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Gratifying delusions (like that we're in touch with "reality") are so addictive, we tend to hang onto them no matter what they cost us.

Boo

Are drug-fiends scarier than the devil?

Given America's fear of drug addiction, you would think that the fly-by-night Halloween costume stores that have sprouted like toadstools in virtually every commercial meadow would offer the wishful reveler a dope-fiend costume; but no. These temporary theme stores, whose flimsy and generic costumes appear to have been supplied by the porn-fantasy industry, have apparently declassified drug addiction as a suitable fear for Fright Night fun.

There are no William Burroughs disgises (narrow-brim fedora, flasher's raincoat, hangdog mask). There aren't any Cheech and Chong packets in any of the plastic envelopes among the hundreds that hang up to the ceiling in these "Spirit" stores. The closest you can get in a ready-made to impersonating your inner dope fiend is a Michael Jackson get-up (pale and noseless mask, wig, glove).

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This phenomenon is not entirely new. Last year, for Kate Hudson's party, Cindy Crawford had to make her own Amy Winehouse costume. But the costume business seems to be scaling up, along with the scaling down of magination.

There are plenty of ghouls and devils, revenants and corpses available among the licensed movie franchises (superheros, scizzorhands, Adams family,) and, while many have the dope fiend's pallor, the living-dead, underworld and misfit vibes of this class, none of them are obviously drunks, cartel bosses, crack smokers or meth heads. Not even Scarface made the cut, and that says something, because he is an important fantasy figure for a certain stripe of cokehead -- and he has studio connections.

Interestingly, you can be a cop or wear a fake ATF uniform. Is it that law enforcement has become more frightening than the acts we outlaw?I think it's just that marketers assume that we're too afraid of certain things to have fun with them.

You'll notice that dope fiends are not alone in Halloween exile. Political figures, once common in costume shops, where they were presumably at home among the dead and the monstrous, are curiously lacking from the current array. Also absent are mad scientists and terrorists. You can be Frankenstein's monster, but not the doctor who created him. You can be a horror-film killer, but not a suicide bomber. You can be a hot dog, but you can't be a Roman Polanski.

It's as if everything that collectively frightens us (other, obviously, than generic Death itself ) is to be buried in Halloween corpses' vacated graves. Personally, I will miss seeing our national fears converted into carnival play. After all, why spend all that money and effort on skeletal imagery and not get down to the bone? But I'm confident that the day after, all of our usual bugbears will be back to haunt us.

Lynn Phillips is the author of Self-Loathing for Beginners. She has written (sometimes as "Maggie Cutler") for a variety of publications, from The Nation to T Magazine. more...

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