Tears falling down at the party, but I’M the saddest little baby in the room :(
(From left to right: @charlottelooks; @usernamecole; @yuridaisukidesuhotdog / TikTok)
What do college kids and mystical ghosts have in common? BOOS.
Get it, booze? I’m so lonely, please talk to me.
Desperate to search for any ounce of dopamine in seasonal consumerism, I and hundreds of other young adults have decided to skip September and commence spooky season. This includes the seasonal amalgamation of branded pumpkin spice coffee, candles, pastries, oh my! Of course, Gen Z has to take its own unique spin on the season on TikTok. We can’t leave all the fun to faceless corporations.
The concept is simple: take a spare white bedsheet, drape it over yourself, cut out some eyes, and set up some self-timer pics to seal the deal. Yet it was more impactful than that. The trend — set to Jack Strauber's audio of the “I can’t be the only one who hears you,” verse Oh, Klahoma! — has about 159.6 thousand videos to date.
TikTok user Jack Janson (@jackjanson88) launched this trend on September 9 with a TikTok that simply began with a video caption, “I dressed up as a ghost and took some pics…” From then on, the Oh, Klahoma! audio would soon become flooded with users recreating the video with their own unique twists.
Jack's told Rowdy he was originally inspired to make his video after “listening to Pheobe Bridger’s Motion Sickness”.
“I saw the album cover and thought: this would be a sick photoshoot,” he said.
The audio is now dominated by users recreating Jack's original concept. Tiktok user Moira (@mannequindude) received 3.3 million views on her own recreation featuring her dressed as a ghost in an empty garage, sitting on a sidewalk and on the grass.
An avid Halloween fan herself, she said her desire to take part in the trend was pretty obvious.
“We a[re] drawn to the curious and strange as humans and I think this really feeds the need for it.” -Moira
The simplicity of the trend, the ease of its creation, and the draw to the unknown; Jack unwittingly created the perfect storm for viewers to express themselves in a perfect, faceless fashion.
Jack said he thinks the anonymity associated with a call for a blank canvas allows for “an escape for people who are self- conscious of their looks.” Facelessness as a requirement, rather than an option, allows everyone to take part in this movement. By posting a 15-second video, we become the unknown we wish to seek out.
With all great things, however, comes a gross undertone. Although it originated as innocent photoshoots some Twitter users noticed group photoshoots where kids have donned the white sheet are reminiscent of the KKK’s white cloaks. (Big yikes.)
Criticism of the trend began when New York Times technology reporter Taylor Lorenz had compiled a thread of multiple iterations of the trend on Twitter. After receiving backlash, Lorenz tweeted asking critics to “unfollow me and go away” if they try to "to cancel literal children for dressing themselves and their pets up as ghosts."
Twitter user Nylah Burton s criticized Lorenz’s defensive stance as “belittling the trauma and the impact this could have on actual Black folk like me, whose families have actually been terrorized by the Klan”.
The discourse is centered around the possibly traumatizing imagery coupled with a similar denial of its seriousness that is all too similar to the past. Whether or not the trend had malicious intent is beside the point; listen to criticism about a topic when it doesn’t directly concern you
The trend has grown well past its original intentions, but it serves as a moment in TikTok history that both defines and divides this specific era of COVID-Halloween. We are all desiring a season last characterized by a distinct lack of masks (costumed characters notwithstanding) during a heightened time of isolation. We are also being forced to acknowledge and accept analyses that may oppose our own perceptions. Yet, 2020’s Halloween will certainly be an interesting take.
So blast your Thrillers and Monster Mashes, seasonal appropriateness be damned. We all need a little, eery escape every now and then.
Kaylinn Escobar is a Staff Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She's fond of underrated claymation, sitting in extravagant chairs, and yearning to the sound of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice soundtrack. She adores classics, healthcare, and re-told historical fiction. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.