Friday, June 17, 2011

The First American Mass Planking is Just Around the Corner

Image from
I’m going to go ahead and get this one out of the way before the media really takes it too far.

See, there’s this thing called planking that people do. It’s kind of like performance art, but it’s really an opportunity to have your friend take pictures of you doing it in an interesting location, or to have people stare at you in a public place because you like confusing people.

It originated as the Lying Down Game, developed in the late 90s. In order to play the Lying Down Game, a player must:
  • Lay face down
  • Have their hands straight out at the sides of their body
  • Legs straight out with the toes pointed
  • Have someone photograph them and post it on the Internet.
The idea is to mimic, as closely as possible, the shape and mannerisms of a wooden plank. Sound exciting? It’s not! And that’s likely part of the appeal.

The world became fully aware of the fad after rugby player David Williams planked after scoring on March 27, 2011.

Since then, there have been an unfathomable number of planking pictures taken, each trying to be in a more creative location than the last. You see, since the actual act itself is so stupid and pointless, the excitement comes from the environment: The object being planked upon, and the optional reactions of passersby.

As with all super cool fads, eventually someone had to die while doing it. On May 13th, the first planking-related death was confirmed after 20-year-old Acton Beale tried to plank on the seventh floor of an apartment building. Other plankers have dodged death by laying down on train tracks in front of oncoming trains and taunting police by laying on their cars—an apparently illegal act.

The fad is popular in countries around the world, originating in Australia, catching on in New Zealand, and being common in the UK and Iceland. In fact, both Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand have directly addressed the fad, with Julia Gillard of the former warning plankers to focus on “keeping yourself safe first,” while the latter’s John Key posed in a photo of his son doing it.

These kind of things generally get picked up in the United States and strangled for all they’re worth until they die a cold, over-exposed death, so it’s no surprise that it’s picking up steam here. Yesterday, CNN ran a news story entitled “Facedowns: New craze you’ve never heard of.” Of course, no one’s ever heard of it because no one calls it “facedowns.” The video segment’s tagline, “A Seattle-spawned lack of movement is inspiring a rather strange movement of its own all over the world,” isn’t exactly accurate, but then neither are the positions that the facedowners are doing in the segment:

Legs not straight? Arms out in front? Poor form!

I’m not sure if this is CNN’s fault or if Americans think they invented this hobby, but they didn’t, and “facedowns” is actually a much stupider term than “planking” anyway. But, given the American spirit of doing everything bigger and greater than everyone else, I have a prediction to make.

I am suggesting that we’re probably only days away from the first American mass planking. I haven’t seen anything about it online yet, but given that school is out for the summer and it’s a rising trend, it’s only a matter of time before someone organizes a huge, widely publicized flash mob planking. (There’s already a Facebook Group dedicated to this but it doesn’t seem to be catching on quite yet, as it only has 21 members.) Actually, this happened just a few days ago in Brighton, UK, so I just barely missed my mark. But the video's only got 300 views. That's roughly one per person in the video!

Here’s what will happen: Several hundred people will all meet in a public space in an urban area somewhere in a major U.S. city. Likely candidates include New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta. It might even be a massive beach planking, occurring somewhere in Florida. Everyone will lay around, arranging themselves on top of statues, benches, fountains, and just the bare sidewalk or lawn. After a brief period of this, and once an accurate head count is taken, everyone will part ways. Someone will try to contact a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records to attend the mass planking. Hopefully no one will die.

It’s coming, I’d say, in as little as a week to as far out as three months. And then once it’s over, planking won’t be cool anymore. By this time next year, we won’t even talk about it.

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