Prank videos are stupid.
I'm sure that it would've been nicer to kick this column off with some kind of witticism before stating my thesis, but prank videos are too stupid to deserve that. They've become tremendously popular on YouTube, and out of the glut of them, you can count the ones worth watching on your thumb.
Prank videos take the most annoying and baffling aspects of entertainment and roll them together until something ghastly emerges. They're a blob that swallows up the decency of everything within reach, and they mutate their participants into obnoxious clones of each other. The only reason they're popular is because you literally wish harm on the people pulling the pranks.
Also, they're stupid. And here's why:
No One Is Laughing With Them
Once you're over the age of 15, it's hard to find pranks funny. I'm sure that there are adults that think they're the most hilarious things ever, but there are also grown people who like the movie I, Robot. Eventually, you have to accept that certain human beings are going to have interests that you can't possibly fathom.
As you get older, pranks become more of a nuisance than anything else. People have schedules and things that they carry, and most pranks either deal with delaying someone for a while or covering them with something. If a prank involves me getting wet, after it I'm going to worry that my cellphone doesn't work. If I'm walking to my next destination and a person stops me in an attempt to trick me, I'm going to get irked, because now I might be late. What I'm trying to say is that getting older rips all the joy and surprise from your life. Pranks become exponentially less entrancing when you have to be at work in six minutes.
"You thought I just ruined your day with crippling financial damage! Burn!"
Another big problem with pranks is that there is no set definition of what they are. Pranks are an area that would definitely benefit from a law saying, "These are pranks, and anything else is unqualified nonsense," because as long as it vaguely follows a certain format, anything that I say I'm going to do and then don't really do could be considered a prank. By the standard set in these videos, if I walked up to someone, announced, "I'm going to hit you in the mouth!" and then kicked them in the junk, I could say, "It was a prank! Like, share, and subscribe!" It would hit all of the requirements for being a prank, of which there are two:
1. Someone feels soooooo smart when it's done.
2. Someone else feels sooooo stupid when it's done.
That'll teach people to show concern for their fellow human beings, assholes!
However, it's just such an oddly malicious attempt at screwing someone else over that it becomes impossible to laugh with the person doing the prank. They can put the "humor" tag on it as much as they want and it still won't make a difference, because these prank videos aren't intricately designed traps that unsuspecting people fall into. These are excuses for us to watch something where some idiot might get punched in the end. They're hidden morality tales. You wait for the guy doing the pranks to get his comeuppance for being such an uncomfortable cock ring on the dick of the world. If it was anywhere else but the Internet, it would be the story of someone who messed up and was taught a lesson.
But this IS the Internet, which is built on the backs of confused people trying to come to terms with the idea that they're not good at as many skills as they'd like to be, so they bask in humiliation with a lack of self-awareness that seems almost robotic. It's the kind of climate where a vlogger couple will immediately broadcast their pregnancy announcement and subsequent miscarriage announcement, because, holy shit, look at all of the clicks that we're getting. The cleverness of the prank is never what is applauded. There are barely any successful compilation videos of the pranks going well. But millions have watched them go poorly because we legitimately don't care if the worst thing happens to their stars.
There is no emotional rise and fall like there would be with a great joke. When the most personal thing that you say is, "Thanks for checking out the video, guys!" there is no sense of attachment. It is just us waiting for you to get swung on. We anticipate that clumsy swing at your clumsy swing at getting praise for something. In a schoolyard, prank videos are the kids chugging hot sauce packets because people will watch them chug hot sauce packets. People are looking at me, so that must mean that I'm doing good, right? I am liked, yes? And, through your teary eyes and blurred vision, you can't see the lack of interest build on the faces of the people around you because you haven't choked on that hot sauce yet.
Their Participants Dress Like Douches
I know that it's usually considered petty to comment on someone's physical appearance, because we have to follow that mantra of "It's who they are underneath that counts." Well, this guy just tried to derive humor from stealing phones out of people's hands, so I'm guessing that underneath is just a swarming layer of Ray-Bans, memes, and Google AdSense. Once you go out of your way to be an asshole to people, the way you dress is open season. The biggest prank ever pulled is your parents laboring under the delusion that you would be a contributing member of society.
