Anna Rexia Makes Another Appearance

Zombies. Ghosts. Serial killers. These are some popular symbols of Halloween that are frequently seen in movies, haunted houses and decorations. However, what I find more frightening are some of the costumes that I see while trying to find my own “original” costume idea each Halloween. This year, I came across the most frightening costume of them all, not because of a scary mask or fake blood, but because it is poking fun at a serious mental illness that affects millions of people around the world. The “Anna Rexia” costume first caused some serious uproar back in 2011, when retailers like HalloweenStore.com and Ricky’s NYC began carrying the costume, manufactured by Dreamgirls International, but they stopped after a great deal of media backlash and thousands signed a petition on Change.org.

Now, two years later, this controversial and insensitive costume is apparently back up for sale on the website HalloweenParty13.com, which I discovered from a Facebook posting of a more recent Change.org petition. At first, all I could think about was how disgusting a costume like that is, and how I would judge anyone wearing it, but I want to turn this into a learning opportunity by relating this controversy to public relations. My question is: Did the companies handle the outrage and negative publicity surrounding this costume appropriately?

As I did my research, I found articles on news sites such as The Huffington Post and other blogs, about the resurrection of “Anna Rexia.”  I saw on Buzzfeed that the retailer HalloweenStore.com posted a status to their Facebook page about one week ago, explaining that people should do research before signing a petition because the retailer hasn’t sold that costume since 2011.  This status was calling out people who angrily emailed the store about their distaste, when they weren’t actually the retailers currently selling the costume.   The wording was harsh, with certain words fully capitalized and many exclamation points, which detracts potential customers and pushes current customers away.  The post has since been deleted.

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via BuzzFeed

During the original controversy in 2011, Dreamgirls International said the costume was a form of “dark humor,” and that people wearing it is a “matter of taste.”  However, the company is now saying that the costume was discontinued in 2007 and the matter is now out of their hands.  At first, Dreamgirls International was using the communication theory of framing, which highlights specific aspects of an issue and “frames” people’s perspective on it.  The company was trying to downgrade the offensive costume as being humorous and describing themselves as a “company run by women for women”; that just wanted to create an “eccentric” way for a woman to express herself on Halloween.  Now, they are denying all responsibility for any current sales of the costume.  This denial is not only inconsistent, but it is the opposite of what any student in an introductory PR class would learn—don’t deny ownership of a problem.

I believe that neither of these companies handled the “Anna Rexia” backlash well.  If you, the reader, were the spokesperson of either company, how would you handle this situation?

-Maggie Dowicyan

Sexy Drunk Candy Day

A blog featured by our IMC predecessors two years ago touched on the roots of Halloween, evidently for informational purposes. But if we look at the origin of the holiday, and compare it to the simple consumer monster it is today, what does it say about our culture? How did it transform from a festival rooted in serious meaning to whatever it’s supposed to be today?

Halloween started with the Celts many moons ago, over time it was adapted and changed by the Romans, and became what we know it as today in the 1900s. None of that is really important. What is important is how we cannibalized the traditions and passed them along, while turning the holiday into nothing more than a consumption animal party.

The phenomenon that explains this is Social Construction of Reality, but how did it get to this? It seems that most traditions were forged in some pretty substantial fires, but American culture has a way of reducing the importance of history to make some money. The idea behind the tradition is not communicated to growing generations, and the meaning gets lost behind the ways we celebrate. Then the Americans who grow up and pay money to be a part of the “tradition” end up satisfied with their part in the whole ordeal while walking away a little poorer, and just as ignorant.

A Google Search of “Halloween Sales 2013” turns up a link to coupons from retailers pushing to sell costumes, candy, and other Halloween-related things. A short list of the companies offering these discounts are Aeropostale, The Popcorn Factory, Party City, Amazon, Toys R Us, the Disney store, Babies R Us, Walgreens, Land’s End, Pier 1 Imports, Petco, Hot Topic, The Home Depot, Urban Outfitters, Williams-Sonoma, Cotton On, Sears, Roaman’s, and Target. Apparently Tide is also in on the Halloween action (from my colleagues’ Monday post).

