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Planking is a photo fad which involves lying face down with arms to the sides in unusual public spaces, photographing the scene and sharing the image online. In form, it bears striking resemblance to the Lying Down Game, a similar photo fad that became popular among UK Facebook users in 2010.
The phenomenon started to gain momentum across the country in March 2011, when the pro-rugby player David “Wolfman” Williams planked (shown below) after a try during the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles vs Newcastle Knights game held on March 27th, 2011.
The term “planking” was reportedly coined in 2008 by Paul Carran, a New Zealander living in Sydney, Australia. Born in Dunedin, Carran started planking after hearing about a similar game friends were playing in UK in 2008.
Prior to the outbreak of “planking” in Australia, the act of lying down on the ground and photographing the scene has been documented before with the phenomenon known as Lying Down Game, which had a similar beginning as a Facebook group started by a group of friends in 2006. The game became quite popular in the United Kingdom during the summer of 2010, drawing participation from all over the country as well as overseas. Though not directly related, Similar practices of “bizarre photograph poses” have been seen on the Korean web with Playing Dead in 2003 and the French art website “A plat ventre” (on one’s belly) in 2004.
Tom Green’s Prank
On July 12th, 2011, former MTV host and comedian Tom Green uploaded a YouTube video titled “Tom Green Created Planking – 1994” depicting one of his early pranks from his Canadian local-access TV show that resembled the “planking” pose. In the following days, Green’s claim was picked up by The Daily What and other internet culture blogs, as well as mainstream news outlets including CNN.
“I don’t want to take anything away from anybody, but I do have video evidence,” Green told CNN Tuesday. “That bit never aired on MTV,” Green said. “It is a very obscure piece of video.” In fact, Green contacted Rogers Cable, the Canadian company that hosted his early non-paid show, to dig up the clip. “The point of that video, we did a random, ridiculous thing and made a social comment with it,” Green said. “Will people stop and help you on the street?”
The “planking” game quickly caught on with Australian youths, with the official Facebook page gaining over 130,000 fans within the first week. There are numerous single topic blogs dedicated to hosting “planking” images submitted by participants, including BestPlank, PlankingMissions, iPlanking, Plank.it and Planking.me among others. In addtion, Planking has been endorsed by various Hollywood celebrities and pop stars, such as Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Demi Moore, Chris Brown and Rosario Dawson.
Rules of Planking
According to the official Facebook page, the following rules should be kept in mind:
1. You must always lay face down, ensuring your face remains expressionless for the duration of the Plank.
2. Your legs must remain straight, and together with toes pointed.
3. Your arms must be placed by your side, held straight and fingers pointed.
4. You must make it known that you are Planking. Saying ‘I am Planking’ usually get this across. Sternly announcing it will ensure a good result.
5. Your safety should always be considered. Properly thought through Planking procedures should always go to plan. Never put your self at undue risk.
6. Every Plank that is captured must be named.
Death by Planking
On May 15th, the “planking” phenomenon became a highly controversial topic in the news media when Acton Beale, a 20 year old man, plunged to death from an attempt at “planking” on a seventh floor balcony is Brisbane, Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard warned plankers that their “focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first”. The Queensland Opposition and the state’s police have called for people to stop participating in the fad. The fad also spread over to the neighboring island New Zealand, where it caused much concern for the authorities and educators. On May 19th, 2011, a student was caught planking on the ledge of a secondary school building in Central North Island. On May 25th, another student was caught planking on a railway line, in front of an oncoming train.
Global Planking Day
On May 13th, 2011, American journalist Michelle McMurray wrote an article titled “First Annual Global Planking Day: May 25, 2011” calling on readers to join the inaugural holiday of planking.
On July 6th, 2011, Rapper Xzibit openly expressed his disdain for the popular planking game via Twitter post, calling it “the dumbest shit ever” and claiming that the fad was related to slavery:
— XZIBIT (@xzibit) July 7, 2011
#Planking was a way to transport slaves on ships during the slave trade, its not funny. Educate yourselves.
