Queer Boy Costumes 101: Your Guide to Wearing Whatever the Hell You Want this Halloween

Halloween can sometimes be a distressing time for queer men. What may seem like a particularly fun time of year where anyone can dress up and have a great time can sometimes turn into a month-long battle between what you’d like to dress up as, and what the world fins acceptable for you to dress up as. This vortex of making yourself happy vs making the people around you comfortable often times seem completely suffocating. But the reality of the situation is that almost every recently out queer man, both young and mature,  will find themselves centred in the middle of a tug and war between your own feelings and the assumed feelings of those around you. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In all reality, dressing up for Halloween should be something amazing and freeing. It shouldn’t make one feel as if they have to choose between personal happiness and the level of acceptance or tolerance that those around you may have. It’s your night and you should be able to wear whatever you want. You should be able to dress as masculine and as feminine as you want. As outrageous or as tame as you’d like (just as long as it isn’t socially insensitive and offensive) In reality, the only stress one should feel during the spookiest time of the year is the stress of choosing just one costume out of all the great ideas floating around out there. Hopefully, this article will help you put your brain into overdrive during these last few days leading up to Halloween and help you put together the most amazing queer boy costume this year.

When in Doubt, Pastel Out

Whether you opt for femme boy extraordinaire or super masc gym rat chic. Pastels are always a great way to keep things fun for Halloween. Forget bright colours and all black ensembles. Pastels manage to give you a hint of softness with any costume you wear. Wearing an entire pastel outfit, or certain pastel elements can often time give you a sugary sweet and often times funny contrast; especially if you’re fusing something scary or overly masculine with your pastel look. You’re bound to be the centre of attention in your ice cream coloured party outfit if you opt for a pastel gig. Options for your pastel costume are endless. Some super fun ideas are The Chanels, Almost any kind of dessert, The quintessential fairy costume, cheer captain, and Anime Lolita.

A Gay Staple: The Unicorn

Now, this may seem like a no-brainer, lgbtqa+ folks have been associating themselves with the mythological creature for decades now. And for good measure. The unicorn is one of those majestic creatures yields great importance in the world of myth for its power, dominance, and strength. However, the reason the unicorn should be a go-to Halloween costume for queer kids over something like a dragon (not to say that dragons are badass) is that it doesn’t present its strength through overt masculinity, instead, it presents an image of strength through the balance of graceful femininity and brute masculinity. It’s a perfect balance between the two.Now the fun thing about a unicorn costume is that you can make it as feminine or masculine as you’d like and as sexy or tame as you’d like. The possibilities are endless. Imagine dressing up as a fetish unicorn, a space unicorn, a ridiculously hilarious blow-up unicorn or a sexy boudoir unicorn.

Your Favourite Drag Race Alumni

It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, bi, queer, or everything in between. If you’ve had the pleasure of becoming a Rupaul’s Drag Race fan, then you’ll know how sickening some of the girls that have walked through the workroom are. And you know deep down inside (like Madonna said) you want to know what it feels like for a girl. So here’s your chance. With over 100 different queens to choose from. Drag race has a plethora of queens to chose from. Even if your favourite queen’s look is too hard to achieve, you can pick any of the other queens who’s looks are easier to achieve. However, when attempting to recreating a queens look, be aware that there may be more work you can commit to last minute. Nails, makeup, tucking, and wigs are all part of the processes, but you don’t have to go full on drag. Remember, it’s your choice. Some good example of gag-worthy queens is Valentina, Alaska, and Trixie Mattel.

Video Gay-mes

Here’s where you can really start to get creative and have fun. The possibilities could be endless. Whether you want to gender bend your favourite character or recreate their entire look. Video game characters are an amazing option for a queer boy to celebrate Halloween in. The world of video games has countless iconic characters to one can emulate or borrow from. Form Square Enix and their Final Fantasy series to Nintendo’s huge game roster. In all fairness, of all the costume ideas on this list. Video games are by far the easiest to recreate since there are most likely plenty of costume stores that sell video games costumes, but there are hundreds of tutorials online on how to DIY your favourite characters looks. Some good bets could be Princess Peach, Payne, Ash Ketchum, Ivy Valentine.

