Ten Halloween costumes that will save you from dressing up as Miley Cyrus

Thinking of reaching for a leotard and a suggestive foam finger so you can twerk your way through the spookiest night of the year? Think again!

Halloween is nearly here, and we’re preparing to be invaded by an army of twerking, wrecking ball-riding Miley Cyri. The Miley Cyrus costume has already reached ubiquity and you can learn how to make one here, here and here. As the more traditional and wholesome Halloween get-ups (the Frankenstein, the Dracula, the Maggie Thatcher) are replaced by ones that scream, “Look at me. I get popular culture”, here are ten costumes a bit better than a leotard and a suggestive foam finger:

1. An open letter

From Sinéad O’Connor to Sufjan Stevens, the verbose outpourings of several public figures have rendered 2013 the year of the open letter. And what could be more frightening than a celebrity dying of altitude sickness, atop its high horse? Plus, this makes for an easy costume; just look papery and sanctimonious.

2. A penis beaker

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled through the trees, the stairs creaked and the sodden, post-coital willy went splosh, into a cup. The Mumsnet-spawned internet sensation, “Penis Beaker”, is by far the scariest story of the year. Although I’m not entirely sure how to dress up as a normal beaker, let alone a penis one; if well-executed, this costume is a guaranteed hit. Hint: you will pull.

3. Morrissey’s ego

The Smiths frontman’s autobiography just made history by instantly moaning its way into the lofty realms of Penguin Classics. Why not celebrate by going to a Halloween Party as This Charming Man’s ego? It’s easy; just dress up as big as possible. This can be achieved with five jumpers, a puffer jacket and a duvet cloak. What’s more, Morrissey’s ego also works as a two-person costume. Just get a friend to dress up as a penguin and massage you all evening.

4. Jeremy Paxman’s beard

As far as controversial facial hair goes, Paxo’s stubble is the fuzzy apex. This costume is a sensible choice for cat/dog owners. Just cover yourself in PVA glue and rub little Mittens and/or Rover all over your naked body. Try not to look like 1970s porn.

5. A poisonous vagina

Michael Douglas made head(ha!)lines earlier this year, when he loudly and publicly announced that he got throat cancer from going down on too many women. What a great day for hypochondriacal lesbians everywhere. Meanwhile, a Brazilian woman tried to murder her husband by lacing her vagina with poison. So, move over Open Letter, 2013 may actually be the year of the toxic twat. Combine Poisonous Vagina with Penis Beaker for the perfect couples’ costume.

6. Taylor Swift

I don’t understand all the quacking, frenzied hoo-hah about Miley Cyrus. As far as I can tell, aside from having enough money to buy Luxembourg, she’s the most normal 20-year-old girl who ever lived. Taylor Swift, on the other hand, gives me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe it’s that permanent half-smile that seems to say, “I buried my governess in a shallow grave”; maybe it’s the fact that I’ve spent actual minutes wondering what’s hiding underneath that porkpie hat. Either way, a Taylor Swift costume this Halloween will guarantee a shudder from me, at least.

7. Vladimir Putin

A Putin mask is an excellent way to lampoon one of the foremost bogeyman of 2013. For extra authenticity, remove your shirt, strike a devastatingly camp pose and refuse to engage with any gay people or women who might be at the Halloween party.

8. Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange

I repeat; not just Julian Assange, but Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange. To mark the release of The Fifth Estate, in which the angular actor plays the arsy activist, I suggest a combination of a Cumberbatch face cut-out and a mop placed jauntily atop your head. Assange was eerie enough before he morphed with Cumberbatch to make Cumbersange; the pallid truth-seeker of your nightmares.

9. A One Direction fan

. . . Or a “Directioner” as one is known, rather ominously. Fans of the world’s most attractive embryos have outdone themselves in buttock-clenched devotion this year, tweeting death threats at anyone who isn’t that keen on their favourite band. Harry Styles has over 17 million Twitter followers. It’s been scientifically proven that at least 87 per cent of those people can and will garrotte you while you sleep. Forget the zombie apocalypse, the Directioner apocalypse is well on its way. To get the look, scrawl “1D 4 EVA” on a T-shirt, in your own blood.

10. A Breaking Bad mourner

Millions were devastated when we said goodbye to the greatest TV programme about methamphetamine, ever. So why not pay your respects and go the full Victorian widow? You’ll need a long black dress, a veil and a locket containing a picture of Bryan Cranston. Extra points for a Woman in Black-style rocking chair.

