Despite drugstores’ insistence on setting up Halloween candy displays in August, you probably haven’t given much thought to what that holiday is going to be like in this pandemic year, what you should dress up as, or if you should dress up at all. As you begin to consider the possibilities, I have an early request. Don’t be the coronavirus for Halloween. And if you do (which, again, you shouldn’t), don’t wear one of these masks that depict the virus itself, that microscopic spiked sphere rendering enlarged and given a grotesque face. Be careful what you click on, by the way—I’ve probably ensured that my browser is going to haunt me with pictures of these for months, but you can still save yourself.
Topical costumes that play on current events are a reliable source of internet amusement and outrage every year—who could forget “bound and gagged Kim Kardashian,” or Harambe? When these costumes up the ridiculousness by trying to inject sexiness into the occasion, we call that the Yandy industrial complex. Knowing all this, it was still surprising to encounter, in a recent sweep of the coming costume landscape, coronavirus masks for sale on sites like Amazon and Wish. These costume masks suffer from a bit of a search engine optimization problem in that the two words “coronavirus masks” have taken on a pretty specific meaning to most of us in the past six months. Maybe this semantics problem is what has kept them relatively hidden thus far, and writing about them here is going to ensure that they invade more people’s nightmares. Sorry about that, if so. But it is a moral imperative to speak up against these masks.
I’ve been trying to imagine a scenario in which someone could dress up as the coronavirus for Halloween without being a total monster. There’s not one, right? I can certainly picture less viscerally unpleasant executions of a coronavirus costume—the Anne Geddes baby version, for instance, would be less of an affront. But it would still be like dressing up as an atomic bomb for Halloween ’45 (or ever), or like a terrorist for Halloween ’01 (or ever), or cancer, or the Holocaust. I guess there’s an argument to be made that Halloween is supposed to be scary—if people dress as the literal Grim Reaper, why not the coronavirus? Or you could say there’s gallows humor in the act of dressing up as this germ that’s ravaging the world and killing people? Call me old-fashioned, I just don’t think forcing every stranger who sees you to have this tense internal dialogue with themselves is an act of anything but hostility.
And anyway, these masks have the dubious distinction of being both conceptually and aesthetically horrifying, to say nothing of what they’ll do to people with trypophobia. Their spikes remind me of the mutant spider baby from Toy Story, and also sort of Rick from Rick and Morty. But so much worse, obviously. If you want to get really disturbed, there are even Trump versions of the coronavirus mask. They’re just really, really terrible to look at. And seeing as how Americans can’t trust their neighbors to wear the other kind of coronavirus masks to make it safer for everyone, I’m already a little afraid that we also can’t trust our neighbors not to wear these.