Socially Conscious Horror Movies

For me, Halloween has always been for horror. The scary and the creepy and the bone chilling are exactly what I want to enjoy during this time of year. Of course, we’re living in some particularly scary times, so it may feel a little dull to watch the usual zombie and serial killer fare. Even if you do want to find some good old classic horror, you may also find yourself frightened by some sexism and racism present in older horror flicks (and some newer releases, sadly). So, what to watch? Socially conscious horror, of course, because nothing is scarier than social inequality. Here are some of my picks:

Get Out

Hopefully you’ve seen comedian Jordan Peele’s amazing directorial debut, but if you haven’t, you really should. Peele skewers white liberals, particularly those in the North, reminding them that just because they may have supported Obama or say they aren’t racist, they still help perpetrate racism and white supremacy in the United States. This form of white liberal racism can be just as insidious as the other.

It Follows

We all know the classic horror trope. Young person (especially young women) has sex. Young person is punished for having sex. Virgin girl gets to stay alive because she has not had sex. It Follows turns this tropes on its head, using the story of demon passed from person to person as something of a metaphor for our social anxieties about sex, sexuality, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Gerald’s Game

Most horror films are notoriously bad at dealing with rape and sexual assault. Women’s bodies get used and abused to prompt the male hero into action, or worse, for torture porn and titillation. The fallout of sexual assault and the trauma that accompanies it so rarely discussed, not only in horror but in most films. That’s what makes Gerald’s Game, based on the book of the same name by Stephen King, so unique. I don’t want to spoil the film, but it navigates trauma and empowerment with more clarity and realism than I’ve ever seen.

Perfect Blue

This 1997 Japanese animated movie, based on the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and directed by Satoshi Kon, tells the story of a former J-pop idol named Mima Kirigoe, who is attempting to change her carefully manufactured image while being stalked by a crazed fan. Perfect Blue not only tries to examine the nature of truth and reality, but also carefully critiques the ways in which women are made to be consumed products.

The Handmaiden

Technically The Handmaiden, directed by Park Chan-wook, is better classified as a thriller as opposed to horror, but it’s such a fantastic movie that I needed to include it in this list. The movie is loosely based on the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, but with the setting changed from Victorian London to Korea under Japanese occupation in the 1930s. The movie explores class, gender politics, and sexuality, and takes the time to tell a tender gay love story between its two female protagonists.

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Final Girls and Distressed Damsels: Portrayals of Women in Horror

A few weeks ago I went to see It with some friends. While I greatly enjoyed (or rather, was completely terrified by) the movie, I was struck by the more problematic portrayal of its sole female lead, Beverly (played by Sophia Lillis). Beverly spends much of her time in the movie being sexualized against her wishes (also keep in mind she’s supposed to be around 13-15 years old). She’s a victim of sexual abuse by her father. Surprisingly, this story thread is handled relatively well, at least compared to some other portrayals of sexual violence, especially those related to young teenage girls. On the other hand, Beverly is made to flirt with an old male pharmacist so the boys can steal supplies and escape. Rumors are spread about her sexuality, and, in the end (spoiler!), she becomes little more than a damsel in distress for the boys to rescue; in the most inexplicable and frustrating part, she is kissed against her will by one of the boys to bring her back to reality.

While this was a disappointing element of an otherwise good movie, it did make me wonder about how women typically get portrayed in horror movies, and it’s usually not great. Women are often sexualized objects, or treated as little more than passive victims. While many great horror films make way for otherwise ordinary men to rise to the occasion and become heroes, women rarely get such an opportunity. If women get to fight, which they rarely do, it’s typically as a supporting effort, or chalked up to them being different than other girls.

Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh in It

Or, we get what’s referred to as the final girl. The term was coined in 1992 by film theorist and professor Carol J. Clover. Essentially, the trope goes like this: the killer plows through a whole bunch of victims, usually teens or young adults. The victims are typically sexually active or drug users, or both, contrasted with the final girl, who is innocent, virginal, and more masculine or androgynous than her other female counterparts, and always smarter and more resourceful. Maybe she has some expertise in science or battle, maybe she goes from being meek to being able to stand up for herself and fight. In any case, after the killer goes through all the victims, we are only left with the final girl, who is the one to face the killer, and live (usually) to tell the tale. There are countless examples of the final girl in classic slasher films: Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Halloween, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Alien, Alice Hardy (Adrienne King) in Friday the 13th, and so on. While it may seem exciting to have a female protagonist in horror, it’s important to note that the final girl’s power comes from her turning away from femininity, and from contrasting her to other female characters, often by pitting them against each other. The final girl is a virgin where the other women are promiscuous, smart where the others aren’t.

Of course, this trope isn’t quite as troubling as the classic damsel in distress. Already a tired, frustrating trope, it only gets worse when put in the horror genre, and often isn’t necessary for the plot. Selena (Naomie Harris) and Hannah (Megan Burns) are kidnapped and almost raped in 28 Days Later before being rescued. Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) needs to get rescued by Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in the 2014 remake of Godzilla. And, as previously mentioned, Beverly is reduced to the trope when she gets captured.

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Alien

Women are also often given one specific role: mothers. There are so many films showing anxieties about pregnant women (Inside is a some good example), or women who find their bodies being used merely as tools for pregnancy. Many horror films also reduce women to only being mothers, with no other role or identity. Fathers are sometimes portrayed in horror, but it’s rare to see a male character’s motivations being solely or at least mostly about the safety of their children. Examples of this include Renai (Rose Byrne) in Insidious and Carolyn (Lili Taylor) in The Conjuring.

And of course, there’s the constant sexualization. Women who get kidnapped are almost universally threatened with rape, or have their clothes taken away, or so on. Women are usually put inside a romantic relationship, or they are sexy villains who seduce the hero or make him do something stupid. In It there’s a scene where all the kids are in their underwear while swimming near rocks, and the boys ogle Bev’s body. The original version of A Nightmare on Elm Street has a scene of sixteen-year-old Nancy Thomson (Heather Langencamp) in the bathtub, nearly attacked by Freddy Kreuger. And, of course, there’s the famous shower scene in Psycho. And in the critically acclaimed movie Ex Machina we get a sexy robot named Ava, played by Alicia Vikander. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ex Machina, but I wonder how seriously anyone would have taken it had the roles been reversed. Sexy female robots are the stuff of thrillers and moral questions, but I’m guessing sexy male robots would be the stuff of comedy.

Alicia Vikander as Ava in Ex Machina

And that’s exactly the problem. Some of the movies I listed are really great, or at least movies where the actions and depictions of female characters make sense. But it’s frustrating that women are limited to just a small handful of tropes in horror movies. Women are more than these films portray them to be, and it’s past time for the genre to expand.

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ICYMI: Hyakki Yaygo: Night Parade of 100 Demons Exhibit at the Northern Contemporary Gallery

Clayton Hanmer -Akaname (Flith Licker). Digital print on wood. Photo credit: Sveta Soloveva
Clayton Hanmer -Akaname (Flith Licker). Digital print on wood. Photo credit: Sveta Soloveva

A cool breeze fills the gallery when visitors walk in. Natural light from the large windows starts travelling across the white walls. The radio plays in the background. Everything is beautiful and peaceful at the Northern Contemporary Gallery, except that there are one hundred demons all-around.

An exhibition called “Hyakki Yaygo: Night Parade of 100 Demons” celebrates Halloween and highlights illustration as fine art.

“We were looking for a sort of concept for Halloween-show that really highlights our mandate of pushing illustration as fine art, especially in Toronto,” said Hitoshi Murakami, the owner of the gallery.

The theme features Japanese folklore, where one hundred demons parade through the night streets of Japan in one massive spectacle. People with supernatural beliefs stay inside their houses and chant the magic spell.

