It happens every year. With the cooling breeze of Halloween comes the slight stench of brilliant disguises that emanate from still-simmering pop-cultural (or political) explosions. Everybody wants to be clever; everybody wants to be topical. But when you get a room full of variations on the same lowest-common-denominator knee-jerks, everyone just ends up being uncomfortable. This year’s dire inevitabilities – or just plain bad ideas – will soon go the way of Rebecca Black on a Saturday, so it’s best to steer clear of the momentarily cute and just do that Walking Dead lurch you promised you would never do. Zombies are forever.
1. ANY AND ALL VARIATIONS OF MILEY CYRUS
It says a lot about a year when its zeitgeist-definer happens to be a former teen star with her tongue hanging out of her mouth; it says even more about you if you attempt the same. Avoiding Miley means no nudity on Styrofoam wrecking balls, no twerking, no giant stuffed-animal backpacks, no flesh-toned bathing suits, no clam-cutter shorts, no foppish-top-with-shaved-sides, and no feuding with your bald best friend who is pretending to be Sinead O’Connor. Also, don’t even try dragging Robin Thicke (via Beetlejuice) into this, because he’ll just grope you all night, or possibly just stick it in you. Billy Ray Cyrus is perennially off-limits as well.
2. JOHN BOEHNER’S CRYING TAN
Washington, D.C.’s blithering blur of orange will likely be a popular distraction this year, but you’re more likely to end up just looking like your dad on a bad stock-market day. Political humor on Halloween should be saved for all the sexy Sarah Palins out there – or the musky Michele Bachmanns.
3. THE DEBT CEILING
This one is only included because somebody we know tried to be sexy while suggesting “I’m going as the debt ceiling.” But what does a debt ceiling actually look like? It doesn’t matter, because said sexologist continued the costume line with “You can raise me. That’s kind of sexy, right?” No.
4. WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?
Your meme is dead the minute it hits the Today show. Like flash mobs and the Harlem Shake before it, Ylvis’ viral ode to nonsense and wildlife – isn’t it sort of just “Old MacDonald” squeezed through a rave filter? – met obsolescence almost as quickly as it did early adoption. Your niece will be wearing a fox costume to kindergarten. Is that where you really want to go?
5. TRAYVON MARTIN/GEORGE ZIMMERMAN
Nope. Just because the criminal case was decided this year, that doesn’t mean that it’s not still too soon to lampoon a dead 17-year-old or the increasingly erratic neighborhood watcher who killed him. Casey Anthony – and all associated parties – also remain embargoed indefinitely.
6. ZOMBIE FINN
A letter jacket and some zombie makeup (also, drugs) make this a perfectly obvious choice. It’s also painfully inappropriate, because Cory Monteith was reportedly a pretty solid guy with a real psychological problem. There’s no Glee in spitting on his grave.
7. DEAD WALTER WHITE
Sure, Bryan Cranston didn’t die, so this spoiler costume of the shot-up antihero passes the smell test. But just bear in mind that every guy you know – especially the incredibly unique ones who call Breaking Bad the best series in history – will be sporting this meth method at multiple parties. (Their girlfriends will likewise be conjuring Orange Is the New Black.)