An episode of Freaks and Geeks records the turning point. Mrs. Weir has lovingly prepared Halloween cookies, just like every year, and when the first group of trick-or-treaters show up, one of the moms shames her for her presumption. This more attentive mother has of course trained her children never to accept home-made treats — after all, someone might have slipped a razor blade into it! Only store-bought, individually wrapped candy can be guaranteed to avoid this scourge.
Literally no child has ever found a razor blade in their Halloween candy. The entire phenomenon was completely made up. A moment’s thought reveals that the very idea makes no sense. Who would even want to do such a thing? Wouldn’t it be easy to trace it back to the offender if they’re giving out their distinctive homemade candy all night long? But better safe than sorry, right?
The fictional razor blade in the Halloween candy is a kind of quilting point for all the paranoias that led to the loss of any freedom for the children of the white middle class. If they’re left to wander the neighborhood, someone might abduct them! Coming from the other direction: if they’re left with any unscheduled time, doing anything that can’t be slotted into an immediately recognizable section of the college application, their life chances may be thwarted. In either case, the parents are losing control of their activities and thereby their destiny — and only disaster can result. The helicopter parent and the razor blade in your candy are correlative phenomena.
It’s interesting, then, that Halloween has also become the most striking symbol of the white middle class’s arrested development, its perpetual adolescence. What was once a semi-formal one-night event has become a months-long celebration for kids of all ages! Especially the ones in their 20s and 30s! Lindsay of Freaks and Geeks had to summon up her uttermost resources of good-sportsmanship to play along with her mom and pass out candy, and she surely would have been absolutely mortified to wear a costume to school on Halloween. Now grown adults with jobs and fancy condos go on Halloween-themed pub crawls two weeks before the blessed day itself.
Who am I to criticize someone else’s fun, you ask? Well, if you must know, I’m a curmudgeon who was already old long before his time. I also think I’m always right. So those are my qualifications. Surely I’m not alone, though. Surely!