Pumpkin spice lattés have had their day as universal objects of mockery; it’s time to come up with a new cliché for autumn. Maybe late September and October can be redefined as the era of Halloween-related celebrity thirst. From costumes to pumpkin-patch photo ops, there’s no holiday as closely associated with minor stars carrying out long-term plans to seek major attention than All Hallow’s Eve.
Every year, stars pose for paparazzi photo ops, in and out of costume, in the weeks leading up to Oct. 31. The calculus is fairly simple: If you’re a celebrity with kids, and one who wants to promote an image of yourself as committed to family life, you head to Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch, the Los Angeles gourd dispensary where notables like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kyle Richards, pop singer Christina Aguilera, and lifestyle entrepreneur Jessica Alba have been caught on camera in recent years.
Stars interested in creating a splashy impression, by contrast, show up at celebrity costume parties where photographers outside catch their creative (or not) garbs: This year, Teen Wolf star Colton Haynes got praised for his creativity in dressing in an elaborate Princess Fiona (from Shrek) get-up at Glee actor Matthew Morrison’s Halloween party, at which Chris Colfer showed how hip he is by dressing as Grumpy Cat. Last year, Dancing With the Stars performer Julianne Hough was criticized for putting on blackface to dress as Uzo Aduba’s Orange is the New Black character for a party. Her intention, wildly muddled by the execution, seemed to have been to signal how hip she was — she streams the critically-praised Netflix shows, same as you! Either way, the costumes all end up in long photo galleries on gossip sites.
Halloween, for stars, is all about messaging. That’s what most days are all about, too, but Halloween provides a particularly tidy set of coincidences. When pumpkin picking, a big, public place provides celebrities an opportunity to take part in an activity that has positive, nostalgic associations with childhood for just about everyone. Costumes provide stars an easy opportunity to crystallize either something that’s transparently obvious about their persona (usually, how comfortable they are in their bodies) or to introduce a new aspect, like self-conscious wit. Unlike Christmas or Thanksgiving, Halloween, after one is a child, is something of a formless holiday, stretching to the weekend before or after the day itself and occupying no defined purpose. It was primed for celebrities to take it over.
After all, if there’s one thing Halloween does for most people, it’s allowing them to feel like a celebrity for a night. Celebrities are celebrities every night, so with all the practice they’ve gotten, it’s no wonder they’re so good at making Halloween all about them.