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Purim: Paralyzed by political correctness

The Goodmans search for a Purim costume that won't offend anyone. SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO

The Goodman family – wife Rena, husband Isaac and their two children, Daniel, 14, and Sarah, 10 – sit in their cozy living room. The kids sob quietly into mom’s sweater as dad speaks softly about the challenge the Goodmans are now facing. “We feel like we are all out of options,” he says, “and time is running out.”

For a moment, Isaac is overcome, and so Rena steps in to explain the situation. “Purim is almost here,” she says, “and none of us have been able to choose costumes yet.” The kids are especially affected: “They hear their friends talking about what they’re dressing up as, and that’s hard on them. They feel excluded.”

It’s not for want of trying that this Canadian Jewish family is currently costumeless. In fact, the Goodmans have spent the last three months searching for the perfect Purim attire, all to no avail. “We’ve been to every costume store in town,” Daniel says, while Sarah claims to have scoped out all of the second-hand shops in the neighbourhood. Last week, the family even visited that weird Halloween store that stays open all year round for some reason. Nothing.

Rabbi Herschel Herschenhorn
Rabbi Herschel Herschenhorn

“Here’s the problem,” a rejuvenated Daniel offers. “Every time one of us tries on a costume, the rest of us are forced to raise concerns about who might be offended by it.”

“So far,” says Rena, “we haven’t been able to find a single outfit that we don’t think will offend someone.

“It’s hard trying not to offend anyone,” says Daniel, helpfully.

(“No, it’s impossible,” Sarah appears to mutter under her breath.)

Making matters even more difficult, the Goodmans are trying to rebound after a rocky Purim last year, when they decided to dress up as fidget spinners.

“The costumes were perfect,” Isaac claimed, “they even spun – just like the real thing.”

They may have spun a little too well, though. “Within minutes,” says Daniel, “some bullies pulled me aside, lifted me up and started twirling me around. I got really dizzy.” And when dad Isaac spun his way over to help his son, he ended up spinning too hard, sending two teens to the hospital with  concussions. “We were asked to leave at that point,” Rena says quietly.

Isaac pounds his fist on the coffee table. “There’s such a double standard,” he laments. “I mean, Prince Harry can dress up as a farkakteh Nazi and he gets away with it, but does anyone care about little Isaac Goodman?”

The silence in the room sounds a lot like a “no.”

“Anyways,” Rena jumps in to break the awkward silence, “that’s all behind us now.”

Isaac tries to meet her gaze, but she just looks away.

Either way, the Goodmans know that this Purim they need to make a better showing. They had been thinking about dressing up as Star Wars characters. “Princess Leia, Han Solo, C3PO – there’s lot to choose from,” Rena said. “Everyone loves Star Wars, right?” But then Daniel announced he wanted to be Darth Vader and Sarah shuddered. “I don’t know about that,” she demurred. “We wouldn’t want to traumatize any children, and anyways isn’t that kind of like dressing in blackface?”

Children dress up for Purim FILE PHOTO
Children dress up for Purim FILE PHOTO

Besides, mother Rena worries that the bearded lady next door would be offended.

Then they thought maybe they could dress up as the Trudeaus. “Everyone loves the prime minister, his socks and his family,” Sarah explained. Or do they? Rena was the first raise concerns about being “too political,” and then Issac added that he wasn’t so sure how we felt about the prime minister’s stance on Israel.

“I mean, he hasn’t really had much to say on the topic since he took office,” Issac explained, “and I can’t figure out whether that’s good or bad.”

In any case, son Daniel nixed the idea. “I’m running for the leadership of the PC party, remember?” he reminded his family. “Oh yeah,” they all replied while rolling their eyes.

Even Jewish-themed costumes are proving problematic for the Goodman clan. “Queen Esther? She is the reason that thousands of people in Shushan were killed,” says Sarah. “And Mordechai?” Rena adds, “he basically pimped out his niece to King Ahasuerus.” (“Yeah, but they also saved –” Isaac starts. “Ah forget it,” he quickly concludes.)

“We thought about just putting the kids in their day school uniforms,” says Rena, “and then Isaac and I were gonna put on a bunch of rags. The idea was to symbolize how poor we feel after paying tuition.” Daniel eventually shut that idea down, worried the outfits would insult one of his close school friends who get subsidies. “When Mark’s dad drops him off at the party in his Porsche, he’s gonna think I’m making fun of him because his family legitimately can’t pay for school.”

With just hours until the start of Purim, the Goodmans were still searching for costume ideas online. It was all starting to seem hopeless when Isaac proclaimed, “I’ve got it.” The family waited with baited breath. “Let’s dress as … ourselves.”

Everyone, including this reporter, sighed. But Isaac continued: “See, it’s a social commentary on the struggles of coming up with a Purim theme that won’t offend anyone. By not dressing up, we are being true to ourselves, and not bowing to public pressure.

“In fact,” he added with a twinkle in his eye, “you might say we will be the only people at the Purim party in authentic costumes.”

There was a brief silence as the family weighed the idea. Then Rena spoke.

“Forget it,” she said. “Let’s just go as fidget spinners again.”