Somewhere, a father is regretting not reading enough bedtime stories.
It's a little beside the point, but I wish, just once, that one of these people would dress like they weren't trying to pick up younger girls in West Palm. They're a parade of Instagram filters, with the requisite backwards hats, hair gel, and polo and V-neck shirts. There seems to be a uniform for people that aren't trying to grasp any sort of goal or dream as much as they're just trying to be famous, and YouTube prank personalities strictly adhere to it. It's a fashion choice that lets the world around them know that they're also DJs/actors. And it exudes an aura of fakeness that threatens to shatter their surrounding realities.
The idea that we should be free from having any kind of conversation that we don't want to have is a dumb one. I've been in enough video game stores to understand that if you stand in one place for any extended period, people will come to you with a full list of their likes and dislikes. But there is some kind of switch that goes off when a blinding vision of artificial humanity comes into close proximity with you. It's akin to when you see guys go clubbing and they start regurgitating the degrading things that forums have taught them to say in order to properly flirt with women.
"That wasn't a condom; it was a Snickers wrapper! Pranked!"
In the case of the android-style flirting, it's meant to establish subtle dominance in the conversation, because, according to online advice, flirting is only worthwhile when you're trying to sneak "My apartment, value, and penis are all HUGE!" into every sentence. And it's never not slightly threatening, because it comes off as nothing but cold. The same goes for these people that approach pranks with deranged confidence and the clothing choices of a person who was on his way to get a lemon drop shot and got horribly lost.
If you're dressed up like you're trying to specifically appeal to the college freshmen that skip past your auto-playing videos on their Facebook feed, it's going to be eerie when you walk up to folks and ask them if you can "touch their melons." What you're doing is dull, but how you dress is unnerving, because everyone your age who is tumbling through a search for recognition is dressed like you.
It's like an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog came to life after an accident with a radioactive Jagerbomb.
No matter how severely you've caught someone off guard, there is still a permeating stench of "This guy is up to something!" that eradicates the surprise of the prank. You make yourself the enemy immediately upon contact, as you're obviously setting up something that the other person is not privy to. I don't want to give any advice to prank gremlins, but you could possibly try to dress and act like a normal, unassuming person, instead of the Southern California protocol for "I'm looking for an agent."
This is a man who watched Entourage and thought it was an inspirational documentary.
They're Overwhelmingly Racist
A decent chunk of these videos aren't real. They're so ridiculously staged that I'm surprised that the men in them don't try to throw in a dramatic monologue or pass out headshots at the end. But a few of them showcase people being legitimately angry at the person that has charged into their day. And many of them take place "in the hood."
You know, where the colored people live.
If you have to signify that your prank video takes place "in the hood," you're operating under a racist idea that there is inherent comic value in bugging black people that supersedes pestering anyone else. "The hood" signifies that you're out of place. It signifies that you are going into some kind of exotic landscape where normal laws don't apply, and the universe suddenly becomes one of the three rap songs that you know the words to. So much of this is based around racial stereotyping that I'm surprised Mike Huckabee hasn't tried to launch his HuckabeePrankz channel yet. The time is right, Mike, because from looking at the view counts, there is no better era than the one we're in now to get into the business of black people being pissed off at you on camera.
Saying that things are set "in the hood" is turning race into a marketing ploy. It's luring in folks whose idea of entertainment goes no further than "Black guys talk different, and THAT is comedy." And I'm sure that there are people that think that I have no right to talk about comedy, what with all of my social justice blabber, but they're also the people who think that their beards counteract their receding hairlines. Your essays about why Mad Max: Fury Road has too many female characters were fascinating, bacon enthusiasts.
Also note that calling your racism a "social experiment" doesn't make you a sociologist;
it just makes your idiocy pretentious.
