
Finally: The Taliban, complete with a stick of dynamite.
If you’re not content with a murderer from ancient history, why not mimick the people who deploy suicide bombers and conduct chaotic public executions in sports arenas in the twenty-first century?
I know why these costumes exist. A big part of the culture of dressing up is to play the part of the bogeyman or devil. Transgression is part of the tradition.
So why, then, do we all become so angry when people like Prince Harry dress up like this?
If Harry had dressed and literally any other type of genocidal maniac throughout history, it would have been fine. What is it about the Nazi’s that renders them unacceptable? Do ISIS fighters fall into the same category? Is it just a question of time? Will twenty-second century revellers dress in stylised outfits, not Nazi’s but a generic ‘Fascist Soldier’ costume? How do we feel about that?
1. Hilariously, this Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens is literally a tribute act: he wears a mask and voice distorted not because it’s a life support system, but in homage to his infamous grandfather.