The Great Pumpkin Debate

GreatPumpkinby Brad Nelson   10/31/14
Is Halloween a harmless candyfest or a way for Satanic forces to become culturally mainstreamed?  •  Every year Michael Medved and his wife, Diane, have a debate on the radio about the merits and demerits of Halloween. We can do no worse.

There are many facets to this debate, including the one presented by Dan Flynn that it is another way for “adults” to stretch out their childhood: The Growing Halloween Depravity of Grownups. Whatever the case may be, there are surely those on both sides of the Halloween debate — that it is a harmless pagan-derived holiday or that it is the very spawn of Satan (or perhaps somewhere in between).

Although surely it’s no harm at all for adults to cut loose and have a little fun, perhaps Halloween itself has become a sign of the times. We’ve become superficial, eternally juvenile (even to the point of pushing kids out of normal kid things), thoroughly materialist, and with so little nobility left in our blood that the only things that are “cool” tend to be things that are vulgar, ugly, or of the lowest common denominator.

On the other hand, a holiday whereby we dress up and play-act could be just the tonic that people need — including grownups who have become jaded, stilted, and hemmed in by political correctness and other totalitarian forces of orthodoxy as promulgated by that elephant in the living room which is the increasingly official state religion of Leftism. Perhaps people dressing up in blackface and portraying Ray Rice and his battered bride are the proper American way to thumb one’s nose at those who have begun taking themselves far too seriously.

And on the other…well, you get the idea. If this crowd here can’t find several sides of this debate, I’d be very surprised.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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28 Responses to The Great Pumpkin Debate

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Although surely it’s no harm at all for adults to cut loose and have a little fun, perhaps Halloween itself has become a sign of the times

    I recall reading that Halloween was the 2nd or 3rd biggest holiday in the USA, as regards money spent. Therein lies a large part of the answer.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Someone in the thread at Dan Flynn’s article said that Halloween was an up-and-comer compared to Christmas and Thanksgiving. I haven’t looked for any stats on that yet. Still, I didn’t hear where you fell on this issue, so I’ll take what you said as a non-answer in this riveting debate. 😀

      I’m of the mind that dressing up, play acting, and cutting loose are very normal and healthy things as exceptions to the rule. Think of those proper British officers and men who would (at least they do it in the movies) dress up in drag and put on a show for their fellow soldiers in the midst of a war.

      Where I draw the line is when Halloween itself becomes who we are as a rule, not a blowing-off-of-steam exception. And if you look at all the people who have been permanently tattooed to look as if they just fell out of a production of Sleepy Hollow, it would seem we are quickly returning to our pagan roots.

      I admit to partaking in this modern Slobocracy. I was looking at some old photos of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, and more than a few men were wearing proper hats. Many of the women were in dresses. This is one of Dennis Prager’s pet peeves. He thinks we should once again dress up, particularly as a sign of respect and particularly when attending any public event (people use to dress somewhat formally even for baseball games).

      The sad fact is, Halloween is likely going to find it harder and harder to compete for mindshare because humans are more and more resembling freaks 365 days of the year. What’s left then for Halloween to highlight? Will we eventually need one day a year where we get really freaky and show up at people’s doorsteps in suit-and-tie and receive tasty hot hors d’oeuvres?

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I didn’t hear where you fell on this issue, so I’ll take what you said as a non-answer in this riveting debate

        What? Let me make myself perfectly clear. I think silly, corrupt marketing by various nefarious big candy interests, not to mention the transvestite, zombie and Marvel Comics constituencies have conspired to lower the American IQ, infantilize American adults and divert our attention from more important subjects such as Christmas.

        And by the way, dentists are really behind everything.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          So you’re not coming at this from either the “Satan’s spawn” or “Harmless fun” aspect. You’re saying it’s the corrosiveness of crass commercialism, the democratizing of our culture to the lowest common denominator. Okay, but in case people aren’t used to even a somewhat informal debating format, I’m hoping people will make a case for or against Halloween, and maybe give some reasons. This is all in good fun. The rhetorical version of dressing up.

