Prank – United States of America

For this prank to work, you need a bunch of people in a room, but one of them needs to be a sleeping, unsuspecting victim. All at once, everyone screams, someone shines a light in the now-awake person’s face, and then someone else hits them really hard on the face with a pillow.

My friend Michael first learned this prank from some friends at his high school about two years ago. He’s never been a victim of this prank, but his friends who told him about this prank have pulled this prank on someone else. The setting was a bunch of guys staying over at someone’s house, and the first person asleep was subjected to the prank. The main purpose of the prank is to startle the individual.

Based on what Michael told me, this would probably be a pretty funny prank to witness: someone is sleeping peacefully, when all of a sudden he or she is jolted awake by a very loud noise, then is overcome with confusion as a bright light shines in his or her face and he or she is hit with a pillow. The victim’s facial expressions (and startled yelps) are most likely quite humorous. It is also probably embarrassing for the victim. If this prank is a standard procedure for someone who goes to sleep first when there are a lot of people around, then high value is doubtless placed on being able to stay awake. To fall asleep would be to bear the punishment via this prank of having been the first to succumb to slumber. Staying awake would contribute to a sense of pride, especially since this is performed by a group of people: who is able to stay awake the longest? Who is tough enough to avoid giving in to sleep?

Although this prank is relatively mild, there are some violent elements in it: loud noise, bright light, getting hit in the face…not a peaceful way to wake up. I had never heard of this prank before Michael told me about it. Perhaps its violence is linked to a masculine pattern of participation? Stereotypically, males are associated with more aggressive behavior; perhaps males are more familiar with this kind of prank than are females. However, this is not to say that the violence of this prank makes it unique to males—rather than the fact I’m female, it could be that I’ve never heard of it before due to regional differences (Michael grew up on California, I grew up in Washington), or just the fact that my circle of friends never happened to encounter this particular prank before. I do think it would be interesting to see if this prank is more commonly observed among males, and if the prank’s aggressiveness contributes to this.