Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dixon Too Far?

Via Ken Levine, my initiation to the Prank Wars saga.

Prank Wars is two employees who've been trying to out-'punk'd' each other for the past eight months. But what began as small adolescent trickery has escalated into elaborate monster set-ups that truly push the envelope of what constitutes 'acceptable prankage'.

You can watch segments 1-6 HERE.

For example, in ep 5, Streeter Seidell makes Amir Blumenfeld (pictured above, who actually looks kinda like my NY Bro) cry after organizing a sketch comedy appearance for Amir in LA only to reveal it was all just a gag. Then in ep 6, Amir gets Streeter and his girlfriend Sharon to a Yankee game only to orchestrate a marriage proposal from Streeter to Sharon to appear on the jumbotron! Neither Streeter or his girlfriend were in on it. She says yes. Streeter stammers and says he didn't put it up on the screen. She slaps him and storms away visibly upset.

Some have questioned the reality of it all...I dunno, I buy it. And I found the 'good clean fun' attitude and authenticity of the reactions in the first three segments quite entertaining.

But segments 4, 5, & is too far too far?

Originally there was Candid Camera...nowadays there's Just for Laughs --- both pretty harmless fun in my opin. But I've always had a problem with the Punk'd and Scare Tactics and Germany's Extreme Wind Up-type shows. Tricking or toying with or even freaking people out(celebs or otherwise) is one thing (a cheap and easy thing mind you, like putting kids or "gasp" babies in jeopardy in a dramatic show)...but then airing it on national television or the internets? That I don't agree with.

Yes, you can get some smiles, but a lot of these programs, and I'd say now Pranks Wars, can be really harsh. And mean. And hurtful.

They're all counting on us laughing at the expense of someone it makes us feel superior or something, you know, witnessing the public humiliation of others. It perpetrates paranoia and wariness and suspicion. It also encourages malcontent and mean-spiritedness. Plus it's about someone being a victim --- all pretty unhealthy things to be promoting, if you ask me.

But welcome to the world of most 'reality' TV, ladies and gentlemen.

I used to pull pranky shit like this back in high school and college. Me and a friend used to pick up hitch-hikers or strangers at the bus stop needing a ride and then have another friend roar around the corner and chase us in another car, waving baseball bats out the window. We'd speed around town shrieking we were so dead cuz it's 'those guys you flipped off at that party' or something. All the while trying to keep from cracking up at the poor traveller in my back seat who was shitting bricks and begging us to 'just let him out.' Eventually we'd lose the tail, or pull over and fake a rumble with the friends behind us while the hitchhiker would usually scramble out of my car and run off.


We also did similar stuff to people we knew, but on a pretty small telling a friend some chick at the bar liked him and wanted to dance with him. And he'd go over all excited and she'd turn him down and throw a drink in his face or something. Just college fun and games.

But my point is, we did it for us. We did so we could recount it later and laugh our guts out and maybe tell a few other people what happened. That was it.

It wasn't ever meant for or witnessed by millions and millions of people/viewers (which are the numbers some of these shows and viral videos are getting).

But these types of programs generally do really well. It should be no surprise that the most popular eps of Canadian/American Idol are the audition know, where we get to see what horrible singers there are out there(though that has lost its cache cuz now people just audition badly so as to get on those particular episodes). But there needs to be a line in the sand...places people won't go (like enlisting children to play a forty day game of 'Lord of the Flies'...sheesh)

So when is too far too far? I'd say that Prank Wars #6 comes pretty close. Why? Because the girlfriend was dragged into the fray and a phony public marriage proposal can seriously mess up a relationship. If she was in on the gag, however...whole different story.

And the thought of what Streeter might do as a revenge prank makes me cringe.

Be afraid Amir.

Be very afraid.


Piers said...

I'm finding it difficult to understand why it's acceptable to belittle and humiliate someone in front of a small group and not a large one.

Surely the outcome is the same regardless of the number of people watching?

wcdixon said...

It just is.