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This Halloween, everyone was a video
A good costume isn’t just about the clothing. You have to put on a show.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, written by Kate Lindsay and edited by Nick Catucci.
If I had to pick a favorite video costume from this year, it would be this one. —Kate
An accurate Embedded Halloween costume would be staying home:
My Halloween costume was very specific. After watching Cunk On Earth on Netflix earlier this year, witnessing a number of soundbites from it go viral on TikTok, and, most importantly, realizing I already had the hair and clothes, I decided I’d be Philomena Cunk. I knew this niche English comedy character wouldn’t necessarily “read” at parties full of Barbies and Titan submersibles, but that wasn’t the point. It would read on TikTok, where I’d film myself lip-syncing to one of the viral Cunk On Earth sounds.
This costume did not pan out, mainly because it was too hot and I was in a weird mood and my plans fell apart and also I’m 30. But I wasn’t the only one with this idea. I don’t mean being Philomena Cunk and posting it on TikTok—although many people did do that. I mean dressing up for the sole purpose of being a video, of wearing a costume that only makes sense in the context of a larger online performance.
This was a particularly internet-heavy Halloween. Kalhan Rosenblatt wrote about it for NBC, and Kat Tenbarge noted it on Threads. “Something shifted when Halloween costumes became a way to score a viral post by referencing the most obscure meme or fleeting cultural moment,” she wrote.
Dressing up as internet memes or moments for Halloween is not new, but there was something more intense about it this year, and I think it’s because of what Kat notes: we’re now dressing up for the internet, not real life. Some of the most viral costumes on TikTok this year straight up do not make sense offline—not because people wouldn’t know about them, but because they’re missing the crucial digital scaffolding that makes them recognizable.
For instance, comedic duo Alex and Pablo recreated the Nicolas Cage/Pedro Pascal meme from The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. The scene, in which the characters are driving while on LSD, is often paired with “Make Your Own Kind Of Music” by Cass Elliot and used as a meme template to represent someone who is upset by something looking over at someone who is thrilled by it.
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In order to work, the costume required not just the right clothing, but a fan to blow their hair, a steering wheel, and the corresponding music. It has to be a video. Otherwise, they’re just two guys.
This trend doesn’t just apply to memes. Someone went as Marnie from Girls, but specifically her singing “Stronger” by Kanye West, which meant reenacting the entire scene word-for-word. Or another creator went as Marisa Tomei’s monologue in My Cousin Vinny. The costume on its own is fine. What makes it impressive is the video.
I was already worried about having to explain Philomena Cunk at the parties I ultimately did not go to. How did these people even begin to explain their costumes? Without the video or audio tools, these costumes require lengthy preambles that are all but sure to kill the joke, and therefore I imagine a lot of Halloween gatherings this year looked like this:
This is happening because our primary social media medium is changing. We post Reels and TikToks now, which gives our costumes the freedom to transcend the confines of a picture. We can get weirder with them because we can now incorporate movement and audio. A good Halloween costume is no longer about finding the right clothing, but putting on a full show. If you’re not camera-ready, you might as well stay home.