Are NY schools right to ban 'Squid Game' Halloween costumes?

Charles Sykes / AP

Fact Box

  • Netflix’ Korean “Squid Game” is a series based on a “high stakes” competition of children's games, where financially struggling strangers fight to the death for a 45.6 billion prize. It is rated at TV-MA which is only intended for mature audiences. 
  •  New York elementary schools have banned Halloween costumes relating to “Squid Game” in fear of “mature content and violence.” Superintendent Dr. Craig Tice said students are reenacting games from the show during break time. 
  • In its first 28 days, “Squid Game” was watched by 111 million users, which makes it “Netflix’s biggest ever series launch” surpassing “Bridgerton” at 82 million views.
  • According to USA Today, a few of the top Halloween costumes for 2021 are Cruella de Vil, Harley Quinn, a clown, a witch, and Chucky.

Hanna (Yes)

Kids dressing up as characters from a violent and mature-rated series is not only highly inappropriate, but it could also lead to serious implications if allowed to continue. Children are impressionable, impulsive, and face the most significant risks when it comes to viral videos, trends, and shows.

One such trend, based on the popular horror film Bird Box and called the 'Bird Box Challenge,' caused a 17-year-old girl from Utah to crash her car after blindfolding herself while driving. Other challenges like this have led to serious harm and even death among kids, including a 13-year-old boy who went into a coma after attempting the 'Cinnamon Challenge' and 11,568 poison-control calls for young children who had consumed Tide Pods after trying the 'Tide Pod Challenge.' 

With the popularity of Squid Game rising among younger audiences thanks to social media, the premise of the show could potentially become a trend or challenge just like Bird Box did. There have already been reports of elementary school children hitting and kicking each other while trying to reenact scenes from Squid Game, not fully understanding the show or its meaning.

On top of this, our content rating system is there for a reason. Squid Game is considered a mature-rated program due to its violence and sexual nature. Exposing children to this content at an early age has been proven to reduce empathy early-on, and can even lead to trauma in kids.

Children should not be encouraged to consume or reenact any part of this mature content--even with Halloween costumes--as doing so could lead to potential harm.

Morgan (No)

The main reason Squid Game costumes are being banned is that they allude to violence, but there are numerous other television shows and movie series--such as Star Wars, Scream, and almost every superhero movie--that contain violence similar to or more intense than Squid Game. One of the school districts involved with the ban has Halloween guidelines that typically don't allow for costumes that are 'too gory or scary.' However, Squid Game costumes are regular outfits that don't show any graphic images or gore, making them entirely appropriate.

Further, prohibiting Squid Game costumes will inevitably make them more desirable for kids to want to dress up as the characters, as children are notorious for wanting to do something they aren't allowed to do. Squid Game is a very popular show, so it's no surprise that costumes are readily available and have already been heavily shopped for. Schools aren’t considering that it may be hard for families to find different costumes that their children like--or that dressing as a less popular option may be less enjoyable for children. 

Given that there are plenty of violent references in other children's costume options, schools may face accusations of racial bias by only banning costumes based on the popular South Korean show. With Halloween already under scrutiny for being a festival of racially offensive costumes and references, the possibility of being viewed as racially discriminating isn't something the schools should take lightly. 

Rooted in the pagan and Christian traditions of warding off evil spirits, Halloween enables kids to express themselves in ways they can't any other day of the year. Let them wear what they want to.

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