Blacker Friday

cracked.com tears my worldview asunder once again.

It turns out Black Friday didn’t originally refer to accounting (the first day the business ledger balanced in the black when debts, deficits and negative balances are written in red ink). In the 1960s Black Friday was the law-enforcement term for the day after Thanksgiving due to heavy car and foot traffic (and the elevated incident-rate that follows) while tryptophan-hungover officers were wishing they, themselves, could be off work like all the rest of these damn people. But then it turns out Black Friday isn’t either the crowdiest shopping day (necessarily) nor particularly violent for the crowds. Our press just like reporting Black Friday violence in contrast to all the other incidents that happen in retail the rest of the year.

After Black Friday shenanigans of recent years, what has been reported in news as featuring baseball bats and pepper spray (and, curiously, Xboxes), I figured we were slowly moving towards an era of Thunderdome-style cage-matches and grand mêlée (mêlées?) in which merchandise (free or on-the-cheap)* would be on display in designated, segregated arenas. Shoppers would be invited to come get their stuff, if they can get it out.

The whole spectacle would be recorded and shown on cable television or released on Youtube and serve, much like tabloid television, as a way to get people to make fools — and criminals — of themselves before the viewing public. Also, cheap shows and free advertising!

It turns out that no, we are much more civil than I thought on Black Friday. We’re also much less civil than I thought throughout the rest of the year.

It still would make a great premise for a movie or game, though.

If it was a saga that took place over multiple black fridays (a la The Duelists, 1977) we could watch how the arena changes. Sometimes laws would be suspended in the fight zones. Sometimes they wouldn’t be. Sometimes it would be strictly no-weapons-allowed. Sometimes it would be bring-your-own. Sometimes weapons would line the walls. Sometimes lethal weapons would line the walls, even though the police still promised to uphold assault and murder laws.

Sometimes the law wouldn’t care. Once you enter the match, your life is forfeit, so don’t be stupid. Other times the chief would announce Black Friday and cheap stuff are not justification for violence. If you assault someone else on Black Friday — in an arena or out — you will still be charged with assault, battery, manslaughter, or even murder if we have grounds.

Shoppers would fight anyway. Once humans have it in their mind that they’ve earned a thing, they’ll fight with their very lives to keep it.

So Black Friday would turn ultimately turn into a mini-Purge.** It might even feature commentators noting the primary victims of Black Friday are poor people desperate enough for some consumer-happiness to risk their lives. Some people show at the arenas looking less to get their item and go, and more to beat others who try. Rumors fly that companies are hiring ringers to escalate the violence. (The first year a ringer appeared, it was a rival company trying to spoil the event. Ever since then hosting companies hire their own ringers because more violence draws viewership.)

Of course, incidents in which people died wouldn’t get aired, rather the video would escape containment into black markets and the darknet, and those bits would become cult classics. Black Friday murder equates (so believe company execs) to record sales, and that would herald the golden age of Black Friday.

Black Friday 2: Gold Friday.

* This is how I figure they’d do it: Make a coupon that looks like the boxed merchandise and has about the same weight. Once the participant successfully escapes the match, he can use the box, if relatively intact, as a coupon to purchase the item at the sale price. If we wanted to avoid scorched-earth tactics, free items could be offered the same way, so that the real boxed item doesn’t have to risk getting destroyed in the fight zone.

** I hear this is the better Purge film. I haven’t seen either.

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