Governor Ratcliffe from Disney's Pocahontas. Image: Disney.

Influencer’s Alternative to Pocahontas Halloween Costume Is Somehow Also Almost as Bad

I'm going to start the conversation.

Halloween costume news this year has been pretty quiet—not just in terms of the really awesome, creative costumes but also the terrible ones people are inevitably going to choose. There’ve been a few stories of racist costumes or vastly insensitive ones (like dressing your child like Jeffery Dalmer) because people don’t ever learn. However, a particular case caught my eye not just because it’s a bad choice, but in the way fitness influencer Karrah Peden Trammell felt the need to frame it.

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Trammell explains that she wanted to dress her pug up as Percy from Pocahontas, but she ran into the issue of “What if no one knows where he’s from?” Before the reveal that she chose Governor Ratcliffe as her own costume that would give context to her pug, Trammell said she couldn’t dress as Pocahontas because “no one is allowed to dress up as her because they’ll get canceled.”

Before jumping to give the fitness guru the benefit of the doubt for being super meta or using “canceled” in an ironic way, it’s important to note that Trammell loves dressing up as exotified women of color from the Disney Renaissance. She’s just upset that it’s culturally unacceptable to dress up as a character based on a Native American child, Matoaka, who was kidnapped and raped by 1600s English colonists.

Trammell has several videos of herself as both Esmerelda and Jasmine (oftentimes over music with Doja saying “I stole your man”) with hashtags like #SlaveJasmine and a Romani Slur. The audio choices add layers when explaining her other videos, considering the history of the word “gyp” and how, for over 700 years, Roma women have been stereotyped as untrustworthy seductresses. In tandem with why it’s not okay to dress up as a fictionalized version of a real 14-year-old child (and her culture), such as its stereotype contributing to the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women issue, Romani women are among the most targeted women in Europe in terms of sex traffickers.

So now you’re saying I can’t dress up as the other characters?

via GIPHY

Read it back because I didn’t say that at all. In regards to the real people that made up the Disney movie, Pocahontas, the villain is probably the best bet if Meeko is off the table. (Though pugs from movies like Men in BlackThe Campaign, or The Kingsmen would also be cute.) In fact, it’s kind of on trend with the rebranding of Disney villains as more than the flat, evil for evil’s sake origin story. Attempting to rewrite a villain’s origin story is a big thing now. It’s almost its own genre in an era of reboots and milking IPs.

However, it should be noted that there’s a reason no one is rushing to cosplay or do a drag interpretation of Ratcliffe as opposed to Ursula, Maleficent, or Captain Hook. Most of these characters—while based in some problematic tropes (antisemitism, homophobia, and fatphobia)—are not real people and their evilness isn’t as tied up with genocide. People find aspects of the villains’ realness and underdog-like qualities worthy of reclamation.

Nothing makes Ratcliffe or the millions of others like him interesting—to me, at least. Trammell is only being brought up because of the way she went about it, making it all about a so-called culture war. I think it’s funny because of the lack of self-awareness.

Dressing up is fun, and Halloween is my favorite holiday. We really need to be putting as much effort into the selection process of these costumes and how we share them as the process of making or picking them out to purchase. I don’t think there is a definitive “This is good, and this is bad,” but if a community is saying, “We don’t like this; it’s harmful,” it’s best to listen and get to crafting.

(via TikTok, featured image: Disney)

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Image of Alyssa Shotwell
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.