Niche: Here for It, #250

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

Happy Mariah Carey Eve, everyone!*

I don't really watch anime, which is a personal failing that I must answer to the Lord about, so every year on Halloween when I see people dressed up as presumably popular anime characters I always respond like Mrs. Peacock at the dinner scene in Clue. I see someone with blue spiky hair holding a little dragon in a trench coat or whatever and I'm like "I have no idea who this person is or what this person is supposed to look like or if this is in any way accurate but I must say you've done a good job at something and I'm certainly enjoying that! So congratulations and thank you and good night!" There's always one of two costumes that are just beyond the scope of my pop cultural knowledge and I'm okay with that. (I am not okay with that, but whatever.)

This year, however, over half of the costumes I've seen have been delightfully niche. But instead of anime or other references that I don't get, they're Very Online costumes based on tweets from, like, two years ago, or memes, or side characters in old TV shows. It's utter chaos and it's exactly what the inside of  my brain feels like and I love it. For example, here's Lil Nas X as Seth Powers, a character who appeared on two-thirds of the episodes of the 2004 kid's series Ned's Declassified.

I had never heard of the series before and I'm not sure I've heard of it now even though I read the Wikipedia and then went to IMDB to count the number of episodes that Seth Powers appears in to prepare for this newsletter. I do not understand the question and I won't respond to it and also this costume seems great and congratulations to Mr. X.

Niecy Nash and her wife Jessica Betts went as Kelly Rowland and Nelly from the "Dilemma" music video.

Now this isn't the most Niche-y Nash of costumes, I suppose, though it is a throwback. What would be niche is if one of them dressed up as the Excel spreadsheet that Kelly Rowland is trying to use to text Nelly, which would have been hilarious to me.

Over on Twitter I posted about niche costumes and the replies are full of the most creative and most extremely niche examples and I'm obsessed. One person's daughter went at the Stefon character from SNL getting married. Perfection. Pulitzer Prize now! Another person's daughter went as an Owen Wilson character in a group costume dubbed Owen's Eleven. Word play! My life blood!

Now, I should say, it's unclear to me if all of this year's costumes are overwhelmingly niche or if it's just the ones I'm seeing online. I haven't seen any costumes in person because I did not dress up nor did I go out because I am famously in my flop era. So there may be some confirmation bias at work here.

Then again, I've seen multiple people dressed as a meme of a woman with a bag of chips on her head so... you tell me.

(No, I don't quite know was this means either but it's it well done and isn't that all that matters?)

My theory about the niche-ness of  that since we've had a Very Online year where the small piece of pop culture flotsam from years past could occupy our minds and our search engines at any time of the day and so all of culture becomes mainstream culture. Like, 10 years ago everyone was either Harry Potter or Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Now it's like "I spent all of quarantine re-watching The Great British Bake Off and so my costume this year is Iain's Baked Alaska in the trash can after Diana ruined it."

You know, as I write this, I realize that all of my costume ideas are incredibly niche. Most years I spend about 20 minutes trying to think of Black celebrities I bear a passing resemblance to before reverting to my default state and deciding to dress up as "Audra McDonald from that one Tony Awards performance where she did a high kick while pregnant."

One year, well into the 21st century, I dressed as Phyllis Thriller, a mashup of Michael Jackson in the "Thriller" music video and famed comedienne Phyllis Diller. Did anyone get it? Absolutely not. Was it excellent? Yes. I am the last person to be calling out other people's inscrutable references. Pho-niche-cian, heal thyself!

*On the meaning of Mariah Carey Eve:

Famously (and by famously, I mean I decided it) November 1st is the beginning of Mariah Carey Christmas season. What is most thrilling about the fact that Mariah Carey has managed to commandeer the last two months of the calendar year (Caesar is gagging!) is that people keep trying to get her to take more territory, starting Mariah Carey Christmas season in October or earlier. This has prompted Mariah to create a new sub-section of her season, dubbed #NotYet by her (as in her response to people asking if they can start playing Christmas music early). Queen of seasons, breaking the rules of time and space, and not knowing Jennifer Lopez!


In case you missed it, last week I revealed that I have a Young Adult novel coming out in May! It's called Kings of B'more and it's a very funny, heartfelt riff on Ferris Bueller's Day Off set in contemporary Baltimore. You can check out the full cover and read an excerpt from the middle of the book here and I'd love it if you would pre-order it and/or request it from your favorite local library!


The first three episodes of the final season of Dickinson start streaming on AppleTV+ on Friday. I was in the writers room for this season and co-wrote two eps, the first of which will start streaming (I believe) next Friday November 12. I haven't seen the finished product, but I can tell you from helping to craft the scripts, this season is great--delightful and weird and funny and sweeping. Check out the trailer below!

Random Thing on the Internet

It's already November in Australia!

I am famously in my flop era,