Halloween’s popularity shows geek is the new chic

Adam Possamai seated

The growing popularity of Halloween in Australia is another sign that sub-cultures based on the supernatural are now embraced by the mainstream, according to an expert from the University of Western Sydney.

Associate Professor Adam Possamai is the author of the book Sociology of Religion for Generation X and Y, and coined the term "hyper-real" religions to describe new faiths that draw on religion, philosophy and popular culture to create their own beliefs.

He says one explanation for Halloween’s growing popularity could be the incredible success of television shows like True Blood and The Walking Dead, which feature zombies, vampires and other supernatural creatures.

“Many years ago shows and movies featuring supernatural themes were often relegated to the fringes, but the growing success and mainstream appeal of these shows, and movies like Twilight and Harry Potter before them, have democratised geek culture,” says Associate Professor Possamai.

“Geek is the new chic.”

Associate Professor Possamai says Halloween appeals to people who might eschew traditional religions, but be sympathetic to more alternative spiritualities, where it is common to pick and choose from various religions and philosophies to construct an individual spirituality.

“This à-la-carte aspect of Halloween has allowed it to grow and thrive in the age of individuality, and has spawned a celebration that is now very eclectic, drawing meaning from pop culture, tradition and spirituality,” he says.

Associate Professor Possamai says like many commercial phenomena in Australia, Halloween was originally imported from the US and has slowly grown in appeal.

“Compared to America, Australia has always seemed less eager to embrace the celebration, but in the last few years merchandise has been sold at more stores, and now everyone from children to adults seem to be marking the occasion with parties or trick-or-treating,” he says.