Photo Credit: Sveta Soloveva
Photo Credit: Sveta Soloveva

As a gold chandelier throws its light on the supernatural creatures, there’s no spell needed at the Parkdale art gallery.

Twenty five illustrators interpret the Japanese folklore classic by creating four black-and-white demons each. Most of the local artists are OCADU grads, including Emily May Rose.

Looking at her illustrations, you immediately recognize an artistic version of a raccoon in your backyard or a deer you saw in the forest.

Even though the exhibition is Toronto-centric, there are international artists too. Among them are Harvey Chan from Hong Kong and Daniel Zender from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Murakami said that they didn’t select works by geography. They were more interested in personal style of the artist, his or her visual signature.

“The artists in that show are fantastic,” said Murakami. “They’ve done pieces for New York Times and Walrus. These are artists that you always want to curate for.”

Photo Credit: Sveta Soloveva
Photo Credit: Sveta Soloveva

Everything has a soul in Japanese folklore. Among the whimsical animals and devils, there are everyday objects – a walking tower and dragon-watch – animated into life. The demons are sticking their tongues, practicing witchcraft, driving their magical transports or just looking at their audience.

Done in gouache, pencil, ink, digital print and silkscreen, they appear on paper, wood and panels

All of the artwork are available for purchase.

The exhibition is on view until Oct. 31, at the Northern Contemporary Gallery, 1266 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

 

 

Last Minute Halloween Costumes Already in Your Closet

Halloween celebrations commence this weekend, and for those who do not yet have a costume, panic mode has officially ensued. Don’t fret Halloween procrastinators, there is still time. There are so many great costumes that are often overlooked because people are always focusing on the trends and costumes of the year. But, some of the best, most iconic, and not to mention, most fashionable costumes are often right at your fingertips (or buried deep in the deep abyss of your/your mother’s closet). If you’re in need of a last minute costume that takes minimal time, effort, and money, then here are five Halloween costumes that are already in your wardrobe.

1. Penny Lane – “Almost Famous”

penny-lane

This is one of the simplest Halloween costumes you can find in your wardrobe. Time to dig out your old school flared jeans, and if you can’t find those, a pair of boot cut will suffice. Pair the jeans with a basic cami with crochet trim, and complete the look with your favourite pair of round trim Ray Bans, and tightly curled hair. If you really want to top off the look, talk to your mother about borrowing her old suede, fur trim coat from the 90s.

2. Holly Golightly – “Breakfast at Tiffanys”

holly-golightly

Throw on your favourite little black dress paired with the largest statement necklace you can find and grab your large black sunnies. And if you really want to get into character, grab a coffee and text a friend and tell them to meet you at Tiffanys (and then get them to take a picture of you).

3. Chanel Oberlin – “Scream Queens”

SCREAM QUEENS: Emma Roberts as Chanel Oberlin in SCREAM QUEENS which debuts with a special, two-hour series premiere event on Tuesday, September 22 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Matthias Clamer/FOX.

Chanel wears so many different outfits on the show, that it’s hard to narrow it down to one iconic moment. But, there’s no denying the ability to easily search through your closet for head to toe pink, or at the very least a preppy skirt and top, paired with your mother’s pearls, and completed with a bloody knife (optional). If you want to be really convincing, channel Chanel’s attitude with one-liner comebacks and insults, and you’re all set.

4. Margot Tenenbaum – “The Royal Tenenbaums”

margot-tenenbaum

If you don’t have vintage (faux) fur, someone you know does, along with that striped cotton polo dress your mom used to wear when she went golfing in the 90s. Load on the heavy eyeliner as if it’s 9th grade all over again, and complete the costume with your favourite childhood barrette.

5. Bonnie Parker – “Bonnie and Clyde”

faye-dunaway-bonnie

This may also require a “Clyde” figure to pull off the complete look, but it is a very accessible last minute costume if you’re in a pinch. Pair a knit turtleneck and a pencil skirt, with one of your mother’s (or grandmothers) neck scarves.