Photo: Jimmy Kimmel's Halloween prank video via YouTube
You know who’s super gullible? Kids. They’re innocent and naïve, and tend to believe in things like fairies and unicorns and monsters under the bed (the latter of which could still be real IMO). And because they’re sweet and gullible, they’re easy to fool.
We fool our kids all the time, if you think about it. We weave tall tales about Santa and the Easter Bunny. We tell them “10 more minutes” when we really we mean two. We eat chocolate in front of them and inform them it’s beer-flavoured.
We also—some of us anyway—convince them we’ve eaten all their Halloween candy, record their grief, and post it online for strangers to see. Gosh, kids are so gullible! ROTFL.
Except… I’m not really laughing at that last one.
I’m talking about the annual Jimmy Kimmel stunt, where the late night ABC talk show host encourages parents to tell their children they’ve eaten all the Halloween candy, record the reactions (rage, tears, sometimes swearing and mild violence), and send the clips into the show. Jimmy's been urging parents do this for the past seven years now.
Participating parents, obviously, think it’s all in good fun. I think it’s awful.
Right about now, dozens (hundreds?) of readers are currently rolling their eyes at me. “It’s a joke,” you’re saying. “Kids are emotional, and you have to laugh at that sometimes.”
Ya, we have to laugh at our kids—to an extent. We laugh when they call piggy banks “money pigs.” Or when they dress themselves in a bathing suit to go sledding. Or even when they have a meltdown in the grocery store because the ice cream is “too cold.”
But the Jimmy Kimmel candy con isn’t about capturing and sharing hilarious, unscripted kid moments. It’s about pranking children for the sole purpose of eliciting a meltdown. It’s about making them the butt of a joke, and exploiting their lack of self-control.
See how this maybe crosses a line?
The kids in the Jimmy Kimmel prank typically erupt in anguish and rage because they truly believe, in their hearts, that something terrible has happened to them: Their coveted candy is gone. Worse, it was taken by the person they’re supposed to trust most. What difference does it make if we all know, behind the scenes, that this tragedy never really happened? Their sorrow and heartbreak is real.
Sure, it’s just Halloween candy. They’re not being pranked that their cat has died. But the nature of the prank is not the point. It’s the fact that it happened in the first place. Those little people think they’ve been betrayed by an adult who teaches them every day not to steal, not to take things that aren’t theirs, to share, and to be thoughtful and kind. They can’t regulate their emotions on the best of days, and their parents are using that temper and gullibility against them. What an unnecessary violation of trust.
Nobody wants to be deceived and mocked, especially from someone in a position of power or authority, someone we love, someone we trust. Little kids look forward to Halloween—and that sweet, sweet candy—all year long. To take that away from them (even in jest) and then laugh at their heart ache is just mean.
Think about that this year, before hitting play on the latest Jimmy Kimmel candy shenanigans.
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