 

Vladimir Putin was arguably the foremost bogeyman of 2013. To add extra authenticity to your costume, remove your shirt. Photo: Getty

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Donald Trump ushers in a new era of kakistocracy: government by the worst people

Trump will lead the whitest, most male cabinet in memory – a bizarre melange of the unqualified and the unhinged.

“What fills me with doubt and dismay is the degradation of the moral tone,” wrote the American poet James Russell Lowell in 1876, in a letter to his fellow poet Joel Benton. “Is it or is it not a result of democracy? Is ours a ‘government of the people by the people for the people’, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?”

Is there a better, more apt description of the incoming Trump administration than “kakistocracy”, which translates from the Greek literally as government by the worst people? The new US president, as Barack Obama remarked on the campaign trail, is “uniquely unqualified” to be commander-in-chief. There is no historical analogy for a President Trump. He combines in a single person some of the worst qualities of some of the worst US presidents: the Donald makes Nixon look honest, Clinton look chaste, Bush look smart.

Trump began his tenure as president-elect in November by agreeing to pay out $25m to settle fraud claims brought against the now defunct Trump University by dozens of former students; he began the new year being deposed as part of his lawsuit against a celebrity chef. On 10 January, the Federal Election Commission sent the Trump campaign a 250-page letter outlining a series of potentially illegal campaign contributions. A day later, the head of the non-partisan US Office of Government Ethics slammed Trump’s plan to step back from running his businesses as “meaningless from a conflict-of-interest perspective”.

It cannot be repeated often enough: none of this is normal. There is no precedent for such behaviour, and while kakistocracy may be a term unfamiliar to most of us, this is what it looks like. Forget 1876: be prepared for four years of epic misgovernance and brazen corruption. Despite claiming in his convention speech, “I alone can fix it,” the former reality TV star won’t be governing on his own. He will be in charge of the richest, whitest, most male cabinet in living memory; a bizarre melange of the unqualified and the unhinged.

There has been much discussion about the lack of experience of many of Trump’s appointees (think of the incoming secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who has no background in diplomacy or foreign affairs) and their alleged bigotry (the Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, denied a role as a federal judge in the 1980s following claims of racial discrimination, is on course to be confirmed as attorney general). Yet what should equally worry the average American is that Trump has picked people who, in the words of the historian Meg Jacobs, “are downright hostile to the mission of the agency they are appointed to run”. With their new Republican president’s blessing, they want to roll back support for the poorest, most vulnerable members of society and don’t give a damn how much damage they do in the process.

Take Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general selected to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt describes himself on his LinkedIn page as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” and has claimed that the debate over climate change is “far from settled”.

The former neurosurgeon Ben Carson is Trump’s pick for housing and urban development, a department with a $49bn budget that helps low-income families own homes and pay the rent. Carson has no background in housing policy, is an anti-welfare ideologue and ruled himself out of a cabinet job shortly after the election. “Dr Carson feels he has no government experience,” his spokesman said at the time. “He’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”

The fast-food mogul Andrew Puzder, who was tapped to run the department of labour, doesn’t like . . . well . . . labour. He prefers robots, telling Business Insider in March 2016: “They’re always polite . . . They never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”

The billionaire Republican donor Betsy DeVos, nominated to run the department of education, did not attend state school and neither did any of her four children. She has never been a teacher, has no background in education and is a champion of school vouchers and privatisation. To quote the education historian Diane Ravitch: “If confirmed, DeVos will be the first education secretary who is actively hostile to public education.”

The former Texas governor Rick Perry, nominated for the role of energy secretary by Trump, promised to abolish the department that he has been asked to run while trying to secure his party’s presidential nomination in 2011. Compare and contrast Perry, who has an undergraduate degree in animal science but failed a chemistry course in college, with his two predecessors under President Obama: Dr Ernest Moniz, the former head of MIT’s physics department, and Dr Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist from Berkeley. In many ways, Perry, who spent the latter half of 2016 as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, is the ultimate kakistocratic appointment.

“Do Trump’s cabinet picks want to run the government – or dismantle it?” asked a headline in the Chicago Tribune in December. That’s one rather polite way of putting it. Another would be to note, as the Online Etymology Dictionary does, that kakistocracy comes from kakistos, the Greek word for “worst”, which is a superlative of kakos, or “bad”, which “is related to the general Indo-European word for ‘defecate’”.

Mehdi Hasan has rejoined the New Statesman as a contributing editor and will write a fortnightly column on US politics

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era