The Ghosts of TikTok

By: Elise Thompson

Photo by: Harrison Threlfall

TikTok's increasing popularity among teenagers has served as the birthplace of many widespread and sometimes controversial trends, one, in particular, being the ghost trend. This popular holiday activity has served as a way for many teenagers to maintain Halloween spirit amidst Covid-19 and the diminishing promise of a traditional festive Halloween. The concept of the trend is simple. All it involves is a photoshoot dressed up as a white ghost using a bedsheet and oftentimes sunglasses. Many things have contributed to its increasing popularity, one of the biggest factors being how easily accessible and simple it is. 

Tiktok spreads trends, but it also is a platform for creators to speak out, oftentimes sparking controversy. Like many things on Tiktok, this Halloween trend has received backlash from people across the US for its questionable resemblance to the Ku Klux Klan, also known as the KKK. The KKK is a white supremesist group that mainly targets people of color, and will forever leave a stain on US history. Their distinctive white costumes are now debatably similar to those teens are now wearing for the ghost trend, minus the pointed white hoods. 

When interviewed on this subject, students at Healdsburg Highschool voiced varying opinions. Sophomore Dante Cavallo didn’t seem much harm in the trend. “I do not think that the trend is controversial whatsoever, I just think it is people dressing up in white sheets being stupid. It's just a bunch of teenagers trying to entertain themselves during Covid 19,” said Dante.  The trend has created engagement, festivity, and interest for many local teenagers during this unprecedented holiday season. One of his peers, Vayle Kennedy also agreed with him voicing her more neutral stance. She even confessed to have almost participated in the trend herself. “I could see how it could be controversial, but people also have been dressing up in ghost costumes for years, and they don’t do it out of harm” she said. 

Vayle is right in that this traditional ghost costume has yet been around for centuries, having roots as early back as the time of Shakespeare. This traditional Halloween costume originates from ancient theatrical traditions. In these theater productions the deceased were often depicted as ghosts through wearing outdated costumes onstage to set them apart from the living characters. Suits of armor had become obsolete at the time and became a common costume used. However, armor didn’t give the audience the mysterious and frightening appearance a ghost is intended to, and instead its noise and restricted movement often masked the abilities of the actors. So sheeted ghosts soon became increasingly popular and gave actors a more accurate representation of the common idea of a ghost. After being established in the theater world, this costume then went on to become a very popular Halloween costume throughout history. According to Vayle and many other participants in the ghost trend, this costume is traditional and harmless… So why is it being taken so seriously? 

Other students had different views beyond the origins of the costume. “Although I personally think that it is a fun trend that people may be trying to find problems with, I also know that as a white person, I have no idea what it is like to be a person of color in the United States. So if people have genuine problems with it that should definitely be taken into account,” said Sophomore Class President Maggie Trebilcock. Maggie recognizes that although the trend may not be offensive to her, and the intent might not be to harm, it still could affect portions of the population who see it as insensitive. Former HHS student Jackson Boaz also agreed with Maggie’s statement saying “White people don’t get to tell people of color what's racist and what's not. That should be obvious and anyone who disagrees with that is feeding into the systems of oppression that have created these problems.” He voiced his opposition to the trend very strongly continuing on by saying, “The fact of the matter is that the KKK represents the worst part of American history. There is no disputing that. The only thing that should be considered here is addressing and compensating for the racist heritage of this country.” Jackson was inflexible and unwilling to compromise on this issue, saying that anything deemed remotely offensive or racist should not be accepted or supported. Jackson and many others are supporters of the fact that yes, sheet ghosts are a historical Halloween tradition, but the KKK is also a large stain on this history now interlaced in centuries of tradition. Trends such as the ghost trend are only bringing painful events of the past back into revelavancy. 

Although appearing simple and harmless on the outside, this popular trend is very controversial, especially during the heat of the BLM movement. Whether or not the trend is representative in any way of the KKK is debatable, for different portions of the population look at issues like this through different viewpoints, and it is important to recognize this. It might not be intended to be malicious, but it is important for teens and participants in the trend to understand that it definitely could be seen as insensitive to portions of the population when taken the wrong way. 

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