For those who haven’t come across it, planking is the latest online craze whereby a participant (in various states of mental inebriation) lies down and pretends to be a plank. Yep, we’ve reached the point in human civilization where our greatest endeavour towards a spectacle is to mimic an inanimate object.
“No!” I hear the plankers cry out. “It’s not just that.”
And you’re right, my dear stiff-bodied circus stopgaps – the real ‘art’ of planking is to do it on top of objects where a plank wouldn’t normally rest. You know, juxtaposition and all that. It’s like Banksy but not on banks. (He’s the bank guy, right?)
“NO, SAM! There’s more to it.”
Okay, calm down – here, play with this slinky.
Yes, there’s another optional step. You should declare your intentions as follows: I’m planking. Then you should carry out the mental equivalent of draining an Olympic pool.
Gold Logie winner Karl Stefanovic
It’s no wonder that planking is incredibly popular among certain subsets. My generation has built the internet as the place of memes. Memes take an absurd connection, make it transient and forgettable, then passed around until we get bored and move on. It’s certainly arguable what value this form of social interaction has. Personally, I think there is some fraternity in the (fear and) execution of a rick-roll. There is some satirical value in a LOLcat. There is, without a doubt, some intellectual space to consider the evolution of language when it begins 2 b typd lyk dis. But at what point do we realize that our activities are loosely Neanderthal? When it ceases to be absurd, and becomes a trend instead? Or is it when someone dies?
Acton Beale, 20, fell to his death while trying to plank on a 5cm balcony railing outside his apartment. I’m not saying that Mr. Beale was otherwise capable of managing his own wellbeing before deciding to be so foolish, but it is pretty easy to see the correlation. The fact that Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Karl Stefanovic are getting in on the fad proves more about the scope of their television appearances than it does the popularity of the fad. Does the fact that one man fell to his death mean that planking is a deadly sport? No, not really, but in the wrong hands it does have the potential, moreso when alcohol is introduced into the mix.
Anthony Sharwood of The Punch stated his opinion quite nicely: “Falling onto the ground really hard kills people. And planking is a ripper way to make that happen.”
Yes, there are other sports which also kill people, but the moment a death happens, they adjust their safety procedures. Skydivers have backup parachutes, Grid Iron employs heavy padding and motorcycle riders wear helmets. Plankers, it seems, wear a foggy disposition and a snort.
Let’s take a moment to pen the beginning of a new discourse: “Planking is the art of inserting an object -, in this case a human body -into an open space in a way which subverts the natural utility, purpose and aesthetic normalcy of that space. The body takes a form which denies its own natural state: an inanimate object, free of muscular flexibility and signs of life. Planking is an intentional disconnection of the human experience, both for the planker and the audience. A planker, by stating that he is to begin ‘planking’, announces his intention and it is this deliberation which sets the act aside from unintentional plank events, such as sleeping or fainting.”
Why would this description never be taken seriously? Because planking is not about thought and deconstruction, it is about mindless action and replication. It is a movement which homogenises and is thus considered social because it is a common link between men of the planking ilk. Plankers will claim that intellectualizing the action ruins the fun, that the purpose of planking is that there is no purpose, which leads me to believe that either this is the most useless trend ever, perpetuated by people with no regard for the wonders of social interaction that exist beyond the echo of a grunt, or it’s the most spectacular form of enlightenment the world has ever seen.