His tweets were picked up by hundreds of his followers and celebrity news blogs like Gawker and TMZ and BET reported on Xzibit’s comments. However, in tweets that followed up later, Xzibit denied ever labeling the game “racist.” The Washington Post published an article titled “Is Planking Racist?”, lending credence to Xzibit’s claim with a statement by Markcus Rediker, professor at University of Pittsburgh and author of “The Slave Ship: A Human History":
“To plank” was not necessarily a verb used by slave ship merchants and captains, Rediker said in an e-mail. But the planks “of the lower deck are precisely where millions of Africans were forced to lie and sleep on the Middle Passage, in conditions of utter horror that defy description,” he said.
“No matter what the intention of the founders of the recent fad, there is a connection to the slave trade and it is a painful one,” Rediker said while also commenting on “the flatt, stiff arrangements of bodies on boards” or planks.
On July 28th, fans gathered at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere for the documentary “Electronic Daisy Carnival Experience” about the annual electronic music festival. When the crowd became too large, people began spilling into the street and police were called on to the scene to control the increasingly chaotic situation. During the standoff, a group of fans planked in a row in front of the police:
Chris Brown’s Tweet Controversy
On August 16th, 2011, American R&B performer Chris Brown referenced planking in a tweet which read: “No more planking for me unless it’s on a sexy lady! Lol.” That same day, Fox News commentator Andy Levy retweeted it and added a reference to Brown’s 2008 domestic violence case where he allegedly beat his girlfriend and fellow performer Rihanna.
You spelled “punching” wrong. RT
@chrisbrown: No more planking for me unless it’s on a sexy lady! Lol
— Andy Levy (@andylevy) August 17, 2011
After being inundated with angry tweets from Chris Brown fans, Andy made a sarcastic apology during a segment on Fox News on August 18th, 2011. The video was posted to Reddit, and the Daily What on August 19th, 2011.
Video Game Planking
On August 30th, 2011, the blog Slactory posted an article titled “Virtual Planking: Video Games Go Face Down” with a compilation of planking examples from various video games inspired by a hipster e-honda planking image. The author discovered examples of planking avatars and video game character from Call of Duty, The Sims, Minecraft, Halo, and World of Warcraft.
Anti-Planking Act in the Philippines
On September 19th, Quezon city’s representative Winston Castelo filed a bill called the “Anti-Planking Act of 2011,” which would serve as a “universal code of student” conduct and strictly prohibit planking “as a form of redress of grievance” during street protests. The bill further recommends proper sanctions and specifically target “bona fide” students, whether they attend universities or elementary schools.
The proposal of “Anti-Planking Act” was first introduced by Castelo in 2010, following several news reports about safety hazards surrounding the global photo fad. The bill mostly remained inactive for over a year until September 19th, 2011, when a group of students were seen planking in the capital city of Manila during the nationwide transport strike over high oil prices. According to the local news reports, Castelo’s renewed initiative has been reported as a direct response to the Filippino planking protesters.
“This picture read in newspapers or posted in the Internet might evolve into a new mindset that just might go viral or very contagious,” Castelo said, according to the Star Sun. “Let it be nipped in the bud.” The Manila Police District also supported Castelo’s motion by issuing a warning that all future planking sessions may be broken up and participants will be detained if they pose danger to public safety.
The news of “Anti-Planking Act” was syndicated by a number of English-language news publications, including Washington Post, Sun Star and The Independent among others. Sunday New York Times Magazine’s comics section also poked sarcasm at the Filipino legislation by listing “planking” as one of the activities one should avoid when rioting.
On December 8th, 2011, The Smoking Gun published an article about two teeanger brothers, Wisconsin residents Alexander and Ryan Hart, who had been criminally charged after the Manitowoc police department discovered photos and video of their planking exploits that had been uploaded to the Internet.
Judge Steven Olson fined Hart $303 for his “planking” escapades, which were photographed by his brother Ryan, who himself faces a disorderly conduct trial next week. Ryan Hart apparently upset cops by lying across a police memorial monument in front of the county jail. An officer compared the act to going to a cemetery and “planking” atop a gravestone.
The story was reported by MSNBC writer Helen A.S. Popkin on December 9th, 2011, who noted that Hart attempted to claim the images were fabricated.
Approached individually by the police, both Alexander Hart, 19 and Ryan Hart, 21, first claimed the photos were Photoshopped before finally fessing up.
The Independent – Twitter index: Demi Lovato release ‘Unbroken,’ Anti-Planking Act