About 95 percent of the time, I’m a sensible decision-maker. I check to see what Consumer Reports thinks is best and buy that product, subscribe to that service or decry that predatory entity. When it comes to matters of the wallet, independent thinking is overrated.
The other five percent of the time, my deeply ingrained stupidhead instinct kicks in and, always regrettably, I improvise. For instance, the fact that I share a first name with the guy I hired to do some landscaping work and that his wife shares a first name with my wife does not have any bearing on his proficiency as a craftsman. I did not learn this lesson the hard way and there is not a mountain of abandoned mulch occupying my yard right now.
I bring up the notion of rational decision-making in the wake of viewing “A World’s First,” a video showcasing, at least in theory, the wares of Dutch clothier Van Gils. The clip features “Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson, a Beckham-looking dude clad in Beckham-grade wares, hanging out with wild lions in Africa. In the voiceover, he preaches a message of conservation (Africa’s lions, he tells us, have been poached inhumanely and driven towards the fringes of their narrowing habitat). In the clip’s penultimate moments - the most novel and viral-worthy ones in the eyes of its creators, judging by the subtitle of “Kevin Richardson playing football with wild lions” - he finds a way to make his furry pals nose around a ball in a manner that suggests soccer.
The guy is wearing a suit. I presume it’s a Van Gils suit. Maybe it’s nice. Maybe it’s not. I can’t pass judgment, because LIONS.
Lions! Plural! The dude is running around with untamed lions! He is playing with lions for our voyeuristic gratification. He provokes them. He gives one a full-contact body massage. This is some serious Gladiator-grade s--t.
Am I the only person who thinks “A World’s First” amounts to one of the most reckless stunts ever executed in the name of brand advancement? Richardson can rhapsodize all he wants about his long history with lions - “I call them, feed them, hug them and sleep with them - but most of all, I take care of them,” he says, his voice thick with emotion - but the species generally isn’t known for its sense of mercy. Steve Irwin used to get along swell with sting rays, too, right up until the moment he didn’t.
That’s my way of saying that this is the closest brush any brand video has had with the snuff-film subgenre, and that the lions amount to the den-mother of all distractions. When Richardson is flashing his sartorial resplendence for the camera, I see chomp-happy lions. When Richardson is talking about conservation challenges and the importance of letting lions be lions, yo, I see wee beady eyes that pulse with murderous intent. When Richardson tosses out a few soccer balls and plays the part of overzealous referee, I see predatory beasts lining up a clean shot at his femoral artery.
Another problem with a stunt like this: Rather than casting its featured brand/product/protagonist in a positive light, it raises a whole bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with the brand/product/protagonist. Here, verbatim, are the questions I scribbled down after my first viewing of the clip:
How does one become a lion whisperer? Are there schools that offer graduate-level study in lion-whispering? Was Richardson such a lonely child that he actively sought out the company of mega-felines? Does Richardson have a will and, if so, does it terminate all bequests to the wildlife sanctuary that bears his name if he happens to meet his end at the hands of a lion? Why not focus one’s whispering skills on parakeets or celebrities? If one lion is on a train heading west from Chicago at 60 miles per hour and another is on a train heading east from San Francisco at 45 miles per hour, at what point do the lions rise up and make soup out of the throats of their human overlords?
The point: You can’t stick wild lions in a brand video and have that video be about anything other than mauling scenarios. As a result, the makers of “A World’s First” come off as borderline ignorant about how their little project will be received. It’s about the soccer and the conservation just like “Stairway to Heaven” is about the mechanics of upward ethereal conveyance.
The guy is braver than I am (as, for that matter, are most schoolchildren and terrestrial flora). Good for him. He can frolic with his lions. I’ll stick to my remote controls and guitars.
Lions, man. Lions.