Experts are calling a Halloween makeup look of an Indigenous North American featuring a bleeding bullet wound on the chest “offensive” and “insulting.”
A Gold Coast makeup artist, known for her realistic work, was asked by a client to appropriate the grisly depiction for a “Dead Disney” Halloween party at the weekend but received several complaints after posting a picture of the final product on her Instagram Story.
Professor Yin Paradies, who specialises in race relations at Deakin University, said the costume is disrespectful.
“This costume belittles, mocks and makes fun of the widespread massacre of Native Americans during earlier periods of colonisation,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“This should be offensive to anybody who has an issue with mass murder.
“It is profoundly insulting in the context of the ongoing racism and inter-generational trauma experienced by Indigenous peoples around the world.”
Aaron Nyerges, a lecturer in American studies at the University of Sydney, said the incident should be a lesson and added that images like this can be unsettling not just for Indigenous Americans but also for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Aboriginal Australians, I know, still today carry the burden of remembering ancestors that were shot by settlers in colonial wars,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“We all have a responsibility to approach this history seriously, and not aestheticise, trivialise or distance ourselves from it. A good example of ‘Disneyfication,’ this costume trivialises a painful colonial history that still affects Australians and Americans alike.”
The image has since expired and the Queensland makeup artist has apologised after multiple people online expressed that is was disrespectful.
The case of cultural appropriation - the adoption of elements of one culture by members of another culture in a way that is offensive, discriminatory or harmful - is all too common around Halloween despite the conversation becoming more prevalent each year.
Many don’t realise Pocahontas was kidnapped and was the victim of repeated sexual assault, slavery and forced migration. A sexy ’Pocahottie’ costume not only appropriates a Native culture but further sexualises Native bodies, in the case of Pocahontas exploiting a victim of rape in a community where more than one out of every three women are raped - mostly at the hands of non-Native men.
“This historical violence still impacts the present, playing itself out in lots of little ways from day to day,” said Nyerges.
“Whether they can trace back 40,000 years, or 40 days, people in this country might try to seriously address (rather than trivialise) the violence of history, by approaching it with sensitivity and compassion.”
Paradies, added reinforcing negative stereotypes about other cultures can be minimised through considerate costume choices.
“Halloween is a time to dress up in fantastical and grotesque ways that are about anything but everyday people. If you wear blackface or Native American headdress on Halloween, this is reinforcing stereotypes about African or Native Americans as less than or other than human by making fun of members of these societal groups.”
Paradies suggested “sticking to costumes based on fantasy or animal themes means that there is little danger of being racist”.
This article has been updated with additional quotes.