COMMENTARY | You may have heard about the Australian DJs who, a few days ago, duped some nurses into thinking they were the Queen and Prince Charles checking on Kate Middleton’s condition. While on-air, they got a nurse who answered the call to transfer it to the floor, and then a second nurse “updated” the DJs on Middleton’s status.
Hilarious, right? Well, I didn’t think so either, and it just got even less funny. Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who originally took the call, has been found dead of an apparent suicide.
I’ve never understood the purpose of a “practical joke.” Basically, you set a person up to laugh at him or her, and most of the time, it seems the point is to make sure a lot of people witness it. It’s naked cruelty tarted up and dressed as humor, but most of the time, for the target, it’s simply not funny.
In this case, this woman was humiliated world-wide. How could she be duped? The DJs themselves claimed to be mystified as they called their attempts at British accents “terrible.”
I’d only heard a bit of it, played on another show, and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out where the laughs were supposed to be. Preying on the helpfulness, the kindness, the accommodation of others hardly seems like an admirable quality, let alone something to be showcased on international media.
If the nurses involved hadn’t been empathetic, and hadn’t understood the concern people have when a family member is in the hospital — regardless of station — this “prank” wouldn’t have worked. If these nurses hadn’t put their sympathy above their rationality, this “prank” wouldn’t have worked.
But they did, and one was apparently so acutely pained by what happened that she could not seem to live with it.
When did we start making abject bullying a plus? The truth is that these “pranks” rely solely upon the embarrassment of the target. And far from being funny, the reaction is basically a relief that it’s not you.
But it is someone. Every single person these DJs may have “pranked” is someone, someone who has to deal with the aftermath of a radio bit for which she never signed up. Every single person is someone who has to decide if she can smile and try to act like she can play along, or if the global nature of what happened is too much to bear.
For Jacintha Saldanha, it seems it was too much to bear.
These DJs aren’t the first to pull this kind of stunt. But maybe it’s time to consider whether they should be the last.