October 23, 2007 9:10 AM   Subscribe

For this year's Religious Studies Dept. Halloween party (theme: dress as a religious character), my partner and I want to go as Zombie Jesus and Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Is this offensive? If not, can you help me plan the costumes? I have never seen JCVH (and won't be able to before the party), what would an appropriate costume be?

We have had this party for four years now, and so far the only untouchable characters have been Jesus and Mohammad. People have dressed as various Hindu gods, Greek/Roman gods, cult leaders, Elvis, a pirate (Pastafarian), Kwan Yin, and all sorts of others, both serious and non-serious. Most of the party attendees are either non-religious, or belong to liberal sects. I think that everyone has a good sense of humour. I don't want to offend anyone, but I am a bit tired of every other religion being fair game to parody except for Islam and Christianity, and I think these costumes would be fun and easy.
posted by arcticwoman to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is this offensive?

the only untouchable characters have been Jesus and Mohammad.

I think you answered your own question. If Jesus is untouchable as a character, you can only guess why...

(Answer: For fear of offending someone, perhaps?)
posted by Doohickie at 9:14 AM on October 23, 2007

Of course it's offensive, but considering the theme of the party is also offensive, it probably doesn't matter.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:16 AM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, here's a still from JCVH ... probably the best way to dress as him is to go with a regular short haircut / shaved face & in Jesus robes, and carry some stakes. He does start out the movie with the full long hair & beard, and then later (after the haircut) gets some regular street clothes, but I'd say by combining the short hair, robes, & stakes, that's the way to go.

Will it be offensive? To some people, of course. I do think the concept of zombie Jesus is going to be more offensive though, since they actually bleeped out the phrase "Sweet Zombie Jesus!" from Futurama.

Of course, at a party where there are Pastafarians, I would (possibly wrongly) assume that anything goes.
posted by tastybrains at 9:18 AM on October 23, 2007

There is no particular precedent against portrayals of Jesus, and he has certainly turned up irreverently in pop culture all over the place. A religious studies department should (SHOULD) be full of people who have seen it all and have a decent sense of humor. If your priority is being funny, you'll probably be okay. If your priority is being "edgy" or gory then you should probably pick something that certain people can't mistake as a personal attack.
posted by hermitosis at 9:20 AM on October 23, 2007

This would probably be more offensive. How about a Zombie Jesus and a Zombie Mary? Or Zombie Jesus and Zombie Moses?
posted by barnone at 9:27 AM on October 23, 2007

Well, I'm a secular Jew, so what do I know. And I'm usually hypersensitive about insulting other people's religions. But Zombie Jesus seems like it's skating on kind of thin ice, since it seems to be mocking the concept of the resurrection. I don't know what Jesus Christ Vampire Slayer is, but it seems to me, as an ignorant non-Christian, probably not to be as potentially offensive.
Most of the party attendees are either non-religious, or belong to liberal sects.
In some ways, this seems like an argument in favor of restraint, since the kind of people who are likely to be offended by your costumes are going to be in a minority at the party, not the majority. The issue isn't just that they'll be offended, but that they'll be made conscious of their marginal status. Academia can be a pretty uncomfortable place for the really devout, and it's usually bad manners to gratuitously make people feel uncomfortable.
posted by craichead at 9:43 AM on October 23, 2007

I agree with craichead that Zombie Jesus is more potentially offensive than JCVH--if Jesus was around, he absolutely would smite vampires stealing lesbian skins, because vampires plain and simple are the chaff that deserve to be burned up in the fire.

It's a shame you don't have time to watch the film beforehand. The best thing to do would be to go as Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, and the luchadore El Santo to maintain theme.
posted by Drastic at 9:49 AM on October 23, 2007

What about something else Christian? The Holy Spirit and/or Holy Ghost. The Body and Blood -- you could each be one.
posted by barnone at 9:50 AM on October 23, 2007

Jesus Christ Superstar?
posted by barnone at 9:51 AM on October 23, 2007

Why not dress up as a saint? There are plenty to choose from.

Probably not as edgy as the choices originally suggested, but if the goal is to avoid offense...
posted by jquinby at 9:54 AM on October 23, 2007

Jesus Christ Superstar is a good idea - what would the costume look like for that one?

Any saints in particular to recommend? If not, I may just spend some time reading through that page.

Thanks everyone for their thoughts on the offensiveness of the costumes. My particular group of friends can't really be trusted on this matter. Alternative costume ideas are welcome, as I am seeing that Zombie Jesus might be going too far.

billysumday - I mean fair game for parody at this party. If you didn't understand what I was asking, you could have asked for clarification or just abstained from answering. I am trying to avoid being rude, I would appreciate the same.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:04 AM on October 23, 2007

I'm with craichead, yes to JCVH, no to Zombie Jesus.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:05 AM on October 23, 2007

If you decide to do something different b/c of the comments above -- there's a user named "Ninjew" here somewhere. I always thought a full ninja costume, with the addition of a yarmulke and maybe some throwing-stars-of-david would be a good costume. And non-offensively religious, so it works for this party.

And then there's the "Jewnicorn" costume I've been trying to formulate in my head...
posted by inigo2 at 10:06 AM on October 23, 2007

Alternatively, you could just dress up as Jesus and test the waters by mentioning to one or two people that you are the resurrected Christ, aka Zombie Jesus. Blasphemy? Sure. But probably less antagonistic than going the rotting flesh/oozing sores route.

