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Are These Purim Costumes Offensive?
Me and my creations, about thirty years ago
Like many people, I love seeing everyone dressed up for Purim. I've also always been passionate about dressing up myself. Little-known fact about me: As a child, after being convinced by others to give up on being a zoo director because it isn't a realistic job for a nice Jewish boy, I spent several years wanting to work in Jim Henson's Creature Shop, since I was obsessed with the Muppets and made lots of Muppet costumes. For several years, I would do a muppet-themed show for Purim.
Recently, though, it has turned out that some costumes which other people wear, I find very offensive, and some costumes that I think are perfectly fine, others find highly offensive!
One of my kids wanted to dress up this year as the coronavirus. I thought that this was in extraordinarily bad taste, and I nixed it. But apparently my view is not universally shared, because I saw lots of pictures of children dressed up as a coronavirus. Still, I'm pretty sure that this did not happen in any families where people died of coronavirus. And I think that it's an illustration of how people don't necessarily take it so seriously if it hasn't affected them personally - similar to how a certain vocal anti-vaxxer whose sister-in-law just died of covid said that it took her death for him to take covid seriously.
On the other hand, there were plenty of children in Israel happily dressed up in costumes that are apparently completely unacceptable in the United States. I saw numerous Native Americans, Chinese characters, Mexicans, Bedouin shepherds, and a few years back I myself dressed up as an African witch doctor, inspired by a genuine African witch doctor that I once met on a small island off the coast of Kenya. Most people here don't consider these costumes to be offensive cultural appropriation - and likewise, most people here would not object to non-Jews dressing up as rabbis.
But there was one dress-up I saw a video of which was extremely upsetting. It was a Yerushalmi cheder in which all the children were dressed up for a demonstration, complete with placards and blowing horns. Just like grown-ups! It was a tragic reflection of a society in which the only real activity that its members ever do is demonstrating.
Anyway, speaking of colorful ethnic characters, here's an interesting advertisement for a new documentary about how different religions view the animal kingdom: