WalMart is the United States’ largest retailer, and in October that also makes them one of the nation’s largest vendors of Halloween costumes and accessories. One popular type of costume accessory sold by WalMart and other vendors is latex applications that simulate wounds inflicted by gunshots, knives, machetes, razors, burns, vampire bats, and even zombies:
But one such latex accessory (offered by a third-party supplier and sold through WalMart), which simulates deep razor blade cuts to the forearm, drew the ire of some observers because it depicts a type of wound that is not administered by evil figures such as criminals or vampires or maniacal serial killers, but is self-inflicted by those in the throes of depression and self-destructive impulses:
An article published by the Scary Mommy parenting community titled “”Hey Wal-Mart, Suicide Is Not a Costume” took the retailing giant to task for making a “joke” of suicide with such an “insensitive” offering:
Apparently Wal-Mart thinks suicide’s a joke. This year, their Halloween store is selling a latex prosthetic of slit wrists called “Razor Blade Suicide Scar Wound Latex Costume Make Up.” The photo featured in the ad shows the deep wounds, two in number. But there’s more: The product listing not only shows the prosthetic, it depicts a suicide attempt. Poised at the end of one of the slashes is a hand holding a razor blade — not included in costume. Its occasion is listed as “Party.”
Suicide is not a joke, indeed. Suicide is not a costume. Joke about zombies. Jokes about chainsaws. Joke about bloody knives and swords, please, but don’t pretend you’ve attempted or succeeded in killing yourself, the end result of intense mental anguish and misery. It’s not cute to pretend to rip yourself away from life, from your family, from your friends. And more importantly, it’s a grave insult to those who have made the terrible decision to take their own lives, and left us all bereft.
A petition started on Change.org also implored WalMart to drop the item from their roster:
The “Razor Blade Suicide Scar Wound Latex Costume Makeup” is being sold at Walmart. This is not just a disgrace to the sensitivity to those who suffer from self-harm, but a shame on Walmart for making light of the situation. This “costume” is real life for many people, many people who are contemplating volumes higher than self-harm. Suicide is not a joke, not a costume, and not funny. Many people who have “suicide” or as I would call it “survivor” scar wounds wish they could make them disappear. There are tattoo shops who welcome customers to get cover-ups on self-harm scars, which is amazing for the people who want to move on from the dark time they were in at one point in their life. On that note, many people are life-long sufferers of self-harm. Many are bullied, and now they are being bullied by Walmart. This has to stop. Stopping this costume will end volumes of triggers, self harm, and could even save a life.
The public outcry from those efforts was sufficient, as WalMart quickly removed the page for the “Razor Blade Suicide Scar Wound Latex Costume Make Up” from their web site, saying that “This costume is appalling and it was unacceptable for a third-party seller to list it on our marketplace. It clearly violated our prohibited items policy and we removed it when it was brought to our attention.”
Upon inspection we see that Walmart has listed the item incorrectly, making it highly offensive; but rest assured, the product is not listed this way on our direct site, or any other channel we use. We have put in a ticket with the Walmart Catalog team to have the item name and description of the listing modified right away. We are not sure why Walmart has it titled the way they do.
But Totally Costumes’ (since-removed) listing described the product as a “Cruel World Razor Blade Prosthetics,” invoking a phrase (“Goodbye, cruel world!”) commonly associated with suicide in popular culture, and it advocated that purchasers “surrender to your despair”:
Another since-removed listing on the Totally Costumes web site advertised a “Slashed Wrists Prosthetic Appliance” that exhorted buyers to “Give your costume a look so realistic that it seems suicidal” and to “Go off the deep end and make that gruesome suicide attempt”: