Andi Best Freelance Designer

'Tis the Season for Indecorous Bleedin'

  • Published 29-09-2023
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'Tis the Season for Indecorous Bleedin'
Let me preface this by saying I have never had the opportunity to design a shop window display. As a student in my part time retail job I did dress a few using set guidelines from head office, but I've still yet to measure, conceptualise and decorate a window of my own from scratch. I'm therefore not an authority on the matter and potentially am speaking out of turn, but as a designer in other fields I believe my opinion is at least worth some merit.
In the lead up to Halloween, high street business owners commonly embrace the aesthetic of the season in the form of a custom window display. They will adorn popular staples like faux spider's webs made from endless reams of stringy cotton wool stuff that's probably horrific for the environment, hand carved jack-o'-lanterns with tea-light candles inside, and bucktoothed, silly-eyed paper bats and ghosts, perhaps with their tongues sticking out for comic effect. More adventurous window crafters may even attempt a couple of spooky figures cobbled together from black fabric and balloons wearing plastic masks.
All round jolly harmless stuff.
Each of these displays will walk the appropriate side of the line between delightfully spooky and nightmarishly ghoulish; after all, these are places of business whose windows work hard year-round to draw in customers, not scare them away.
Frankly, I am taken aback by my local cafe readying their establishment for the 31st. I had to do a double take as I passed it just now. A member of staff, as nonchalantly as could be, was applying gelatinous bloody handprints to the glass.
A bat here, a spider there, and a spot of homicidal massacre in the middle.
She didn't stop there. The base of the window was getting a translucent red wavy trim, similar to how at Christmas one might spray artificial snow along horizontal window crevices. But as it typically doesn't snow at Halloween, pints and pints of congealing claret evidently gather along the windowsills instead.
Now don't take me for a squeamish gore prude. On the contrary, I grew up on a diet of Resident Evil and Dawn Of The Dead. We're all grown ups here and we've all seen our fair share of entertainment horror on TV, in video games and in the fun fair ghost train. We've all relished in the scare, shock and macabre and we've all sought the thrill of daring to be scared.
Though for me the juxtaposition between chatty mothers smiling over their eggs Benedict and lattes whilst perusing the kid's meal deal menu, and the last-ditch efforts of an individual in the dwindling moments of their life, absolutely soaked in their own gushing blood, desperately attempting to rouse help by beating on the glass, was too obtuse to ignore.
Traditionally All Hallows' Eve was a celebration honouring the lives of loved ones lost to the grave. In this respect, effigies of ghosts make sense, skeletons possibly too. But I feel connotation with the spirit world today has been extrapolated and commercialised to the point that anything abstractedly related to the paranormal or the occult is manifested in plastic. Werewolves, vampires, aliens - the season is now a celebration of all things frightening, way beyond wholesome spiritual outreach. Trying to contact Nana to ask her what she's been up to since popping her clogs has precisely nothing to do with chainsaw-wielding maniacs in barns, for instance, but it's the latter we're slathering all over our cafes now.
That fatal human trauma is regarded as innocuously as a cardboard cat on a broomstick baffles me. That this member of staff was pairing a public eating space with a violent crime scene without a shred of compunction couldn't pass without comment.
I've no profound conclusion to all this, I simply find the desensitisation of modern public Halloween displays morbidly interesting. A severed head as a centrepiece amongst the nibbles at a private function is tolerable (if bizarre) as pushing the envelope on crudeness for one's guests is something of a sport. But contrast this with diners confronted by grotesque displays of dismemberment in the name of a Happy Halloween, and the extreme dilution of context (and seemingly everyone's acceptance of it) surely evidences how undistrubed we've become as a society? Perhaps I just hold public-facing businesses to a higher moral standard?
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