I know that you think you aren’t. Me neither. I am no saint, but, as a rule, I don’t tend to kill people. Generally speaking, killing people is bad, and anyway, I am far too pretty to go to prison. I am sure the same could be said for you; I hear that you are gorgeous and hardly ever do the murdering thing.
I ask this peculiar question because I had the dubious pleasure of watching Derren Brown’s “The Push” on Netflix last night.
I have been a fan of Derren Brown for years. I have seen him on stage three times and have read all his books. I even went to an audition for one of his shows. Unfortunately for me, I am not very hypnotisable, and the complicated trip to London was a complete waste of time. If you are not from the UK, it is unlikely that you will have heard of him. Even in the UK, he is far from a famous celebrity, and I am sure he quite likes it that way.
He calls himself a “psychological illusionist” or occasionally “magician”, but he makes it clear that his trickery is nothing more than sleight of mind. He is a genius. Or quite possibly in league with Satan. His ability to manipulate and “read” people is truly a sight to behold. The first time I saw him, my friends and I concluded that the only reasonable explanation to his incredible stage act was that everyone in the theatre was a stooge, apart from us. He is that good.
I need to mention that there are spoilers for the TV show “The Push” ahead!
In “The Push” he identified an entirely unknowing member of the public (a man called Chris Kingston) as his latest victim, and proceeded to take him on an elaborate and choreographed adventure that sent the poor man to the brink of madness. At times, it was truly painful to watch, and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t question the ethical boundaries that Brown pushes.
Chris was, as a part of his business interactions, invited to an auction for a new children’s Charity called “Push”, backed by countless videos endorsements from A-list celebrities, all in on the ruse. Absolutely every single person that Chris had any contact with that evening was an actor. The cast of 50+ people had rehearsed the evening for weeks. Cameras were everywhere, and Brown had direct earpiece contact with the major players.
Soon into the evening, the sponsor of the event (“Bernie” – a clue for film fans!) appears to have a heart attack and die. What follows is a carefully choreographed melodrama that sees the increasingly distressed Kingston being convinced into being utterly complicit in covering up Bernie’s death, hiding the body, moving the body, pretending to be the dead man in front of an entire roomful of strangers…
The story lurches from one disaster to another, and the poor victim gets pulled further and further into a series of unfortunate and blatantly illegal actions.
It culminates with Kingston being on a roof terrace with a bunch of influential strangers trying to convince him to push Bernie (now back from the dead) to his death in order to save the charity and Chris from a prison sentence.
He – mercifully – refuses, and says he will go to prison, before storming off, into the arms of Derren Brown who finally lets him know that the entire evening has been an elaborate set up. He had been manipulated into committing a series of crimes, but killing a man was step too far.
It appears that Brown’s attempt to demonstrate that a member of the public can be manipulated into committing the ultimate crime had failed. However…
They had repeated the exercise another three times, with three other carefully selected (and unknowing) members of the public. And in all three instances, they had pushed Bernie from the roof, seemingly to his death.
They were all, ordinary, decent people, who, when placed under extraordinary pressure were manipulated into “killing” a complete stranger. I know! It all sounds ridiculously implausible, and you would never find yourself in such a position…
If I have piqued your interest, then I highly recommend you invest an hour in the programme. It will make you realise how we are at the mercy of life’s outrageous fortune, and how any of us could behave in a way that we wouldn’t dream of in a given set of circumstances.
We are not what we think we are, and Derren Brown has made a career out of proving this, and he has a huge body of work for you to catch up on if you like what you see. You're in for a