Many people hear the word “documentary” and begin to snore. I say this because I used to be one of those people. Why do I want to be bored with facts and real life when I can watch a fantastical fictional piece that defies all physics?
Wrong, my friend. You definitely want to see Tickled.
When my boyfriend sent me a text asking if I wanted to see the documentary, I laughed and thought he was joking. No, he was deadly serious. I agreed to accompany him but I wasn’t overly excited. I thought I knew what it was about. A competitive tickling competition? It sounded like a comedy. While journeying to the Glasgow Film Theatre, I learned that it might have a darker side but I scoffed at the idea. I mean, it’s tickling, right?
Oh, I was so naive.
Five minutes in and I was hooked. My gummy bears lay on the floor of the cinema, forgotten, and I stared at the screen with an open mouth. It has been so long since a film has hooked me in the way this one did. It felt like a drug I needed more and more of.
We’re first introduced to the New Zealand journalist David Farrier. He’s apparently known for looking at “the weird and wonderful” side of life. My first thought was he’s the New Zealand equivalent of a UK One Show reporter – those people that cover the strange stories that no one really needs to hear, but you enjoy hearing anyway. I instantly fell in love with the nerdy man and I settle in for, what I had assumed, a comedy experience.
I instantly knew that’s not the case when Farrier gets targeted and harassed for being gay.
The organiser for these tickling competitions sent the journalist email after email of hurtful homophobic hate. I was blown away and knew that this ride was definitely not going down the comedy route anymore. I was sat in my chair with my jaw on the floor.
I instantly had respect and admiration for Fassier and partner Dylan Reeve. They chose not to focus on the homophobic ramblings which I found very powerful. Many other people may have inserted an interview with Fassier making a speech about how this language was hurtful, how gay people have a hard time dealing with hate, how it is something he has struggled with his whole life and hearing it as an adult has shaken him. I have no doubt this is how he felt. But he never addressed this. The only thing he said was, “I found it amusing because the tickling competitions were so… Gay.” By not making a big song and dance about these horrible actions, both men easily showed how insufficient it is. Yeah they got hate, but who cares? We don’t, cause we know it’s rubbish. I was blown away by this take in the situation and, just 10 minutes in, was glued to my seat.
Although I said this documentary definitely isn’t a comedy, I did laugh during it. The cinema was utterly packed and all of us found ourselves laughing at one point or another. Whether this was because of humour or sheer awkwardness – I will never know. Farrier and Reeve definitely tried their hardest to interject some humour into the piece (which worked perfectly) but the humour couldn’t mask the true hideous truth underneath.
This documentary focuses on the feitish world of tickling. It touches on topics of internet harassment, fraud, manipulation, and hate. Although it seems to cover only one area of the internet, it actually implies a much broader message. The boys shown to be tickled were all used and abused in one way or another. This behaviour isn’t just found in this one area; it is also found all over in the porn industry and other dodgey websites. It may only show the damage done to young boys but it’s easy to tell that it can happen to any trusting, desperate person. This realisation physically shook me to my core.
The real world is a scary place, isn’t it?
From a cinematic point of view, this film doesn’t disappoint either. The symbolism used throughout was beautifully poetic. A voiceover of Farrier talking about the state of production after lawyers threatening to sue followed by a shot of a nasty car crash was a nice touch. Another shot of a bird of prey flying away with its dead catch made me chuckle. Simply touches such as these truly add to the experience and show although Farrier and Reeve are new to the scene – they still know exactly what they’re doing.
It also must be said that at no point does this film shame anyone who has a tickling fetish. It is obvious that Farrier does not fully understand the appeal (his facial expressions don’t hide anything) but he tries to be as understanding and polite as possible throughout. His focus is purely on helping the victims of the tickling videos and finding out who is behind all the grief.
Overall this documentary is a definite must-see. It feels like forever since I’ve been to the cinema and left feeling utterly elated. Finding Dory appealed to my childhood and left me giddy, but Tickled touched me much more.
(No pun intended).