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20:28

Masks Behind Water and Ice

Right now, you’re probably rolling your eyes as it dawns on you that this is yet another blog post on the topic of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Me too. But after I finally gave in, I discovered something interesting in these videos.

I was annoyed by the Ice Bucket Challenge before I even watched any of the videos. I thought “What’s this ridiculous, childish crap everyone keeps annoying me with?!”, but then I saw that Joss Whedon did it too. I am a big fan of Joss Whedon, even though not everything he does is as good as it probably could be. From my experience, however, his short videos on YouTube always have an exceptionally hilarious twist, even if they might start out seriously sincere. Thus, when I saw his tweet “What’s peer pressure?” with a link to his video of the challenge, I watched it. And it did make me laugh a lot, silly as it was.

When watching Joss’ video, I finally also learned for the first time that the Ice Bucket Challenge is not actually just a stupid peer pressure thing, but something with some sort of purpose. It came into being as raising awareness for ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle spasticity, weakness and difficulty in speaking, swallowing and breathing. Due to the attention generated by the ice bucket challenge, tons of money have already been donated mostly to an ALS organisation in the US.

However, the due to the ice bucket challenge, a lot of negative attention has also been directed to some organisations, such as alsa.org – which apparently uses unethical methods for testing treatments. An even bigger issue though is the California drought. Many of the celebrities doing the Ice Bucket Challenge live in California and are directly affected by the drought, the severity of which can be seen in these before-after pictures. However, none of those celebrities seem to have any regrets about wasting an entire bucket of water just to shoot a video. Actually, quite a few of them appear to have a pool in their backyard and just jump in there after having been soaked in ice water. What’s a drought if you have lots of money, I guess?

One of my favorite persons, however, did it right: Neil Gaiman. In his exceptional, very long video, he not only explained a lot about ALS, but he also addressed the drought and found a solution to not waste water: he just went to the beach and used sea water.

Though I’m not quite sure if that bucket actually had ice in it… And here’s one of the reasons on which the Ice Bucket Challenge is very revealing: it reveals a lot about the people who are doing it. One of my biggest causes for facepalming when watching Ice Bucket Challenge videos is seeing people use just ice, just water, or water that has had put ice in it like two seconds before the bucket was applied to the person. That’s clearly not a challenge, as Chris Evans also realized:

Now that was a proper pneumonia-inducing Ice Bucket Challenge! While Chris took it like a properly experienced Captain America, one other celebrity makes the coldness of this challenge most obvious so far: Felicia Day. Just look at that poor woman shivering like crazy while her brother is being hilariously cruel to her:

This challenge is really nothing to do during the winter. A hot shower afterwards is definitely a must, as Benedict Cumberbatch so graphically illustrated in my favorite Ice Bucket Challenge video so far:

His video is also one of the more creative ones. One of the forerunners of Ice Bucket Challenge creativeness was Bill Gates, who in his video builds a contraption to release the bucket:

But this video is also revealing: it reveals that Bill Gates likes to use Comic Sans. What does this say about Bill Gates and what the hell should I think of him now?!

By far the most creative video I have seen until now, however, is that of Aussie actor Liam McIntyre (“Spartacus”). He shot a whole little short film, opening with words like “I’m not doing this stupid challenge” and “I resent the peer pressure!”

Videos like Liam’s are a welcoming sight after having seen so many bad, sometimes even horribly embarrassing Ice Bucket Challenge videos by celebrities. Some celebs don’t even bother to mention ALS or who nominated them or who should be next… they just upload a 5 second video of them turning a bucket over themselves. Watching someone doing that – the process of holding a bucket, raising it over their own head and upturning it, is in itself a fascinating concept. It goes against all common sense and just seems unbelievably stupid – like something from an old slapstick film. And no matter how many of these videos I watch, it’s always that moment when I think “This is so ridiculous!”.

But what follows after is the most enthralling revelation of all: seeing people drop their masks. All people who I have watched doing this challenge were professional masks-wearers: actors who earn their money by pretending to be someone else. During the majority of their videos, they act as their usual public persona. However, in the moment they are hit with ice cold water, their body gains control over their mind. Observing these reactions gives an insight into who these people really are underneath – or, considering Benedict Cumberbatch’s excellent video, the extend of their talent as an actor.

Watching videos of the Ice Bucket Challenge is a pot luck: you will never know if you will enjoy or regret watching one of these videos. They either leave you doing a serious facepalm, or they will leave you rolling on the floor laughing. I suppose the best thing to do is just stop watching them altogether, but now that I’ve started, I’m afraid there is no turning back. Damn you, Joss Whedon!

It’s obvious that something quite powerful is happening considering that is has people of fame and fortune making an idiot of themselves. However, I wonder if the cause that sparked this is the right one. I don’t want to say that ALS doesn’t deserve attention – I just wonder why something like this hasn’t happened for even more serious causes. Why wasn’t there a flood of videos raising awareness of the depression after Robin Williams’ death. Or why there isn’t a flood of videos protesting [insert any current war]. Or videos protesting racism and it’s effects? Orlando Jones has the right idea:

What a powerful twist. But I assume people prefer something remote and funny, even if it’s only remotely funny. To bring this little ramble to a less depressing end, I would like to introduce you to the one person who did the Ice Bucket Challenge absolutely right: Sir Patrick Stewart.

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