Thomas Wictor

Fake versus real

Fake versus real

I’ve done some very stupid things in my life. One night in Norway I got drunk, climbed up a tower crane, and walked all the way out to the end of the boom. No idea how many hundred feet off the ground I was. When I got to the end of the boom, the wind kicked up, and I became instantly sober. Though I’d scampered out in five minutes, it took me over an hour to crawl back, praying and sobbing the whole way.

In college I got really drunk one night and tried to rappel off a one-hundred-foot water tower, even though I had no experience with mountaineering equipment. Everything was fine until I got to this position on the curved edge of the water tank, and then I panicked. I tried to climb back up, but the rope zipped through the carabiner as my companion—Andy Hatfield—screamed at me to grab both ropes.

At the last second I did, saving myself from a one-hundred-foot drop onto cement. The thing is, in both cases I didn’t film myself. These acts of stupidity weren’t for public consumption. Also, I honestly thought I could pull them off. My intention wasn’t to hurt myself.

Years ago I started seeing kids do “backyard wrestling,” where one guy would smash another on a card table or something. Then they started jumping off roofs onto the tables. After that it became anything goes, as long as the person got really hurt. For whatever reason the goal was to be as stupidly careless as possible and rack up the worst injuries. Tim and I used to watch this show that had a snarky announcer commenting on the mayhem.

They once featured a skateboarder about to ride down the handrail of a concrete stairway, and they did a freeze-frame and drew a red circle around one of the kid’s arms.

“See how spindly this arm is?” the snarky announcer said. “You think that might be a hint of things to come?”

The video started up again, the kid went onto the rail, I closed my eyes, and Tim screamed, “OH MY GOD!

“Is it as bad as I think?” I asked, with my eyes still closed.

“His arm looks like a lightning bolt,” Tim said. “He broke it in about five places.”

That was that. I never watched the show again.

Fake versus real.

I don’t mind phony stupid-hurt “stunts,” like this one.

Those are obviously lengths of beef jerkey in his nose, and the sparks and tiny puff of smoke are CGI effects. His ham acting and the way he completely covers his face are the giveaway.

Now this, on the other hand, is real.

This is a genuine, 100-percent authentic idiot. Compare the sparks and smoke to the guy with the beef jerky up his nose. In this video I can’t tell if it’s tape or shreds of lip hanging down after the firecrackers go off.

My acts of stupidity really embarrass me. I’ve never understood broadcasting to the world footage of how dumb you are. What does it accomplish? Whatever fame you garner is fleeting, and the majority of the views you get are from people who think you’re a moron.

Sure, a few people might admire you. Do you really want fans like that? Think what sort of creature looks up to someone who blows apart his lips with firecrackers.

Most “slippery slope” arguments don’t pan out, but it sure seems to me that these attention hogs are willing to do more and more damage to themselves. I’ve seen videos of men shooting themselves with BB or pellet guns.

It’s not completely out of the question that soon someone will remove most of his own face with a real handgun or a cleaver, if he thinks it’ll make him famous. Firecrackers taped to the lips is about as stupid and potentially destructive as I’ve seen. If not his whole face, why wouldn’t a guy sacrifice at least his nose?

True, Chris Pontius made a career out of hurting himself. Did he ever blow up his lips with firecrackers, though?

Here’s a revelation about the really stupid things I did: I was miserable all the time. That’s why I got drunk and took ridiculous chances. What’s the story on Firecracker Lips? Happy? Lots of friends? Stable? Great parents?

What about you? Would you watch a video of a guy shooting a bullet through both cheeks, if he was eighteen or older? I wouldn’t. The kid with the lightning-bolt arm was enough for me. There are some truly ghastly Websites that show car accidents, murders, and war videos that leave nothing to the imagination. You can tell that the people watching them are doomed. They either compete to write the “funniest” comment, or they affect a sated gourmet’s tone, complacently praising the high quality of the gore.

One reason I didn’t like Saving Private Ryan was because the bloodshed was indistinguishable from reality. I much preferred A Very Long Engagement, which may be the best war movie ever made. There are only a couple of very gruesome scenes, but they’re necessary for the plot.

People who tape firecrackers to their lips won’t like A Very Long Engagement. That’s okay; there’s room for us all on the entertainment continuum. I never saw Avatar, and I’m skipping the Hunger Games movies. They weren’t made for me. And I’ll tell you something else.

One of my formative experiences involved a young woman crawling under the back porch of our house in Stavanger and tapping on my window at one in the morning. It scared the hell out of me. My bedroom was in the dark basement we called “the dungeon.”

I opened the window, not daring to hope.

“My parents are gone for a couple of days, and so are my brothers,” she said. “Wanna come over?”

Did I want to go over to the house of a gorgeous girl who had a wild reputation and whose family was gone for a few days? I almost laughed at the absurdity of the question. Kneeling in the dried leaves, she spread her fingers, shook her hands in a yuck gesture, wrinkled her nose, and gave me her raucous laugh.

“I feel so dirty now,” she said. “I’m gonna have to change when we get home. Or take a shower.”

I climbed out the window, followed her magnificent, jeansed, dancer’s bottom out from under the porch, and spent the night at her place.

At eighteen I wasn’t getting hundreds of thousands of views or likes. But if I’d taped firecrackers to my lips and set them off in front of this beautiful young woman, do you think she would’ve invited me to spend the night with her?

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