Planking: Why do people do it?


Pujie Girls (which translates to Falling on the Street Girls), Karren, left, and Jinyu, pose for a photograph while demonstrating planking on stairs during an interview with Reuters outside a train station in Taipei , May 25. The pair are Taiwan’s most famous plankers. (Nicky Loh/Reuters)

This slogan can be found on a Facebook page that promotes planking, a popular game in which a person lies face down stiff as a board in unusual, and sometimes dangerous, locations and uploads the photos online.

The media, which has called planking a “Web craze,” has been mostly perplexed about why people plank. But the game’s origins as well as videos, photos, and Facebook pages about the game give a clue as to why.

Planking’s beginnings may lie in an infamous movie scene from the 1993 movie The Program, in which the quarterback lies down on the yellow line in the middle of a highway as cars fly past. Teenagers who saw this scene in the trailer tried it themselves to prove their bravery, and several were run over by cars. The scene was later cut from the movie.

According to the Web site KnowYourMeme.com, planking began in 2006, when two British students posted pictures of themselves participating in the “Lying Down Game.”

It has since evolved into a game in which people try to prove who can lie down in the most inventive locations, such as in the Apple Store, on railway tracks, between grocery store shelves, or on quad bikes in Bali.

Many pages for planking are now sure to say that they promote “safe” planking, a nod to the Australian man who fell to his death several weeks ago when trying to plank on an apartment balcony. Commenters on the pages say the Australian man was trying too hard to prove he was brave.

In this video, a boy in an elevator seems to be planking to get laughs from his friends:

On a Facebook page called “Whoa is that guy dead nah-man he’s just planking,” one commenter said: “We do it for adrenaline and for amazement.... Not to commit suicide.” Another commenter showed he just wanted to be considered mature: “I'm 13 and I can do it,” he boasted. Another commenter said she just found it “cool and random.”

The arrival of several other Internet memes that can kill a person and the popularity of the Pujie Girls (pictured above) seem to show planking is all about the risks required to play the game. The Pujie Girls are Taiwanese plankers whose name literally translates to “falling on the street” in Mandarin but is also a pun on the Cantonese curse puk gai, which means “may you drop dead.”

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