I have often been ahead of trends without even trying. First it was karaoke. I had been warbling off-key and butchering the lyrics to sentimental rock ballads decades before bad singing became so popular people decided to do it in public. Then came big butts, which Jennifer Lopez made fashionable in the late 1990s. I was way ahead of her, and I didn’t even need implants. Now it’s the mannequin challenge, an Internet game started by Florida college students who probably should be spending their time in more productive activities, like figuring out how to re-phrase their plagiarized papers to avoid detection by Turnitin.com.
I am not sure why freezing in place is considered a challenge, since I can remain motionless for hours without even trying. I have many mannequin tableaux, and I have created them all on my own without help from any sports teams or celebrities. With minimum effort, I have perfected Sitting in Front of Computer, Staring at Screen and Not Writing, often holding the pose for hours at a time. My Lying in Hammock Under Elm Tree, Book Face-Down on Stomach is probably my favorite pose, and one I struck throughout much of last summer. (I must point out here that I was participating in the mannequin challenge months before it became an Internet phenomenon in October.)
I have a winter mannequin pose, too. It is titled Lying on Couch in Front of T.V. I assume it almost nightly. Unlike all of those famous people polishing their mannequin tableaux, working on them until they are just right, I came by my mannequin poses naturally. In fact, I wasn’t even aware I was part of a trend until I saw Michelle Obama posing mannequin-style with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the White House. I’ll admit that the Obama-Cavaliers pose is more complicated, and perhaps more visually interesting, than my hammock pose, but there is something to be said for minimalism, I think, and with coming by one’s talents naturally.
And I have passed this mannequin gene on to my children, too. Consider their expertise at Remaining Perfectly Still After Being Asked to Take Out Garbage, Studying Contents of Refrigerator, and Standing and Staring at Motionless Lawn Mower. They are best at Staring at iPhone, a pose they have admittedly been practicing for some time, but my eldest expanded his talents this past week when he was home from college to celebrate Thanksgiving. Not only did he excel at Lying on Couch in Front of T.V., but he even added someone new to the tableau, his girlfriend Coleen, who joined him in an exhaustive eight hours of mannequin posing, a feat as yet unequaled in Internet mannequin challenges. I could not have been prouder.
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Soon, my college-age son will be home for the winter break. He will have almost two months to practice his mannequin tableaux and to add to his repertoire. I look forward to his stylistic renditions of Standing and Staring at Unstacked Firewood and Frozen in Laundry Room. His younger brother, though, will not be outdone. No one can compete with his Sitting Near but Not Touching Homework Assignment.
But our pets are the real mannequin stars of our household. I have seen our Pyrenees, Monty, spend an entire afternoon on Pretending to be Sleeping in Kitchen, Waiting for Food Accidentally Left on Counter and our cats are so good at the mannequin challenge that I have been moved to check their breathing on more than one occasion.
It is too bad that my family cannot earn an income from our mannequin talents. If we could be paid just minimum wage for, say, our many hours performing Imitation of Torpid Lizard Family, I’m sure we could eventually buy a vacation home in the Bahamas. But I doubt that anyone will ever fully appreciate our gifts.
The art of not moving will undoubtedly turn out to be a passing fad, and so my children and I will probably never be called upon to stage our tableaux at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City or to teach our special techniques to up-and-coming posers. I intend to remain a mannequin challenge devotee for many years to come, though, and I can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that no one else in my family will be abandoning the practice any time soon, either.
Brigitte Bowers is a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced.