TRICKY TREATS

41Halloween has always been an edgy holiday – a kid-centric time of costumes and candy that got its start as ancient pagan rituals; though most of the darker aspects were sanitized out by the 1920s, when the holiday started to catch on in towns across America. Still, darkness lurked at the fringes of the family-friendly events: toilet papered trees, soaped windows and all those suger-crazed demons and ghosts. The edginess was part of what made the holiday so hauntingly fun! Mass produced costumes became available in the 1930s, further fueling Halloween’s popularity among kids. But later, mass produced hysteria over rumors of poisoned candy turned the holiday into the BAD FOR YOU experience many parents’ fear today.

It’s hard to know what launched the poison candy rumors, but the best guess is that it all began with the death of Timothy O’Bryan on Halloween night, 1974. Yes, the poor 8-year-old ate poisoned candy; candy, his father claimed, which came from some neighborhood psycho. Except the deadly treats actually came from the psycho daddy who had taken out a life insurance policy on Timmy to collect on after his son’s “mysterious” death. The father’s crime was discovered by police and he was later executed for murder. Dad might be dead, but the poison rumors live on.

Joel Best, a University of Delaware sociologist, has been trying nearly 30 years to find one single example of madmen poisoning kids with Halloween candy (or injuring them with the equally mythic razors-in-apples). So far, zero confirmed reports, at least for any cases outside the immediate family.

But that doesn’t keep communities and schools from continuing to treat Halloween like it’s dangerous – even when those dangers are unspecified. In early October, letters went out to parents of kids at Sporting Hill Elementary School in Pennsylvania, canceling costume-wearing to class because “safety is a top priority.”

In another case just outside of Philadelphia, Inglewood Elementary, the school feared a strange variation on the poisoned candy theme: “that some kids with peanut allergies might eat or come into contact with something peanut-based” and ended the traditional student Halloween parade. 

While the fear over Halloween impacts kids across the nation, it seems like all the recent stories come from Pennsylvania: on Tuesday, just two days ago, police seized 40 pounds of drug-laced candy, fearing the sweets “would find their way into the hands of children.” Except, as authorities admit, these drug-laced goodies were intended for sale to other students at the college where the confectionery was uncovered.

Seems like the kids-and-bad-candy scenario cannot be shaken. Certainly, not by reality. 

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OK, maybe just a little comment: we know some people think these things are “Bad For You” but THIS bad!?

OOPS! Looks like it’s correction time here at BAD FOR YOU. After a little checking around, it seems this sign has been debunked! Which just goes to show you, you can’t believe everything you see on the internet (a point we make many times in the book).

 

DON’T BAN A COW, MAN!

simpson

The longest-running sit-com in America, The Simpsons, still draws complaints from angry adults worried about its evil influence on kids, demanding that it be censored or removed from the air. (By the way, if those “kids” had started watching the show when it started and were around age 10 at the time, they would be 35 year old parents today!) A cool website, Governmentattic.org, which posts all sorts of weird and obscure documents from the government, got their hands on indecency complaints about The Simpsons to the Federal Communications Commission from 2010-13 (and the FCC is just the kind of government agency that people would complain to about stuff like that). While there’s a few nutso letters along the lines of “This pertains to things being said that I insist are about Me,” the complaints that caught the four eyes here at BAD FOR YOU were crazy in a whole nother way.

Consumer saw cannibalism and murder on the Simpsons. She said that there was a plot by the teacher to kill the father and the kids to kill the teacher.

How horrible! How frightening! Or, how could you miss that it’s all supposed to be funny?

She says that in the episode the whole town goes cannibalistic and begins to eat each other. The mother is advised to kill her daughter, which she does, with the understanding she can apologize to her in hell. The father Simpson is revered as a savior and he sings a song announcing he is gay and advises the population of men to, “find a man!”

They may not make you laugh as much as an episode of The Simpsons – but some of these complaints are pretty hilarious.

HOOLIGANS, HOODIES & HOODS

Yesterdays excerpt at Tor.com was a “Youth-a-Phobic” timeline documenting the mental condition some adults suffer from called ephebiphobia. Never heard of it? Ephebiphobia is defined as “fear or loathing of the young” and the timeline highlights over 6000 years of it (give or take a century). Today, BAD FOR YOU brings the hooligan/hoods/hoodie connection referred to in the excerpt up to date.

ROBBIN’ HOODS?

It all started with kids in the 12th century: English apprentice boys, away from home, would regularly riot (hey, they were unsupervised).  When they did, they often wore hoods to “hide their identities” from authorities. Hoods as disguises were common; many states in the U.S. still have prohibitions against them. Currently on the Georgia books: A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property.

YOUTH IN HOODS = YOUTHFUL HOODS?

The first known use of the word hoodlum to refer specifically to “a young ruffian” was in 1871 (from the German dialect hudelum – “disorderly”). The related term, hooligans, was first applied to gangs of kids in 1898; their “disorderly behavior” was dubbed “organized terrorism in the streets” by the London Times. “Some people began to associate the hooded sweatshirt with hoodlums in the 1970s as graffiti artists and criminal gang members used them to hide their identities,” according to Slate.com.

HOO-DONE-IT?

Of course, the association most people make today with hoodies has to do with the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. Martin wasn’t doing anything wrong at the time of the shooting; he was hunted down for being perceived as a criminal – rather than actually being one. One of the things leading to this perception was that Martin was wearing a hoodie that night (also…just maybe, because he was black). When an investigation into the murder determined it was in self-defense, protests against the decision eventually lead to a “million hoodie march” in New York’s Union Square to advocate for the prosecution of George Zimmerman, the man who killed the teenager who he thought looked suspicious. From a symbol of violent youth, the hoodie evolved into a symbol of youth killed violently – for the “crime” of looking scary to an adult.

A crime that, as yesterday’s excerpt shows, kids have been committing for thousands of years.

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