Continues to sell costumes based on stereotypes of Indigenous people but, like, totally respectfully
By Bex Peterson, Editor-in-Chief
Online Halloween costume retailer People Are Costumes came under fire this past week for selling full-body jumpsuits with big, bulb-shaped alien heads, calling the product Martian Madness.
“It’s, like, so totally disrespectful,” said local activist Missy N. dePointe in a Facebook rant last Thursday. “We haven’t even met any Martians yet, and we’re already stereotyping them. No wonder they don’t want to come to Earth!”
The costumes were apparently based on several fictional depictions of Martians. A social media campaign spearheaded by crowds of science fiction nerds quickly overtook Twitter timelines and Reddit threads as people expressed their outrage and disappointment in People Are Costumes, calling out the company for being “tone deaf” about the current political climate.
“I can’t believe the folks at People Are Costumes can look at the way the world is right now, look at how many people want to take off in spaceships and never come back, and think now is the time to start making costumes about extraterrestrials,” said proud Internet geek Beau Ringman in a YouTube video essay on the topic. “I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm by it, but come on, you have to admit it’s not a good look for the company.”
People Are Costumes responded to the criticism by the weekend in a 12-part Twitter thread that served as a company press release.
“We definitely didn’t think this one through, and for that we’re very sorry,” said the company. “Here at People Are Costumes, we want to treat everyone with the utmost dignity and respect. This completely fictional costume was truly in poor taste, and we have pulled the costumes from our stock. If you were hoping to buy one of our Martian Madness products, might we suggest a more tasteful and respectful outfit, such as our Indian Princess Deluxe costume? Or our Sombrero Bandito piece?”
This calmed much of the outrage, though there were some who pointed out that the costumes that stereotyped real actual human beings might be a far greater cause for concern than the fictional Martian costumes.
“Oh, sorry, we meant ‘Native American’ Princess Deluxe—our apologies,” the company amended on Twitter.
Activists with vast, endless wells of patience continued to speak out against the company, carefully explaining that treating other peoples’ cultures as costumes is directly harmful and upholds racist stereotypes that persist to this day. Unfortunately, many of those who critiqued the company for selling the Martian costumes seemed unwilling to take up the cause.
“I think people need to, like, relax,” said dePointe when asked about it on Facebook. “I mean, what’s the harm, really? If anything, it’s about honouring other cultures, not stereotyping them. When I wore a feathered headdress to Burning Man it was so totally about respect, you know?”
Ringman had very little to say on the topic; when asked in a Twitch stream Q&A about the controversy, he said, “Honestly, I’m not really following it—that was all last week’s news, yeah? I kind of want to move on to other important topics, like whether Marvel should have cancelled Iron Fist or not.”
People Are Costumes stated in a further Twitter press release that to honour the repeated requests to take down the racist caricature costumes, they plan to expand the costume lines.
“With us,” the company tweeted, “it’s really ultimately about inclusivity.”