Banned After Dark, the ACLU’s darker, sexier, 21-and-over banned books celebration, is being held at Brillobox again, at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, October 30th. Because our annual night of revelry and reading falls on Mischief Night this year, we’re making it a costume party!
In addition to bringing your favorite banned book to shock us at the microphone that evening, you’re invited (but not required) to dress up as your favorite character! To get your creative juices flowing, we’ve provided some examples below.
THE WIZARD OF OZ has been challenged since it was published, was banned from even public libraries for thirty years, and challenged in school libraries in a high-profile case as late as the 80s.
Possible Costumes: Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion would all be fabulous costumes, as would the Wicked Witch, but if you want to capture the spirit of why the book was banned, you should come as Glinda! Opponents of The Wizard of Oz in the 1980s objected on the grounds that it depicted a good witch and “everyone knows witches are bad.”
WHERE’S WALDO was banned from several schools because on one beach page a woman appears to be sunbathing topless.
Possible Costumes: Waldo himself, of course! This costume is sure to get people talking. Waldo in beach gear is extra appropriate.
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH has been challenged for a variety of reasons, including violence, the word “ass,” and a reference to Spider licking her lips that one Wisconsin town thought to be possibly sexual.
Possible Costumes: All of James’s bug companions have wonderful costumes, including Ms. Ladybug, Mr. Grasshopper, Mr. Centipede and the offending Ms. Spider. But if you don’t want to worry about fashioning so many extra legs, you could always go as a Giant Peach!
THE GREAT GATSBY has been banned for language and sexual references.
Possible Costumes: Flapper costumes are a staple every Halloween, and since there’s a new movie coming out this winter, you can look to the trailer for inspiration for your Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Jordan Baker or Jay Gatsby costumes.
HARRY POTTER – If it’s got witches in it, chances are someone has fought to remove it from schools. J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series is no exception.
Possible Costumes: Harry Potter fans love to dress up, so if you were crushed when you didn’t get your Hogwarts acceptance letter, you probably already have a costume lying around. Go as your favorite young witch or wizard, Order of Pheonix member, Hogwarts professor, Marauder or Dark Wizard – or just wear your house colors.
AND TANGO MAKES THREE, a children’s book based on a true story, is about two male penguins at the Central Park zoo who were given an egg to hatch after they were seen nesting together and trying to hatch an egg-shaped rock. This was the most challenged book of 2006 to 2010 due to the controversy over gay marriage and adoption.
Possible Costumes: A penguin, of course!
THE HUNGER GAMES, despite its strong anti-violent messaging, made it onto the Most Challenged Books list very shortly after publication because parents consider it too violent.
Possible Costumes: Young heroine Katniss Everdeen; baker’s son Peeta Mellark; brilliant and compassionate stylist Cinna; drunken mentor Haymitch.
ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER/HUCKLEBERRY FINN: Both books have been banned for use of the n-word, effectively stunting the discussion about racism that Mark Twain hoped to inspire.
Possible Costumes: Get out your overalls – the titular troublemakers Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn would be great costumes to do in a pair.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: Banned, like Mark Twain’s work, for the use of the n-word despite its anti-racist messaging.
Possible Costumes: Scout Finch; Atticus Finch; Boo Radley.
FAHRENHEIT 451 – Ironically, this book about book-burning and censorship was only available in a heavily censored form for years, with “hells,” “damns,” and references to abortion and drunkenness removed. It was more than a decade before Ray Bradbury even knew that the publishers had censored his work.
Possible Costumes: This would provide a great twist on the fireman costume.
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, America’s most famously challenged book, was called “filthy,” offensive to Christianity and, most perplexingly, “anti-white.”
Possible Costumes: Go as Holden Caulfield in his orange hunting cap, or put on a catcher’s mitt and accessorize with rye grass.
THE HANDMAID’S TALE, a about a society where sex is policed by violent moral guardians, was challenged for sex and immorality.
Possible Costumes: The characters in The Handmaid’s Tale wear very specific costumes, so you can craft a gown in red for a Handmaid, blue for a Wife or green for a Martha.
THE COLOR PURPLE has been banned for sexual content. The most famous banned books by authors of color feature downtrodden characters who might not feel great to embody at a party, so we encourage you to look to the titles. If you want to show your love for Alice Walker’s classic, try channeling your inner Prince and just showing up in head-to-toe violet.
THE BLUEST EYE, likewise, is a costume in its own right. Paint a big blue eye on your shirt, glue on some fringey eyelashes, and you’re bound to have people asking you questions, giving you the opportunity to talk censorship in more detail.
THE DICTIONARY, if you’ll believe it, has been banned in schools for its definition of oral sex. I’d hate to be an English teacher in that school. Mad props to whoever figures out how to dress as a dictionary.
Join us for a night of scandalous literary fun! Costumes not required.
Tuesday, October 30th
Brillobox, 4104 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15224
Must be 21 or over to attend.
by Tracey Hickey, an intern in the ACLU-PA Pittsburgh office