Why do slam clips get such rad viewing figures? Is it good old slapstick fun or is risk and danger part of the reason we love watching pro snowboarding so much?
In the next issue of the magazine (out next Thursday 26th September) we have a super interesting interview with Lucy Walker, the director of The Crash Reel, a new documentary centred on US snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who was all set to beat Shaun White to gold ahead of the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver when he crashed in the half pipe and almost died. You can watch Kevin Pearce discuss the movie and his life before and after the crash here but be warned it shows unsettling footage of the slam (which is why we’re linking rather than embedding the clip). This shot alone of him after the crash is bad enough right?
But what’s good about the film is that its director Lucy Walker isn’t a core snowboarder so she brings an insightful outsider’s perspective to the mountain, as shown by this quote [extracted from the latest issue]:
I chose to call the film The Crash Reel to confront “head on” this culture of the spectacle of glamorous crashes. Every athlete and actions sports film company has their own “crash reel”, a compilation of the goriest crashes that prove enormously popular on youtube. It was hard for us to work on the scene in our movie with all the crashes, but I wanted to show what exactly these sports can result in, and how popular these crashes are. But instead of having one quick, glamorous crash, I wanted to show the whole entire story of a crash — Kevin’s crash. Kevin’s goal in making the movie was to raise awareness of what risks his friends are running. He loves the sport and wouldn’t want to change it, but he does think snowboarders should know the dangers, and when sponsorship contracts forbid athletes from talking about their injuries, and injured athletes are exiled from the community and not given screen time, there’s a distorted sense that accidents are rarer than they are.
Why do we like watching crashes so much? On mpora, the video hosting site our company also owns, if you search “crash reel” 102 pages of vids come up with 12 clips a page so that’s um over 1000 videos and presumably there are hundreds of others tagged under different terms like bail, slam, yard sale, rag doll and so on.
And my feminist antenna could be picking up the wrong signals here but I also wonder if there isn’t a slightly weird gender dimension to it all. The dudes at our brother site Onboard are always making quips and posting clips of girls slamming and the vids seem to do pretty well traffic wise. Does the viewer lead the site or the site lead the viewer?
Plus I often wonder why girls’ clips frequently open with a slam section whereas guys’ films leave it as something to show while the credits roll. Does it not play into the stereotypes of ‘girl snowboarder tries to make a trick and slams’? Poor thing should have stuck to powder. Though when I mentioned that to the Whitelines guys they thought it was because it subverted the stereotype, as in look these girls slam hard – they’re gnarlier than you’d think and then they make the tricks as well, rad! I see what they’re saying and I like their viewpoint, I’d just rather see the slams tucked at the back with the credits, but then regardless of gender I’d prefer not to see slams anyway.
Call me lame but I don’t love snowboarding because it’s extreeeeme or because I’m thinking the person I’m watching, or even me when I’m riding, could die any second, I’d like it way less if those thoughts bothered my head. Whatever film and rock star romanticisers (is that a word?) may say who the hell wants to die before they’re old? Or watch someone awesome with so much to give die far too young like Sarah Burke? I see the risk as a dark but inevitable evil trade off from doing the sport you love, the endorphins come from the nature and the motion and the physical sensation of board on snow, they’re not part of the attraction. Well not for me anyway.
But enough of me rambling on, what do you think? Are slams just funny in a slapstick kinda way? Or is the risk and gnarliness what makes you watch pro snowboarding? Am I a sap? Have I missed any typos!?