Fame grabs in­creas­ingly be­com­ing more deadly

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - HELAINE WIL­LIAMS

It read like a sce­nario straight out of the Dar­win Awards … which, un­for­tu­nately, are also real-life sto­ries of peo­ple leav­ing this world in ways they didn’t have to go.

A young, ex­pec­tant Min­nesota mother killed her boyfriend while try­ing to make a video the cou­ple had planned to up­load to YouTube in hopes it would go vi­ral. She fired a gun at him from a foot away as he held a book to his chest. He thought the book would be enough to de­flect the bul­let.

“Me and Pe­dro are prob­a­bly go­ing to shoot one of the most dan­ger­ous videos ever,” the young woman posted on Twit­ter be­fore­hand, adding a cou­ple of wor­ried-face emo­jis and let­ting fol­low­ers know the idea was “HIS idea not MINE.”

Where the boyfriend got the idea, I don’t know. If it was from a demon­stra­tion that came with the warn­ing: “Do not try this at home,” he chose to ig­nore it.

“How could you pos­si­bly not have the sim­plest of fore­sight to at least test to see if the bul­let would go through the book first? Wow,” some­one tweeted af­ter the tragedy.

Be­cause the world has got­ten ever more sur­real … and not in a good, Sal­vador-Dali type of way.

I’m left with an even stronger no­tion that one of the rea­sons we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a bad case of World Gone Wild is be­cause TV shows,

movies and live-stream­ing com­pany pro­duc­tions have, in their ever-more-un­likely sce­nar­ios and ever-in­creas­ing ex­plic­it­ness, re­moved us even fur­ther from re­al­ity than we were al­ready. We’re all stunt peo­ple and, hey, if we can earn some fame and spon­sor­ship for­tune along the way, so be it.

“There’s cer­tainly noth­ing new about fame-seek­ing stunts end­ing in dis­as­ter,” wrote CNN’s Eric Leven­son. In his on­line story about the in­ci­dent, he went on to point out Evel Knievel’s mo­tor­cy­cle-stunt shenani­gans, the MTV show Jack­ass …. and the fact that many a YouTube star has be­come just that by ig­nor­ing all the things of which his mother, were she worth her salt, once warned him. Fic­tion show or “re­al­ity” show — hey, the folks on the screen tried the stunt, and they pulled it off suc­cess­fully, so hold my beer/wine/whiskey/um­brella-dec­o­rated drink, and watch this!

Leven­son’s re­port con­tained sev­eral other re­cent-years in­stances in which peo­ple were hurt or killed try­ing stunts to post on so­cial me­dia. Plank­ing — ly­ing face down and wooden-board still — is a roughly 6-year-old fad at which I con­fess to laugh­ing my head off. But the fad

went too far, as plankers tried to outdo one an­other. It was fa­tal to an Aus­tralian man who tried to do so on the bal­cony of a high-rise build­ing. Leven­son also men­tioned the “duct tape chal­lenge,” which in­volves hav­ing your body wrapped in duct tape and see­ing how long it takes to es­cape. Last year, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the chal­lenge nearly cost a 14-year-old boy in Wash­ing­ton state his life. (I still shake my head when my hus­band, Dre, tells me about the fe­male friend who, years

ago, would lit­er­ally duct-tape her way­ward grand­chil­dren to their chairs.)

We’ve all had our stupid-stunt at­tempts. Mine have in­cluded burn­ing my fin­ger and my mother’s bed­spread dur­ing those fire­bug years; try­ing to phys­i­cally pick up a very slen­der male friend; and think­ing I could brave the slide and the rapids ride at the wa­ter park. I thank God I lived to tell the tales. And face it, we all have six or fewer de­grees of sep­a­ra­tion from those who would push the en­ve­lope. Dre knows of a young boy close to the fam­ily who in­jured his hand be­cause he had a pen­chant

for clutch­ing a fire­work for as long as he could be­fore it ex­ploded. He found the pas­time “ex­cit­ing,” he re­port­edly ex­plained. He’s fine now and, we hope, more cau­tious.

But it’s when stunts start to in­volve things like lethal weapons and great heights that it’s re­ally time to sit down and weigh the ben­e­fits of stay­ing alive against the strong risk of be­com­ing sep­a­rated from life and/or limb.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the fam­ily of the young man who died in the book-shoot­ing stunt, the un­born child who will not know his fa­ther, the girl­friend

charged with man­slaugh­ter and their fam­i­lies. Mean­while, as a 55-year-old South­erner who has stereo­typ­i­cally taken to call­ing ev­ery­one “Hon,” “Honey” and “Sweet­heart,” al­low me to don my Ev­ery­body’s-Mama man­tle and im­plore one and all not to try any­thing that even looks like it may leave you in­jured … or worse.

Let your risks be of the cal­cu­lated va­ri­ety, and if you want to be­come an in­stant celebrity, at least pur­sue that goal in a man­ner that is likely to leave you around to en­joy it.

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