6 Silly Teen Fads That Nearly Brought About The Apocalypse
Television is not the most accurate way to learn about what's going on with young people. Turn on the evening news, and you'll likely be bombarded with panicked reports about teenagers throwing rainbow parties, pouring vodka into their eyeballs, or tracking their fiber levels by constantly sending each other Snapchats of their poop (the last one is made up, but barely). It's not surprising, then, that the strangely haircutted TV news anchors of the past got social trends just as wrong. For example, they thought ...
Dungeons & Dragons Was A Portal to Murder Power
It was 1985, and a trend was sweeping the nation, leaving a trail of crushed hairspray cans and broken Rubik's Cubes in its path. All over North America, teenage boys had started huddling in dark, odoriferous rooms, immersed in a role-playing game known as Dungeons & Dragons. The brave Canadian Broadcasting Corporation bravely decided to enter one of these rooms, and emerged blinking sometime later with this:
If you're currently pooping and don't want your roommates to hear you watching news reports on the toilet, I'll summarize: According to the good Canadian reporters of the CBC, Dungeons & Dragons wasn't just fun and somewhat addictive; it was so detailed, so pants-shittingly real, that it captured and sucked in innocent children's minds, like some sort of giant gelatinous cube.
After all, they tell us, several boys had apparently committed suicide after rounds of Dungeons & Dragons, one after having a "suicide curse" put on his character by a friend. Even more disturbing is the 1984 murder of a young woman by two men, one of whom, Darren Molitor, was a hardcore D&D user. Molitor, according to his lawyer, had been influenced by the game to the extent that his demonic character had somehow taken him over and caused him to kill. And he must have been telling the truth, because what's the other option? That a murderer and his lawyer would just sit there and lie to us?
How could you not trust this man?
It's been over 30 years since the Canadians tried to warn us, and let's face it, Dungeons & Dragons hasn't quite lived up to the hype. Murders committed by young men dressed as paladins remain at relatively low levels, and despite the reality-bending realism of the game, players have failed to invent a single real dragon. In fact, now that media fears about Satanism have receded, the game has lost even the grudging respect that comes with fear. Back in the '80s, D&D players were seen as ticking time bombs, bound at any moment to explode and start clubbing people to death with a mace they'd made themselves out of Mountain Dew bottles and pointy dice. Today, they're more likely to be regarded as dorks so dorky that they are picked last for math tournaments.
Body Piercing Was The Dangerous New Sex Trend
"What is happening out there?" ask the anchors of UPN News 13, a Los-Angeles-based Fox news affiliate, as they peer into the world of body piercing in the early '90s:
Honestly, it's hard for me to make fun of the reporters' shocked reactions. After all, if you'd never heard of it before, the idea of paying others to stick sterilized needles into one's face and bad-touch areas is kind of bizarre. What's less easy to understand is why the reporters decide that piercing must be a sex thing.
The investigation opens with a clip of a pierced young man saying that piercing is "like an orgasm." Soon after, a reporter interviewing a heavily pierced young woman awkwardly prompts her to talk about how the piercings feel during sex. One male anchor remarks that piercing seems like it's a "very erotic experience," while another informs us that the people he spoke to told him that piercing involved no pain, just "euphoria" and a sensation like "warm water being dumped on your body." Christ, with news coverage like that, it's a surprise that a single unpierced genital remains in America.
Body piercing peaked in the '90s, although it's currently enjoying a popularity boost thanks to the unfortunate resurgence of fashion from that decade. The piercing trend didn't, however, lead to an epidemic of sex fiends orgasming in Claire's. Nor have good American mom-and-pop vibrator stores gone out of business as consumers learn they can achieve endless sexual pleasure via their septum rings.
Be thankful this photo cuts off where it does.
So why was UPN News 13 convinced that sticking sharp pieces of metal into your body was a cause for euphoria? We'll probably never know, but I like to think that the reporters were victims of an epic trolling. Later, I assume, at least one of the anchors visited a piercing parlor to experience the joy for themselves, and then wept like a small child after finding out that somebody shoving a needle through your nipple actually feels like somebody shoving a needle through your nipple.
Emo Was Going To Mutilate And Kill Everybody
Are you ready for an old-school teen phenomenon that "involves self-mutilation and suicide"? Surprisingly, it didn't involve Satan or Satanism. Nope, the Prince of Darkness can go sit this one out -- perhaps spend his time inventing a new kind of paper cut. The thing killing teens all over America was this:
Were you expecting something scarier than emo music? Well, that's where you're wrong, bucko, because nothing is scarier than emo music, and I've got this Utah ABC affiliate report from 2007 to back me up:
The brave investigative reporters hit the streets of Utah, asking parents if they've heard of "emo." One mom calls her son in a panic, interrogates him about the subject, then asks why he'd never told her about it. I don't know, Mom, maybe because you just wouldn't understand? We learn that "advanced emo kids" cut themselves, and that the next level after that inevitably involves suicide, because the only career path after graduating from emo college is the grave, baby. What else are you going to do? Take off that makeup and get a job?How That Turned Out
Recently, a popular thread on Reddit asked former emo kids from the 2000s how they were currently doing in life. The answers revealed that they had ... taken off their makeup and gotten jobs, for the most part. Those mopey, dye-flecked teenagers grew up to be lab techs, special ed teachers, and marketing consultants. So either the news reports about emo music were just slightly overblown, or emo's murderous powers only worked in Utah. I don't know, is Utah still around? Has anyone checked recently? I guess I'll wait while someone goes and checks.
Breakdancing Was About To Cause An Epidemic Of Sexy Hospitalizations
Back in the 1980s, KWCH 12 out of Wichita, Kansas, warned viewers of a dangerously hip new dancing style:
Breakdancing, known by breakdancing hipsters as B-boying, was taking off. The report features the rampant diversity that can only be seen in a breakdancing team based in Wichita, Kansas:
Health specialists in the report warn viewers that breakdancing moves can damage connective tissue and lead to long-term back issues and arthritis, and recommend that breakdancers wear elbow and knee pads. But the Wichitan breakdancers don't care. They continue breakin' without protection, because "the girls like it." Truly, a dark portent of things to come.
In this case, of course, the Wichitans were completely right. Three decades later, Kansas' health system strains under the costs of the millions of long-term neck injuries caused by irresponsible B-boys. Women are accosted at every street corner by head-spinning white men. The skies darken with the lofty feet of lust-crazed youths, with nary a knee pad in sight. Well, almost. Despite a still-dedicated fanbase, breakdancing faded from the mainstream, although it's currently huge in South Korea. So if you're ever looking to expand your knee pad export business, there's a new market for you.
Video Games Were Breeding Violent Slackers
I don't want to shake your world to its foundations, but America's media sometimes has a problem with video games. Even before they started causing school shootings, these dangerous bundles of pixelated evil were destroying the world in other ways. The video below features two different news reports. In the first segment, we learn that arcade games have popped up all over Boston, and that the city's youth are flocking to them, stepping on several people's lawns in the process. The next segment complains that America's young people are now addicted to one particularly violent game: Mortal Kombat.
At the time of its release, Mortal Kombat was controversial because of a sequence in the game in which you rip your opponent's head off and watch as he vomits a large amount of clams out of his mouth:
Oh wait, that's supposed to be a spinal cord? That's ... almost as disturbing as clams, I guess. The report worries that Mortal Kombat's state-of-the-art graphics might make it hard for children to separate the game's violent fantasy from reality, with one father worried about kids "trying to make it real" when they find themselves in a fight.
I did a quick google search for "American teen rips out a spinal cord," and got nothing except a news report about doctors reattaching a teenager's head after it was almost severed in a car wreck, plus a few old news reports repeating the concern about Mortal Kombat's violent graphics. For some reason, the spinal cord removal trend never took off. Presumably, the youth of the '90s were simply too lazy, and lacked the dedication of previous spine-ripping generations.
Back in their day, they didn't need any "safe spaces" or "Pokemon Go's" to neatly remove a man's vertebrae.
But what about the media's other concerns? Are video games really turning our kids into lazy, dead-eyed hooligans? Today, many kids are making good money and even careers out of games, while the 42 percent of Americans who play video games for at least three hours a week are presumably doing okay. Meanwhile, the majority of America's lawns remain unmolested. On the other hand ...
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The Internet Was Creating A Self-Policing Wonderland
You might assume by now that whenever the media gets something wrong, it gets it wrong in the same way: by exaggerating how scary and dangerous something is. If teenagers tomorrow decided en masse that they were into a harmless habit like cross-stitching, the news channels would light up with warnings about teens stabbing each other with tapestry needles, followed by infographics detailing what to do if your child cross-stitches a picture of a giant penis and shows it to their principal.
Occasionally, however, we see the exact opposite mistake. Look at this 1993 CBC report assuring viewers that this new thing called the "internet" is a bastion of politeness:
The internet is anonymous, the "internet enthusiast" featured in the report tells us, but despite this fact, no one is rude to one another. "There's not a lot of cursing or swearing," he asserts. Although you might expect users to use insults like "go to hell," nobody does, because the internet has a "sense of community." And we believed him. Oh dear god, we believed him.How That Turned Out
Well, this one is easy to check. Let's just go take a look at the internet, and ...
... Yeah, I bet that "internet enthusiast" is doing a lot of drinking these days.
C. Coville has a Twitter here.