This post was originally published on October 31, 2011. It is being re-run today for this year’s Halloween.
It is likely that most of you got your Halloween on over the weekend and today is a costume-free day for anyone other than children. Did you dress up as a movie character? If so, was it someone or something from a documentary? Probably not, at least not a person only known as a documentary subject rather than a figure previously or otherwise known as a public personality.
Real people who aren’t celebrities tend to be more ethically tricky. For similar reason as the issue of laughing at nonfiction characters, it may not be okay to dress up as, say, Joyce McKinney, the main subject of Errol Morris’s latest film, Tabloid. Meanwhile, many non-famous doc subjects may be too obscure to be a good costume. Who would easily recognize you and three buddies if you went as the salesmen from Salesman?
Due to other obligations, I sadly couldn’t dress up this year, but my wife and I had considered a couples costume in which she went as Little Edie Beale and I as Big Edith Beale, from Grey Gardens. Would this have been acceptable? Little Edie has certainly been a costume for people not just during Halloween over the years, but bringing in the mother seemed perhaps more problematic.
In my annual movie-related Halloween costume lists, I tend to jokingly include doc subjects. Last year I featured ideas based on Exit Through the Gift Shop and I’m Still Here and somewhat on Catfish. This year I had ideas based on Project Nim and Bill Cunningham New York. Of course, these are all jokes and none pertain to very serious films. But some nonfiction films this year could probably be permitted as inspiring costumes, such as Buck and maybe even The Interrupters.
I did see a photo of someone dressed as Cave of Forgotten Dreams, complete with a little Werner Herzog on his shoulder, which I think is fine, if strange. I’ll try to find a photo if I can, and permission from the person responsible for it.