Whether or not you liked Bird Box, Netflix’s apocalyptic December 2018 movie about an unseen phenomenon that drives people that witness it into suicidal or homicidal madness, it’s turned into a terrible meme. Mimicking a pivotal sequence from the movie in which several survivors make a perilous journey while blindfolded, people are making ill-advised viral “Bird Box Challenge” videos in which they do the same.
In addition to turning people with actual blindness into a punch line, it’s incredibly easy to see how taken to its inevitable extreme, this could result in preventable injury. Netflix itself has warned against the stunt, tweeting that Boy and Girl, two characters from the movie, “have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.” Leave it to massively popular and perennially reckless YouTube star Jake Paul (who reportedly made $US21.5 ($30) million in revenue from the site last year) to ignore that advice and common sense, and upload a video in which he appeared to go straight to that extreme.
Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.
— Netflix US (@netflix) January 2, 2019
Per the Verge, Paul published what he described as a 24-hour version of the challenge on Monday. This entailed blundering around annoying strangers and having Paul wander into a shallow pond, but also a segment in which Paul at least appears to drive a vehicle around his Calabasas estate while blindfolded. The California DMV apparently did not anticipate this scenario enough to include it in their online list of “Things You Must Not Do” while driving, but it’s unclear whether this is legal. The video also includes another segment where Paul and another YouTuber wandered across a busy thoroughfare as drivers who did not appear to have been in on the joke went past him or stopped, honking.
In the section where Paul and a cohort wandered into traffic, the two leave the road before another shouts “That’s not funny, all right? That’s not funny!” However, it is abundantly clear from the dramatic music that accompanies the clip and the fact that they uploaded it to YouTube that Paul and his crew do consider it funny, and in a subsequent section of the video they again cross traffic while accompanied by an un-blindfolded third YouTuber.
The Verge noted that the only disclaimer runs in tiny text at the bottom of the video, claiming that everything took place in a “controlled environment”:
“Please be warned (and we cannot possibly stress this enough); under no circumstances should any challenges, stunts, or pranks be attempted by any of our viewers,” the disclaimer reads. “All challenges, stunts, and pranks are performed by trained professionals in a controlled environment with proper safety measures taken, and are for entertainment purposes only! Again, do not try this at home!”
Look, no one likes to be a scold. But this is a low bar. Assuming that those segments of the video weren’t somehow staged, they were incredibly dangerous—not just for Paul and his willing fellow YouTubers, but for people they put at risk of a vehicular accident. They were also a glaringly obvious violation of YouTube’s rules, which state:
We draw the line at Content that intends to incite violence or encourage dangerous or illegal activities that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death... Videos that we consider encouraging dangerous or illegal activities include, among other things, instructional bomb making, choking games, hard drug use, or other acts where serious injury may result.
Regardless of whether or not the stunts were staged, Paul has often described himself as popular with viewers ages 8 to 16. Morons do come in all ages, so let’s hope none of them are dumb enough to try and copycat Paul.
As Fast Company noted , YouTube has previously removed “Tide Pod Challenge” videos featuring people... eating Tide Pods, saying that they were a violation of these policies. However, it only appears to have removed Bird Box-themed videos that involved blindfolded children being led around by blindfolded parents, the site wrote. According to The Verge, Paul’s video was made subject to age restriction after they published an article on the stunt—meaning it is ineligible for ad revenue—but it is unclear what, if any, further actions the company has taken. (YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Gizmodo, and we’ll update this post if we hear back.)
This is far from Paul’s only controversy, a list that has included allegations of emotional bullying and racial harassment, loading his videos with ads targeted at children, using the N-word in “freestyling” rap videos, and infuriating other Los Angeles residents with antics that allegedly included burning piles of furniture in his pool. There is no indication that the list will stop growing anytime soon.