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Friday, December 30, 2016


Pranks are set up situations meant as a joke upon one or more people. Often, they are recorded to show to the public. Pranks are now set up to shock the sensibilities of both the victim and the audience and recorded to show on YouTube and other Media. Do some of them go too far?

One of the first programs to exploit the sensibilities of people was called Candid Camera on TV. Hosted by Allen Funt, the program set up situations involving one person at a time or several in public that are mild compared to today's standards. In the end people reacted to being fooled on TV.

Sometimes people were compensated financially for their appearance and 15 minutes of fame. At times they were simply embarrassed to be fooled into reacting to a situation that was orchestrated and recorded for public media of potentially millions of people. At times some reacted badly to the joke.

Being fooled means to be made a fool of for believing the joke was actual reality. The situations were in a range of benign and mild to seriously disturbing. If the program went too far in the estimation of viewers it failed to entertain and became shocking. These were edited out before going on the air.

The possibilities are actually endless. Potential pranks usually required an actor to present the joke or situation to a mark or victim knowingly fooling the person or persons in a convincing manner and by drawing them in while the hidden cameras recorded their facial and bodily expressions in detail. The pay off was an entertaining reaction before, during and after the prank was revealed as recorded for broadcast. Naturally their was some liability involved so waivers were signed by all engaged in it. Again, they were highly motivated not to shock the sensibilities of the viewing public as scenes were cut out and disposed of rather than broadcast. It represented money lost on the venture from viewers and advertisers. Shocking public sensibilities was definitely not the pay off. Having an edge, a very thin razors edge between shock and hilarity, was a difficult assignment. Like a man shaving his face with a straight edge razor; it could do its job or cut into the skin causing bleeding, and one was accomplished as easily as the other. There is a very thin line between comedy and shocking travesty.

Today, it appears the lines no longer apply as the entire point of the skit is to shock the sensibilities of both the individuals involved and any potential audience. If it appears to be a cruel joke where the person or persons are actually victimized or someone actually gets hurt, then the boundary is crossed.

What some of the videographers of these events may not realize is they carry a responsibility legally. If the actor physically touches anyone it could be a recorded assault in a court of law. And it can be considered libel, or recorded slander, if the event is presented publicly and appears to make a fool out of the victim(s). In addition, they could cause bodily injury. One example is where an actor, dressed as an Arab, walks up to an individual with a container or back pack, sets it down near them and runs away as though the package is full of explosives. Usually the victim also runs away in terror. Had they time to think, they might see it as a prank. Yet, that is the entire point. They only have time for their amygdalae to fire telling them they are in grave immediate danger. Is it really funny when you think of what could happen potentially? Consider a real life example. A Viet Nam War veteran with a serious case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder enters a restaurant and someone who knows his plight walks up behind him and makes a sudden loud noise. The veteran reacts as though a bomb went off. People laughed, but was it really funny?