PLANKING THE WALK AND OTHER DUMB PLACES
by Todd Hartley
As an American, I tend to feel rather proprietary when it comes to the development and dissemination of stupid trends. It’s America, after all, that has given us such pinnacles of idiocy as the Hummer H2, teenage vampire movies, Paris Hilton, Perez Hilton, country line dancing, New Kids on the Block, pants worn around one’s thighs with one’s underwear hanging out, Lindsay Lohan, etc., etc. In short, we’re not just dumb; we’re the world leader in dumb, and we’re damn proud of it.
Mind you, I’m not saying that every moronic trend originates in the U.S. Japan has certainly had its share of success with things like Pokemon, bad animation and slaughtering dolphins, and even Scotland, the home of rancid whiskey and men in kilts, is nothing to scoff at either when it comes to stupid ideas. Still, those countries can’t hold a foul-smelling patchouli candle to the U.S.
That’s why it pained me earlier this week to learn that another country has beaten us to the punch with what is definitely one of the dumbest ideas yet. Australia, which typically produces worthwhile things like AC/DC, the Crocodile Hunter and Foster’s beer, recently gave birth to a fad called “planking” that is, quite literally, painfully stupid. (Actually, come to think of it, Australians gave the world Vegemite too, so maybe they’re not so bright after all.)
Planking, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, involves lying stiff as a board, face down in odd places for the purpose of a photo op. The craze has been around for awhile, but it really hit its stride a couple of months ago when David “Wolfman” Williams, a professional rugby player and renowned planker, planked in the end zone after scoring a try in a nationally televised game. The YouTube clip of that stunt, by the way, has already registered more than 100,000 hits.
Since then, plankers have upped the ante on their insipid trend, planking on top of animals, in convenience store freezers, on train tracks, on parked police cars and in countless other random locations. In fact, planking has grown so popular in Australia that the “Planking Australia” Facebook page has 141,000 followers, while the “100,000 that Hate Planking” page has a mere six, leaving it just 99,994 short of its stated goal.
Of course, by now you may be wondering why I consider planking painfully stupid. To you, it may just seem like a bit of harmless fun. Dumb, yes, but not something worth getting upset about. Well, a week ago you would have been right. Up to that point, planking was indeed harmless, but in the last few days a couple of episodes have illustrated just how dangerous planking can be when plankers start trying to outdo one another.
The first incident occurred last Sunday, when a man from Brisbane attempted to plank on a balcony railing and fell seven stories to his death. The second took place just two days ago, when a man from New South Wales tried to plank on top of a moving car and fell off. He’s currently in an induced coma fighting for his life. Either that or he’s setting some kind of record for planking longevity.
Obviously, those two stories are tragic and not at all funny, but I can assure you that’s not why I’m upset with planking. Sad as they may be, the death and near death of two such harebrained Darwin Award candidates will probably benefit Australia in the long run, and they’re certainly not the sort of thing that is going to worry me. What bothers me is that planking is exactly the sort of inane pursuit that should have been conceived in America and should be claiming American lives.
I harbor no illusions that this is some sort of indication that Americans are getting smarter. If you need proof of this fact, I’d like to point out that this week food Nazis called for McDonald’s to retire Ronald McDonald, while “intactivists” in California managed to get a measure on this fall’s ballot asking voters to ban circumcision in San Francisco. So, as you can see, we’re just as dumb as we ever were. Where we seem to be lagging, though, is in the creativity of our stupidity. Where are all the great moronic ideas (Crystal Pepsi, anyone?) of yesteryear?
I had hoped there was a chance for us reclaim the stupid high ground recently, but then Donald Trump went and decided not to run for president. Pity.
Todd Hartley wants to wish his dad, one of the smartest Americans he knows, a very happy birthday.