      • Rosalys says:

        The sad fact is, Halloween is likely going to find it harder and harder to compete for mindshare because humans are more and more resembling freaks 365 days of the year.

        When one sees people, male and female, covered head to toe in tattoos, one wonders what they can do for an encore?

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Jonah has writing a surprisingly forthright and interesting article: What Monsters Portend. I’ve gotten so used to his namby-pamby stuff, it’s surprising to hear him use the word “evil” and mean it.

    As for why anyone would want to waste their time on “The Walking Dead,” I don’t know. There’s enough material there for an Outer Limits or Twilight Zone episode, maybe. I’ve watched a couple episodes and this can be called a truly pointless series. It may even be ironic that people watch it, for I imagine that such mindlessness has the effect of making zombies of the viewer.

    Maybe libertarians flock to this program because this lawless society is their version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I don’t know.

    • Rosalys says:

      You often hear that one shouldn’t call men “monsters,” because to do so “dehumanizes” them. This is nonsense. What makes child rapists and murderers monsters is their humanity.

      This, from Jonah’s article, is the essence!

      I haven’t as of late been reading him regularly, but I loved Liberal Fascism.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Jonah has writing a surprisingly forthright and interesting article: What Monsters Portend.

    Shouldn’t Goldberg’s article be under “The Two Trees of Eden” piece?

  4. Rosalys says:

    When I was young (many, many moons ago!) Halloween was for kids. It was a chance to dress up and go out with your friends and stay up until way past your bedtime – and we got candy! Now-a-days it can be downright dangerous for children. It began when just a few years past my trick-or-treating days when some sickos started putting razor blades in apples. Today kids have to go out accompanied by an adult. It is now an adult holiday because too many adults refuse to grow up. They can no longer find pleasure in watching the little ones have fun – they have to keep all the fun for themselves. And for some of these eternal adolescents they derive a great deal of pleasure in seeing the little ones corrupted! (Have you viewed this abomination? http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/10/22/video-of-little-girls-dropping-f-bombs-for-feminism-causes-a-stir/ )

    It is my understanding that the whole dressing up and going out for trick or treat began as a way to mock the powers of evil. Today they are mocking everything good. I will still hand out cookies and candies to the few children who show up – and they always say, “Thank you!” which just goes to show that all is not lost.

  5. Tom Riehl TRiehl says:

    You’re right, Brad. Jonah has gotten a little tame. Beltway disease, I fear. Liberal Fascism was a thunderbolt, though. I still read his daily stuff because of his quirky sense of humor.

  6. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    I’ll come down on the pro-Halloween side based on the experiences of those of us who are now middle-aged or older. I really loved Halloween as a kid and had a great time trick-or-treating! I was a little greedy as children often are, and really “hit the boards” in one neighborhood after another to make a huge haul of candy. And I thought the jack-o’-lanterns, costumes and decorations were part of a good time also.

    This was of course before entertainers like Alice Cooper and Kiss started dressing for stage performances as if it were Halloween, and by 1980 or so the “punk” movement had completed the decline of youth fashion into freakish ugliness. As Brad said, it’s hard for Halloween costumes to compare against that. Then there’s the trend of “normalizing” or “humanizing” vampires, something I admit I don’t follow too closely and yet find a little disturbing: the vampire, silly concept as it is, should be regarded as evil because it destroys human life, and the simple good vs. evil handling of the concept is probably the best that can be done from the literary standpoint. And perhaps today’s candy is more full of weird chemicals than it used to be, when it was pretty much pure sugar.

    So maybe we can’t go back to that world of the past where Halloween was a good and innocent time, but I’d sure like to. Years ago I taught a college statistics class dressed in a pirate outfit and I still sometimes wear a costume on Oct. 31.

    Nik’s helpful hint to avoid pigging out on Halloween: buy only candy for the kids that you don’t like yourself. That way, you won’t be tempted to eat all the leftover stock! (I really can’t handle the candy the way I did as a kid any more).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Then there’s the trend of “normalizing” or “humanizing” vampires, something I admit I don’t follow too closely and yet find a little disturbing:

      We could just as easily had a discussion and debate regarding the topic of the popularity of zombies and vampires. When you watch the “Twilight” movie (and I did see the first one) you can feel your testosterone level dropping as you watch. The first one was enjoyable enough as a one-off weird movie. But I started watching the second one just out of curiosity, and there stands a good chance of one’s manhood falling completely off if you were to watch it all the way through.

