Your friends hate your Halloween costume idea. I'm not a mindreader or anything, but I'm just pretty sure that's the case if you're going in any pop cultural direction for this year's festivities, particularly pop music.
It isn't that this year's music memes are especially egregious, although one rises above the pack and then dives far, far below it -- it's that the sold-by date for memes, the window in which people will be impressed by your ability to re-create the thing they saw on TV, gets shorter every year. There's just too much of it already -- once a joke emerges, Twitter is relentless in beating it until there's nothing left except a trail of desiccated Will Ferrell Parody accounts.
I don't know what your idea is, in particular, but here are five you absolutely must avoid.
5. Patrice Wilson in a panda costume
The first time you see an outsider artist, it's charming because you're watching their unfiltered ideas of what pop stardom looks like. A friend of mine once told me he loved the Beach Boys'Love You
because it was '70s Brian Wilson's ridiculous best guess at what a normal rock 'n' roll album sounded like.
Rebecca Black's "Friday" was great for similar reasons -- it was like a pop song and video created by a very well-meaning, not-quite-perceptive-enough robot who'd watched a lot of MTV but never met a human being. Patrice Wilson, the rapper/svengali in the video, has since attempted to parlay that first success into others, but the magic is gone -- now he knows just what people thought was so funny on accident, and he's determined to make it funny on purpose.
The latest (and arguably most successful) follow-up is "Chinese Food," which is barely a song at all and features Wilson's wax-Usher-statue face inside a panda costume, because the theme here is borderline racism. All the joy and serendipity is gone, replaced by -- well, Patrice Wilson in a panda costume. It's like if Neutral Milk Hotel's third album had been about another long-dead 14-year-old girl.
Important thing to keep in mind: Your friends probably haven't seen this video, and you're going to keep having to explain where the rest of your costume is. Forget the meme, and just be a lazy old panda -- pandas are adorably lazy. (It's not about race.)
4. A Mumford.
Okay, this one isn't so bad, by comparison. You can assemble the outfit at any anime convention with a steampunk booth, and you're not likely to run into so many doppelgängers as you will with more controversial artists. If you have an acoustic guitar, all the better.
But this is the official costume of insisting a little too much about your own musical superiority. You may find Mumford and Sons boring, and I may find Mumford and Sons boring, but unless your Halloween party attracts a very narrow band of music fans, you're going to run into a bunch of people for whom chiming bells and urgent whispering are even now deeply moving.
Look, everybody's going to know you just went to Goodwill on Monday.
2. Jay Z and Beyonce
Most pop culture costumes fail because they're built around the most obvious or dated joke imaginable, but Jay Z-and-Beyonce-as-a-couple costume is problematic for a different reason entirely: It'sway
You may as well walk into your friends' house and say, "Oh, we're going as very attractive, super-rich, successful people who appear to like each other and are respected more than other people in our field for nebulous reasons, and also we're very sexy. The clothes? Oh, just stuff we had lying around."
There's no "trick" in dressing like someone that people can tell you wish you were. Jay Z and Kanye in the weird, desperately chummy, sad-for-some-reason video for "Otis," though? You can work with that, especially if you weren't going to do anything else with that car.
1. Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus
I should not have to tell you this, and if I do have to tell you this, you're probably just going to do it anyway. Okay: The Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke thing happened back in August. Literally everybody in the country (myself included) made jokes about it for like three weeks afterward.
Shortly thereafter, all of those people thought, "Hey, wouldn't Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus be funny for Halloween?" and pulled their old Beetlejuice costumes out of their parents' attic. Hugh Hefner and his wife did it, and Hugh Hefner is old enough to be Miley Cyrus' dead old relative.
There are going to be more Robin Thickes than there are vampires at your Halloween party, and the final, back-breaking presence of yours on a pile of others means the coat check girl is probably just going to throw all the jackets away and join a convent or something.
Be Psy. Be Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (better yet, Eminem and Monica Lewinsky.) Be a werewolf. Just remove the giant foam finger and think, for a moment, about what it is you're about to do.
Happy Halloween. Please do the right thing.
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