If you said to somebody a few months ago that they’d spot Britain’s worst serial killer Howard Shipman in the crowd at an NRL match they probably would have called for your psychiatric certification. For starters the notorious GP, who is said to be responsible for the deaths of some 250 people, died in 2004.
Nevertheless when TV broadcasts of the Rugby League restarted a few weeks ago, there was Howard – albeit a cardboard cutout sitting alongside a few hundred other cardboard cutouts. With crowds banned at the stadiums, the NRL had introduced a unique promotion where diehard fans could have a cutout of themselves positioned in the front rows of the stands for the princely sum of $22. Some prankster had obviously slipped the horrendously evil Howard in for a bit of a laugh.
The one dimensional fans have been vocalised with canned crowd noises which have certainly added to the excitement of the game. It’s just one way media in the COVID-19 world have tried to recreate the old normalcy. As restrictions are gradually lifted and limited crowds allowed back into sporting and cultural events, this virtual reinforcement will no doubt dissipate. However, there is a lot to be learnt from this type of innovation that could well be incorporated into the uncertain future that awaits us all.
Comedy clubs and festivals always feature lots of hearty laughter, gaping mouths and nasty droplets of saliva firing in all directions. With a new regime of hygiene in place punters could be encouraged to keep their traps shut and activate their level of mirth on an easily downloadable smartphone app. The app would generate appropriate levels of canned digital laughter through the central PA system. It would of course be susceptible to manipulation from comedians, those not very funny to begin with, who could easily create a cacophony of hilarity with some really shithouse jokes.
These days it’s not so easy to entice TV viewers to become part of a studio audience on various panel and light entertainment shows. Nobody is giving every member of the audience a car like Oprah once did and who wants to sit through an endless stream of boring infomercials. Cardboard cut outs would not work, but holygrams would. Tune into the ABC’s Q&A in six months time and half the audience could be laser beam extras, even programmed to ask a carefully rehearsed question.
Holygrams could be a high tech solution but I would hate to see the company making the old style cardboard cutouts go out of business. A lot of sporting events never sell out and there are always fans in remote areas who can’t travel to the actual ground. Having a symbolic one dimensional presence is certainly a show of support for your much lovde team. The NRL for example just needs to adopt a screening process with a list of undesirables that they don’t want mingling with the family friendly crowd.
Howard Shipman is naturally banned for life along with Hitler, Pol Pot. Attila The Hun, Rolf Harris, Ted Bundy, Gary Glitter, Charles Manson, Stalin, the Kray Twins, Roger Rogerson, John Wayne Gacy, Jack The Ripper, Nicolae Ceausescu – the list goes on forever!