The retail giant blamed a third-party seller for the product, which treated a grave mental health issue as a punchline.
Halloween has always been a fun holiday to dress up with friends, but lately it’s also become a game of one-up-man-ship, with friends trying to outdo each other in the quest for Costume That Gets Everyone Talking. This creates opportunities for manufacturers that buy into this mentality to misstep, creating offensive costumes solely for their shock value.
There have been a handful of disgusting costumes this year: a sexy shooter and a costume depicting Kim Kardashian’s Paris robbery, for example. But a costume recently listed on Walmart’s site not only made me furious; it also made me lose some faith in humanity.
Recently, Walmart was distributing a suicide-themed costume that included a latex prosthetic of slit wrists. The costume, which the retail giant quickly pulled after intense backlash, sold for $3.99 and was called “Razor Blade Suicide Scar Wound Latex Costume Make Up.” It showed two deep razor wounds and, as Scary Mommy pointed out, actually depicted a suicide attempt at the end of one of the slashes.
Outraged people began calling out Walmart on Twitter. Someone created a petition on Change.org, stating the costume “is real life for many people” and pointing out that many suicide victims are also bullied and Walmart was only bullying them further.
My stepmother’s brother lost his life to suicide a few years ago. The most devastating realization was that he felt like he had no one to turn to when he was having self-harming thoughts. If society ridicules people who have the tendency to inflict self-harm, that sends the damaging message that their pain is not valid.
Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years old, and the fourth leading cause of death for those 35 to 54. Every day there are around 117 suicides in America. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a stigma surrounding mental illness.
When rapper Kid Cudi recently came forward about his depression and self-harm, many saw it as an act of bravery. This prompted a discussion about mental illness on Twitter, specifically among black men, with the hashtag #YouGoodMan going viral. Other celebrities, like Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, have come forward to talk about their battles with mental health, paving the way for others to talk openly about it. It can be a lonely, self-loathing cycle if you can’t confide in others and take it seriously.
It’s appalling that Walmart not only made light of suicide, but populated their Halloween section with a “suicide-themed” product, essentially looking to profit from mental illness. It shows Walmart has little faith in their consumers, assuming they will buy into anything brimming with “shock value.”
Walmart quickly removed the costume from their site, saying: “This costume is appalling and it was unacceptable for a third-party seller to list it on our marketplace. It clearly violated our prohibited items policy and we removed it when it was brought to our attention.”
However, Totally Costumes, who also sells the product, claimed WalMart made the costume offensive by describing it incorrectly. They said: “We have put in a ticket with the Walmart Catalog team to have the item name and description of the listing modified right away. We are not sure why Walmart has it titled the way they do.”
Sure, Halloween costumes can have gore, but go buy a plastic sword and fake blood and call it a day. Suicide is not a costume, nor is it a joke.