Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Attack of the Plankers

I wrote this article last week  for Philippine Star's Supreme section (where I am currently an intern), but unfortunately, the youth section, which goes out a day earlier, already had a similar article, with a similar angle. 

The only plank I could ever love: 
Plank, from the old CN show, Ed, Edd and Eddy

They live among us. They walk the same streets, drive on the same roads. They eat at the same restaurants and shop at the same stores. You’ve probably exchanged flirtations with one at a bar, sat next to one on the MRT, or got squeezed into one at an elevator. It is damn near impossible to tell them apart from the normal human being, until that climactic moment when they get on top of a table, or a ledge, or the hood of a car, face down, tuck their head in, hold their arms stiffly to their sides and basically imitate a plank. It is only then that they set themselves apart as part of the most obnoxious faddists that our generation has ever had the misfortune to know. Beware the Planker.

Planking, for those of you who are fortunate enough to have evaded its irritating ubiquity, is basically a game where people lie face down in unusual or unexpected places and share the photographic records of their escapades on the internet that their entire network might see how cool they are.

What started out as the mildly entertaining “Lying Down Game” exploded into a full-blown invasion almost overnight. Before the boom, planking photos appeared only sporadically, and after getting a couple of likes and eliciting a few small giggles, disappeared forever into the cyberspace abyss.

Now though, planking is much harder to escape. Aside from giving birth to other equally absurd fads like Owling (where people perch on top of random things imitating an owl) and Shadowing (just a fancy term for what is essentially stalking), planking groups are being formed all over the country, and people are actually joining up. Even celebrities like Chris Brown and Katy Perry are giving it a go.

Maybe we don’t give these plankers enough credit. It must take a certain amount of guts to so brazenly inconvenience pedestrians, strangers the way they do. They probably have incredible stamina, because all that lying down just seems like a tough workout. And the way they defy death by planking on busy roads and railings, all for the cause of masterfully mimicking a lifeless piece of wood, it’s admirable. They are like modern day soldiers, so nobly lying down in random public places for the sake of…something we don’t quite know.

But seriously. For the sake of what? Art? Entertainment? Satire? Sport? Or is it just that these plankers have too much time, and have run out of things with which to spend it?

What a testament to our generation that makes! So many have abandoned reading and sports, and have made a hobby and a phenomenon of something as meaningless as lying down. We will go down in histrory as the kids who entertained themselves by pretending to be stiff boards (or owls, for that matter).

Come to think of it, planking actually makes for quite a striking metaphor. Inside, everybody is a planker, just lying down, seemingly oblivious to the goings-on of the wolrd around him. It’s an image that speaks of the apathy and the laziness that permeate our culture. On another level, planking could even spark an existential crisis in that Waiting for Godot sort of way. It’s so utterly ridiculous that it calls attention to the absurdity of our own lives.

The fad's potential for poetics is surprisingly profuse. But even then, even if we did somehow find a higher purpose, a deeper meaning for the fad, it all boils down to the fact that IT’S SO DAMN ANNOYING. That and whatever meaning it could have held would have already been washed away by virtue of overkill. When you tell a joke too often, it just loses its humor. This very principle is that wafer thin line that separates a fad from a classic.

We may not be able to stop plankers from carrying out their absurdities. Everyone has the right to be ridiculous, and in most cases, the only people these plankers hurt are themselves. The unfortunate fact is we’re just going to have to put up with this silly craze. Besides, in the same way Elephant Pants, N*sync and Pokemon Trading Cards went, at least we can rest assured that it’s only a matter of time before Planking too walks the plank and dies a natural death.

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