On Netflix‘s recent reality shows Magic for Humans, host and magician Justin Willman brings magic to everyday situations – one such being where he convinces an adult member of the public that he’s able to turn them invisible.
The trick was innocent enough, until American YouTube star David Dobrik turned it into a prank to play on a friend’s younger brother; a child who appears to be between 10 – 13 years of age.
Broadcasting it to his almost nine million subscribers, Dobrik’s video quickly achieved viral status, with 16 million views on Twitter and another five million on YouTube. Naturally, it’s spawned thousands of copycat videos – mostly of people tricking children in their own family.
— Justin Willman (@Justin_Willman) September 9, 2018
The prank is straightforward, and relies on the innocence of the target, than it does on any sort of magic. The prankster covers the target with a sheet, pretends to cast a spell of some sort, and removes the cover. Then, the prankster pretends to be shocked that the target is now “invisible” – when very clearly, they aren’t.
The clincher is that the prankster has already taken a photo of the situation without the child, to convince them that they in fact cannot be seen. After the sheet has been removed, the family pretends to take a photo with the child – but they’re actually using the previously taken picture.
The target then freaks out, believing themselves to be truly invisible. In the cases involving children, but often amongst the adult targets, too, there’s invariably terror, a tantrum, and tears.
And, voilà, the prank is a ‘success’ – at the emotional cost to the target.
Here’s Dobrik’s video:
In the footage, the young boy’s surprise that the ‘cloak of invisibility’ worked quickly turns to horror and sadness when he realises he was simply being fooled by everyone in the room.
He begins to cry, and later admits, “I was scared the whole time that no one could hear me”, adding that being invisible wasn’t as fun as he thought it would be.
As the video nears the end, the child still looks sad whilst the adults around him continue with their raucous laughter. It’s actually a little heartbreaking.
Here’s more examples of the prank in action, where the target is deeply unsettled:
If youre having a bad day, you should definitely open this????????????♀️ pic.twitter.com/kw25xbcLOx
— julissa ???? (@yulissac48) September 6, 2018
well that escalated quickly pic.twitter.com/pSMBMwILZX
— makayla cunningham☕️ (@_makaylaanne__) September 8, 2018
Psychiatrist Dr Raji Guterres, who has more than fifteen years’ experience in managing patients with mental health issues, told Mamamia that parents should be careful with the prank, because it could be dangerous to some children.
“The point of the prank seems to be to make the target scared and worried – relying on the trust they have in the people around them,” she said.
“Sure, it’s a joke, but the humour relies on laughing at the chid.”
Concerned for children who may already have some form of anxiety, Dr Guterres asks parents to consider the nature of the child – and their chances of accepting the prank as a joke.
“If you have a younger kid who already feels insignificant or unheard in the family, for them to then be made to feel invisible as well, that could be an issue, if they don’t understand in that moment that the situation is not permanent.”
Dr Guterres also warns that whilst in the moment of revelation children might be fine, later on, they may feel hurt or humiliated that they were taken advantage of so easily.
“The final consideration is if you have a child who doesn’t enjoy being the centre of attention. Think about how they will feel knowing they weren’t in fact invisible, but all of the attention was on them the entire time – especially if you then post the video online.”