With an entire universe of Halloween costume options available to him—more established characters than you can count, tens of thousands of creepily sexed-up versions of those same characters, and infinite concoctions from his own imagination—Olympic snowboarder Shaun White landed on one that, detached even a little bit from its very specific original context, is both dismally unfunny and also fucked-up and offensive.
Even as presented in the movie Tropic Thunder, the character of Simple Jack is pretty clumsy and insensitive. He’s presented as a character in a movie within the movie, so that Tropic Thunder can drum up laughs by deploying ugly and tired stereotypes while ostensibly making a joke about Hollywood using characters with developmental disabilities in heavy-handed Oscar-bait-type movies. So while the Simple Jack trailer ribs Hollywood for cynically deploying stereotypes in a tearjerker, it is doing the equally cynical job of deploying those same stereotypes for yucks. It should surprise absolutely no one that the character was criticized by advocacy groups, whose members urged a boycott of Tropic Thunder.
But White’s costume doesn’t even have the flimsy shield of a meta-joke to provide cover. It’s a costume that invites its wearer to perform the ugliest stereotypes out in public, for laughs. This is me doing Ben Stiller doing a deliberately offensive impersonation of someone with developmental disabilities. White ate plenty of shit for it on Instagram before the post was finally deleted, as first grabbed by The Huffington Post. It’s incredibly easy to find a Halloween costume that will not hurt or mock or offend anyone! Get a plaid flannel shirt, a pair of glasses, and a small bottle of fake blood. Put the shirt on, and the glasses, and then put one line of blood that goes from the corner of your mouth to your chin. Voila! David Roth, but undead. If your costume is mocking tens of thousands of people at a time, you are almost certainly a total dick.