Occupation: Sales representative and finisher for wood-flooring company
Residence: Vail, CO
Date of Performance/Collection: April 18, 2021
Primary Language: English
Informant: They chained a bowling ball to my leg… With a––with a, like chain. And I just kept telling them they had to remember not to push me in the pool that night… And they put me in a 12-year-old’s Superman costume. Like literally stuffed me into it, and everything was so far up my freaking crotch. So I was walking around the streets of Vegas in this Superman costume with a bowling ball chained to my leg. Like a ten- or twelve-pounder… Wasn’t like a kid’s ball.
INFORMANT’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE PIECE:
Informant: It’s what’s expected, you know…? Especially with my friends, there’s always that… I think it boils down to just playfulness? Like close through playfulness, you know. Giving each other a hard time, teasing each other, playing a prank on each other. Um… ‘Cause we know that we can. We’re so close that we can do it to each other without it, you know, offending anybody or, you know, somebody taking it the wrong way, or, you know… I think it symbolizes… At least in my group of friends, like you know… You know that when… You’re stuffed into a Superman costume that you’re part of the crew. You know? And everybody’s having a good time at your expense, and everyone––and you’re okay with that. Cause it’s… It’s going to be somebody else’s turn at some point.
Bachelor parties are a transitional period where a man is neither married nor single. He is on the threshold of becoming a husband. Bachelor parties often involve pranks at the groom’s expense, as practical jokes mark initiations into new identities. In International Folkloristics: Classic Contributions by the Founders of Folklore, Géza Róheim writes that there is a “tendency to punish the main actor of the drama,” with the groomsmen and bridesmaids “abreacting their Oedipal revolt in humorous, permissible form, against the new ‘father’-to-be” (273). Across cultures, the groom is clowned at the hands of the young people involved in the wedding party; he is being teased before entering his new, serious role as a man (which in some societies or families may entail becoming a patriarch, father, breadwinner, and head of the household).
In this specific case, pranks also showcase a closeness amongst the friends involved. The informant is part of a playful group of people who reveal their trust in one another through pranks. Being involved in the pranks demonstrates that you are part of the “in-group”––that you have earned their trust, and that you trust them––that they know you will respond to the prank in a certain manner (by finding it amusing and not upsetting). By pranking the informant, the men are not only marking the groom’s transition from bachelor to husband, but celebrating him as one of their own––he is still considered a part of the group, despite transitioning into a new identity.
Source cited above:
Róheim, Géza. “Wedding Ceremonies in European Folklore.” International Folkloristics: Classic Contributions by the Founders of Folklore, by Alan Dundes, Rowman & Littlefield, 1999, pp. 243–274.