      Why do chicks dig this stuff? I don’t know. Are vampires a stand in for the “bad boy” that chicks love to dig? Could such “bad boys” be even more attractive in this culture of Pajama Boys? If there are any introspective ladies out there, do tell.

      But guys seem in on this cultural fad as well. And I don’t get the attraction for zombies. I’ve seen my nephews play a zombie-shooter game. It’s about shooting zombies. That’s it. Nothing more. There have been one or two zombie-like movies that have been okay, but the only one that stands out as even halfway creative is “Shaun of the Dead.” And that works simply because its spoofing this rather shallow movie genre.

      I guess werewolf movies were once the craze a long time ago, so these things come and go. But it’s ironic to see a generally dumbed-down culture find actual entertainment value in watching brain-dead zombies do little more than act like complete zombies. Wow. Fun. I’m sure Shakespeare would have written several plays based on the concept had he thought a little harder.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        But it’s ironic to see a generally dumbed-down culture find actual entertainment value in watching brain-dead zombies do little more than act like complete zombies.

        I think you have stumbled upon something here.

        Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

      • NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

        You know, Brad, I hadn’t thought of making a comparative analysis of the vampire, the werewolf, and the zombie, but at the risk of sounding ridiculous, the recent ascendency of the zombie just might in some small way encapsulate our cultural decline – really! Consider: the vampire was seen as a dark thing of evil, unable to stand either the light (symbolizing truth) or the sign of the cross (symbolizing the force of Christian goodness). Can you imagine the current generation thinking of Christianity as a force for good?

        Or the Werewolf – in The Wolf Man, we have a story of genuine pathos (although not tragedy), as a good, ordinary man (Lon Chaney Jr.) through no fault of his own becomes the victim of a terrible curse.

        But the zombie doesn’t seem to have become popular until The Night of the Living Dead, a movie so evil and disgusting it should be analyzed in terms of psychopathology rather than art. It came, unsurprisingly, out of the 1960’s, although the zombie goes back further (I’m not sure exactly how far back). The zombie is much less interesting than the vampire or the werewolf, and doesn’t seem to signify much, serving as a convenient sort of “whipping boy” for the immature, violent fantasies of adolescent boys who are given objects that it’s o.k. to blow to smithereens.

        As an interesting side note, when the Comics Code of 1954 was revised in 1971 to allow vampires and werewolves back into comics, the zombie was left out for some reason (in other words, you still couldn’t use the word “zombie” in a code-approved comic book). Was this because the zombie was seen as somehow worse or more horrifying? I don’t think the record indicates why.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          But the zombie doesn’t seem to have become popular until The Night of the Living Dead, a movie so evil and disgusting it should be analyzed in terms of psychopathology rather than art. It came, unsurprisingly, out of the 1960’s, although the zombie goes back further (I’m not sure exactly how far back).

          I am no expert, but I believe zombies came to us through Haitian voodoo which in turn came from West Africa. I have never been able to watch more than about 10 minutes of “Night of the Living Dead” as I found it so stupid.

          As for the recent fascination with zombies, I blame it all on Michael Jackson.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOnqjkJTMaA

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Consider: the vampire was seen as a dark thing of evil, unable to stand either the light (symbolizing truth) or the sign of the cross (symbolizing the force of Christian goodness). Can you imagine the current generation thinking of Christianity as a force for good?

          The movie “Dracula 2000” gave the most interesting and convincing explanation for the origins of Dracula. I was truly surprised at the end.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Consider: the vampire was seen as a dark thing of evil, unable to stand either the light (symbolizing truth) or the sign of the cross (symbolizing the force of Christian goodness). Can you imagine the current generation thinking of Christianity as a force for good?

