Asda's Mental Patient Costume and Tesco's Gay Best Friend Inflatable: Harmless Fun or Hateful Hype?

By Gerald Lynch on at

Yesterday, supermarket giant Asda came under fire from mental health groups when it came to light that, alongside back to school essentials, its George clothing line's website was also selling a "Mental Patient" Halloween fancy dress costume.

And now today Tesco has been similarly attacked for its frankly bizarre "Inflatable G*y Best Friend" doll, offensive on so many levels, not least of which is the fact that Tesco's marketing teams seem to consider "Gay" a swear word. Oh, and Tesco was selling the same stigmatising Mental Patient outfit too.

Under pressure, both items have now been pulled from sale by both retailers.

Now, I myself have been known to pull together some mildly inappropriate Halloween costumes for parties (last year I pulled apart a Baby First-Steps doll, covered it in "Adhesive Zombie Flesh", strapped it to my stomach and pranced around pretending to be Kuato from Total Recall). But it wasn't exactly as though I could buy an off-the-shelf "Mars Radiation Deformed Siamese Baby Man" costume.

So, if Halloween is a holiday during which we get to celebrate distasteful extremes, are real-world health issues off limits, or has this been one big over-reaction? The same goes for the inflatable: in the 21st century, should companies still be allowed to commodify stereotypes?