Fame grabs increasingly becoming more deadly
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.