Another silly costume could be to dress up as the Holy Trinity. Make yourself two hand puppets - one little Jesus, one little Holy Spirit, and dress up as God. You know, long flowing robes, white hair, the whole schtick.

In my opinion, though, general wisdom says Jesus costumes are questionable when out in the larger community, and even more questionable when dealing with a group of people studying religion.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:08 AM on October 23, 2007

Nothing leaps to mind insofar as a recommendation goes. In the context of helping kids choose costumes for All Saints Day activities, I can tell you that St. Joan of Arc is particularly popular, as are St. Francis of Assisi and St. Martin of Tours. I suspect the last two get traction because the outfits are relatively simple. Zombified versions would probably not work.

Now, if you're looking for out there stuff, you might try sifting through Dante's Inferno. Plenty of tortured-soul imagery in there. One possible pairing is Paolo and Francesca. True, they're not directly religious figures, but you did find them in Hell after all.
posted by jquinby at 10:12 AM on October 23, 2007

Go as a football player and a baseball player...New Orleans Saints and L.A. Angels, of course.
posted by rocket88 at 10:19 AM on October 23, 2007

Jesus Christ Superstar: Jesus with a headset and/or a microphone, maybe incorporating a script somehow. Hold a Sharpie and offer to give your autograph.
posted by barnone at 10:19 AM on October 23, 2007

nthing Jesus Christ Superstar. Though I think that if a group of people condone Pastafarian as not being offensive, then JCVH or Zombie Jesus is fair game (e.g., they're either equally funny or equally offensive as Pastafarian). But asking people to make fun of their own religion with the same degree of lightness and "good humor" that they make fun of others' religions is an EXTREMELY tall order. And since its a group of people you have to work/study with, as opposed to a group of friends, I say tread lightly and go with something that has less potential to offend.
posted by peachy at 11:12 AM on October 23, 2007

There are lots of Saints out there with incredible stories that would make great stories like today's Roman Catholic feast of St John Capistrano (you could portray him in armor for the battle of belgrade)

Wear a barbecue grill (just the top grill part) strapped to your back and go as St Lawrence.

You could dress in an imperial-style military uniform w/ lots of medals and be Blessed Karl of Austria.

I wouldn't find these ideas offensive. Dressing as the trinity is very thin ice, zombie Jesus is a bad idea (and I would think you were being intentionally insulting), and dressing as the body and blood of Christ would probably cause me to point out to you that it's inappropriate but not think you were intentionally trying to offend.

(I was a religious studies major at a secular university and am a practicing Catholic)
posted by Jahaza at 11:13 AM on October 23, 2007

What about Hanuman, the Monkey God?
posted by electroboy at 11:55 AM on October 23, 2007

I went as Jesus one year (easy peasy), and wound up in a gay disco afterwards where there was a convenient Roman Centurion. Hilarity ensued. Good luck!
posted by fcummins at 12:40 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, as a Catholic, I would find those choices offensive. If your aim is not to offend, there are many choices. St. Lucy is a good Halloween choice as she is often depicted with a plate holding her eyeballs. St. Michael the Archangel would make a cool costume. St. Pio had the stigmata, which would make for a good costume as well.
There are plenty more, and the Holy Cards in the link will give you costume ideas. If you Google "Holy Cards" you can probably find better examples. Each of the items found with the Saints on their cards represent something about them, so make sure to incorporate those into your costume as well.
posted by genefinder at 12:59 PM on October 23, 2007

I think you'd be wise to listen to that inner voice that's telling you this might offend. According to someone very close to me, religious studies departments generally have a fair number of people making a last ditch effort to hold onto their faith by moving it into a realm of study and abstraction, and others who've recently failed in the effort and are still in mourning about it.
posted by jamjam at 1:28 PM on October 23, 2007

what barnone said about Jesus Christ Superstar. I was immediately thinking crown of thorns, stigmata, and big-collared white suit with rhinestones and a microphone.
posted by whatzit at 3:07 PM on October 23, 2007

Speaking as someone who dressed up as Jesus for a Hallowe'en house party last year without any problems, Zombie Jesus is clearly a more theologically offensive concept.

It should also be noted that your profile page says you're in Lethbridge, Alberta, the Mormon capital of Canada. I'm not 100% up-to-date on the tenets of Mormonism, but if pictures of you dressed up as Zombie Jesus at a university-sanctioned event get out into the public, there could be repercussions and hassles to deal with for both you and your department.
posted by cardboard at 3:12 PM on October 23, 2007

Speaking as a Christian (with a religious studies degree), it would offend me.

Maybe you should be the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
posted by 4ster at 7:49 PM on October 23, 2007

"Alternative costume ideas are welcome"

Not going to get into the offensive quotient part of your question, but I had GREAT fun one friday 13th as "Pope On A Rope" (Easy! Pope outfit from costume-hire shop, ghastly 'dead face' makeup, rope-burn make-up around neck, and noose*), and I make you free of it.

*If things get rowdy, watch your rope-end. If you decide to go clubbing/barhopping after the party, do not wear the rope.
posted by Catch at 9:09 PM on October 23, 2007

Thanks for the advice!

It looks like we'll be going as Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter and Jesus Christ Superstar - pretty standard Jesus robes with a leather jacket and stake for one, and a microphone and rhinestones for the other.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:36 PM on October 24, 2007

« Older Rubber shoes for all weathers?   |   Worth it to downgrade iPhone? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.