          That’s an interesting point. No wonder perhaps why vampires have been turned into little buddies and heartthrobs.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I listened to most of the Medved segment on the radio. Michael’s argument against Halloween is primarily:

    + The “treat” part of it teaches kids to be beggars
    + The “trick” part of it teaches them to be extortionists

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I think the good Mr. Medved gives too much credit to the kiddies. I doubt very many really are thinking about “tricking” anyone. The saying, “trick or treat” has come to mean very little other than a cute way to greet people when they open their doors to give you candy.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Mrs. Medved is the to opinion that Halloween is a good opportunity for kids to have a little fun and socialize with the neighbors. She’s not bothered by the sugar intake. She says kids will self-regulate regarding that.

  8. Anniel says:

    I read this with great interest because I have never been a fan of Halloween, even as a child. But there’s a big BUT here. We had a little, very old, widow woman who lived within our trick or treating distance. Every year she very carefully prepared special jam thumbprint cookies that I adored, and I loved her because of them, and I knew she loved us, also because of them. Try a home made treat these days and see where that gets you.

    I never bought or made costumes for my children, but now the costumes for children are so sexualized and abhorrent that, in my opinion, they’re the scariest part of the holiday.

    • Rosalys says:

      For all the talk nowadays about how we do things and and allow the passage of horrible laws “because of the children” there is an awful lot of child abuse going on. And I’m not speaking just about physical beatings and murder – but the psychological conditioning of them toward the prurient and evil. The generation that refuses to grow up is forcing the little ones to grow up too fast. Their innocence is being ravaged. Don’t try to tell me that progressives love children! They may love their own, but children as a group they hate!

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      We kids were always warned against taking home-made treat unless we knew the parents. Back in the 60’s and early 70’s, all it took was one story in the news (real or not) of razor blades in caramel apples to put the kibosh on anything but commercial candy. Even then, as the tampering of aspirin bottles would show, even this was no guarantee of safety.

      Liberal culture, in practice, means the creeps get to set the agenda.

  9. Timothy Lane says:

    I came in to this discussion late because our Internet service was out for nearly 2 days (along with our phone and our cable access) due to a problem in the wire leading to our house. So I will just make my own comments about Halloween. I remember my younger days well enough that I still like to hand out candy to children, and we had a total of 13 visitors last night, mostly in groups with an adult waiting at a distance. We handed each 3 items: a Smartie tube (and we’re almost out now), a milk chocolate Hersehy’s Kiss, and a caramel cream (wrapped). Mostly the kids had what looked like handmade costumes, and they mostly did say “thank you”. (As they sang in Bye, Bye Birdie, “Yeah, what’s the matter with kids?”)

  10. And I’m even later than Timothy, but I have to tell an appropriate story: My daughter is a grade school teacher and one fall day she assigned the kids to write a true narrative. When she noticed one boy writing about the Great Pumpkin she called his attention to the non-fiction nature of the assignment. That night she got an angry call from his mother. The woman was furious because she and her household “believed in the Great Pumpkin” and she didn’t appreciate my daughter telling her son that the big squash wasn’t real. Can you imagine? I found myself wondering what they believed the GP did for them? Lord help us.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Well, I must inform your daughter that all beliefs are equally valid, even if some are unequally blockhead. St. Linus said:

      Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere.

      But it doesn’t always work out:

      Sally Brown: I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin when I could have been out for tricks or treats! Halloween is over and I missed it! You blockhead! You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin and all that came was a beagle! I didn’t get a chance to go out for tricks or treats! And it was all your fault! I’ll sue! What a fool I was. And could have had candy apples and gum! And cookies and money and all sorts of things! But no, I had to listen to you! You blockhead. What a fool I was. Trick or treats come only once a year. And I miss it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead. You owe me restitution!

      Linus: You’ve heard about fury in a woman scorned, haven’t you?

      Charlie Brown: Yes, I guess I have.

      Linus: Well, that’s nothing compared to the fury of a woman who has been cheated out of tricks or treats.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Well, we have musical evidence that the Great Pumpkin gave Snoopy the advice that enabled him to defeat the Red Baron.

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