None of the companies’ ads say anything about the Celts or the Romans.

One Halloween participant properly respecting the Celts.

One Halloween participant properly respecting the Celts.

Nobody ever told me what Halloween was about. I just learned to associate it with costumes and candy from my mom. It’s kind of like St. Patrick’s Day, which (you would think) is not too relevant to Americans that lack origins in Ireland, but is extensively used to increase sales and get people drunk. The fact is, today, that all Halloween really is about are costumes, candy, and partying. Most holidays end up being just another reason to party in America, but Halloween is the most notorious for partying being its sole purpose.

Ask around, especially on campus, and people will have a whole slew of methods for celebrating the holiday. If a person has kids, they will dress their kids up and walk around to get candy on Halloween. Some folks may stay inside and hand out candy to other people’s kids if they feel up to it. Those who don’t have kids will probably dress up and get drunk.

That’s about it.

I could talk about the implications of the most prevalent American Halloween costumes featured in our local costume shops (which are perfectly in tune with the holiday’s roots), but everyone knows that it all pretty much ranges from “sexy nurse,” to “sexy M&M”  or “sexy pirate” for women, and “pirate,” to “caveman” for men. Most Halloween emphasis is placed on the costume. The rest is on the party or the candy.

It doesn’t have anything to do with any of the reasons it was created. Sure, there’re Jack-O-Lanterns that have survived in homage to ol’ Stingy Jack, but does anybody reading this know about him (assuming that any one of the extremely cool tales about him is the one responsible for the tradition)?

I say, since Halloween seems to just be an arbitrary holiday nowadays, that we change the name completely, maybe to “Sexy Drunk Candy Day.” Let’s reconstruct the reality of Halloween. Why not?

- Chad Darrah

Have a Sexy Valentine’s Day, Gorgeous!

A week from today, one of the most commercialized and superficial holidays will occur: Valentine’s Day. For those of you who are one half of a couple, Valentine’s Day is all about making your significant other happy, whether it involves showering him/her with gifts, making dinner reservations, or planning exuberant and normally unnecessarily expensive dates.

The beginning of February marks the time when store fronts become clad with hearts, cupid cutouts, and pink and red streamers.  Around this same time, we begin to see an increasing number of men lurking around lingerie stores, especially Victoria’s Secret – and for good reason.  Victoria’s Secret has a dramatic increase in sales during the season of romance. With their sexy print ads in magazines, their silky almost-obscene commercials, and their free “Lacie Pantie” giveaway, what man in their right mind would avoid giving their girlfriend/wife the gift of sexiness?

In their 2012 Valentine’s Day campaign, Victoria’s Secret Angels clad in pink and red barely-there bras and panties have advertised to their customers that with the gift of anything from their line of lingerie, their Valentine’s Day celebrations will be fabulous. In their sneak peek to their photo shoot, the Angels prance around in their under garments, smiling, laughing, and selling the ideas of sex and playfulness. In interviews, the girls claim that any man could win their hearts on Valentine’s Day by picking out something from the Victoria’s Secret shelves. One even says that if a man chooses something that he likes, it will give plenty of hints to his significant other.

Not only does this campaign appeal to male shoppers, but it also appeals to women. The Victoria’s Secret Angels encourage their customers to feel sexy, and by offering specials, free panties, and coupons during this season, women will certainly be able to feel like Angels.

So whether you are shopping for a significant other or are planning on spoiling yourself with brand new sexy lingerie, Victoria’s Secret will certainly be the place to shop this romantic season.  And don’t forget to have a sexy Valentine’s Day, Gorgeous!

Love always, Christina Stevenson, Mollie Berthold, Dorothy Conley, & Laura Simmons