It's selling you on the idea that, when you start acting out of line around black people, something bad is going to happen. Portraying black people as these otherworldly rage monsters has been a popular tactic in the last forever years for the media. Whether fingers are pointed at these pranks, or the meteoric rise in things like the "knockout game," an epidemic invented so that white grandparents would have something to warn their families about when they came home for Thanksgiving, varies from day to day.
If you're an idiot, you watch these prank videos and think to yourself, "Gosh! These black people sure are hair-triggered! Why are they trying to fight this person?" But, thinking logically, who wouldn't try to physically reprimand the swaggering adult that, against better judgment, walked up to you and tried to shit on your day? You did nothing to put yourself in a position for this. You were just existing outside your house and, suddenly, in the eyes of millions, you're proving Fox News pundits right. Don't touch strangers without their permission. Yelling, "It's just a prank!" does nothing to defer the blame. Prank celebrities may as well grope a lady and then tell her that it was only a pretend sexual assault.
Look at how angry young black men get when you aggressively confront, insult,
and physically harass them!
It doesn't matter how many of these encounters end with handshakes and acknowledgments of being truly, truly fooled. I know racists, and they're all morons. If you put any kind of media that displays people of a different race acting in a way that they themselves claim they wouldn't act (ignoring the fact that racism is based around violence and the threat of violence), they will clutch it to their chest until they expire. Their dying words will be cursing the Hispanic person that cut them off in traffic 40 years ago. Racists aren't good for much except showing the power of the human will when it comes to holding a grudge against billions of people. They are a real inspiration in that regard.
They're Wrecking Someone For The Sake Of Non-Humor
Another reason pranks cease to be funny after you get your learner's permit is that adults aren't as accepting of bullying. You'd have to do a lot to prank an adult, because a "pull my finger" just doesn't make the "This Annoys Me" checklist when one has to deal with taxes and children. So you escalate, and you start doing things like touching other people's clothing and insulting them to get a rise out of them. Under any other circumstance, that would be bullying. It doesn't matter if it's two grown people and one of them is the star of their own YouTube channel. Bullying doesn't necessarily change when you become old enough to shave. The same rule that applies to elementary school kids applies to adults.
Not all pranks are as severe as the ones that end with someone lashing out at the prankster. A majority of the time, the recipient of the prank simply has shaving cream and a frown on their face. But people are getting furious for a reason. And you can't dismiss their reactions with, "Oh, they just take things too seriously." How else are they supposed to react? Refusing to be "uptight" would require an extraordinary amount of patience and openness. I know no one who is open to every person with a pun and an agenda that stops them on the sidewalk. And if you do know someone like that, they're not the guys being inserted into prank montages. Prank videos are collections of people having their days ruined.
If there is any justice in the world, one day they will prank a cop with a trigger-happy Taser finger.
Because of how the Internet works, pranks can only get more outlandish and offensive. If I announced, "I'm going to make a funny video about Minecraft every Friday!" I'd get an amount of indifference that could be considered emotional abuse. If I want to make any sort of name for myself, I need to cover ground that hasn't been farmed into barrenness. In the same way, there are louder, punchier videos of pranks being uploaded constantly. Exerting yourself to come up with elaborate schemes is on the mind of no one, though. Instead, it turns into a race to see who can get the closest to saying the N-word without actually saying the N-word.
It's like the frat-douche's missile gap.
Prank videos, whether the person hosting them gets a concussion or not, appeal to our weirdest sense of voyeurism. They're Rear Window with dubstep playing over the opening credits. It's why the live-tweeting of a couple's breakup becomes national news. Look at these people! Look at how they're acting! And now one of them is crying! And one of them is yelling! We like the idea of these snapshots into absurd lives that we're now an audience to. For a moment, the human race becomes a zoo, and we can only watch, confused and curious.
Pranks are only fun when celebrities are involved. Read Daniel Radcliffe's ingenious prank on paparazzi in 4 Legendary Pranks Pulled Off By Celebrities and learn how to deal with the office prankster (curse you Jim!) in 4 Ways To Ruin Terrible Office Pranks.
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