I can't really pinpoint when pranks stopped being whoopee cushions on the teacher's chair and started being psychologically abusing your friends, partners, and bystanders, but we have gotten so far from the bucket of water on the door of yore and are speeding like a Concorde into very evil territory. Late last year I wrote a piece about fake harrowing pranks, which involve people pretending to be kidnapped and shot and stuff, presumably to display their hackneyed acting skills in the hope they'll be casted in a mid-season episode of NCIS.
I thought this was a pretty sinister trend. Using the fraught emotions of panic and fear, the death of friends and loved ones, for YouTube numbers and retweets. It would be OK if it admitted it was fiction, but it attempts, with the po-est of faces, to shock you. Recently, however, I've come to the conclusion that even more horrible than this, and perhaps the most saddening and upsetting thing online apart from the obvious beheadings and child porn, are videos of men pretending to cheat on their wives and girlfriends. Josh Paler Lin is in the news today, because he has done exactly that.
Lin has over a million subscribers, yet he conforms to all the same breathtakingly sexist tropes that a lot of these YouTube pranksters do. He exposes 'gold diggers' by asking women out with and without a Ferrari in tow. He uses homeless people, like so many others do, much to my chagrin, as props in his videos, attempting to seem charitable but coming across as creepy and gross. This week Lin uploaded a video in which he conducted a Skype call with his girlfriend, supposedly on their anniversary, and had a bikini-clad woman move in and out of shot, causing his girlfriend to become panicked and tearful. He then emerged with roses outside her door, but clearly she was still upset.
Why would anyone do something like this? Why would you want to see your betrothed in floods of tears, hyperventilating because they think you've have committed the ultimate sin? Sometimes it backfires, as one of our favorite YouTube assholes Roman Atwood demonstrates in the below clip. Atwood pretends to tell his girlfriend that he cheated on her, only for her to reveal she cheated on him as well. Cue Atwood becoming himself panicked and incensed, hitting a lampshade and slapping the mattress. When she reveals she had seen the camera and was counter-pranking him, he jumps atop her and briefly holds her down with her head in his hands, an oddly violent sign of relief.
I think it's worth mentioning at this point that this is a prank that a woman would generally not feel safe doing. In the worst-case scenario, a woman telling her man that she has cheated on him runs the risk of being beaten or killed. Even at the lower end of this horrible spectrum, a hand around the throat and a smashed up living room wouldn't be beyond imagination.
But that's why you don't really see women doing these kinds of things. These pranks have a heavy jock sensibility to them. They're big bad bullies, manipulating and hurting people for cheap laughs. It's important to remember that not all couple-related online pranks are like this. There are many who make careers out of showcasing their relationship online, and the cutesy, easygoing pranks that come with that. The most popular of these is Prank vs Prank, or Jesse Wellens and Jeana Smith, a photogenic duo with nearly ten million subscribers and a YouTube-based TV show that you have to fucking pay for in some instances. They put chilli peppers in each other's food, they draw dicks on each other's heads when they're sleeping—you know, nice stuff, not the sort of pathologically evil, selfish, gross bullshit that Lin and Atwood indulge in.
As with all of these, there is no confirmation that any of them are actually real. They could all be fake for all I know, but I believe the point about it as an action, about degrading your spouse on camera by making their greatest emotional fear a reality, still stands. Gentlemen: treat your WAGS properly, don't try and give them heart attacks for money, or you'll just end up like the type of guy who films himself 'pranking' his grandparents, the doddery old sweethearts in our lives, which is the stuff of serial killers, and not the cool type either.
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