Nowadays the worst thing happening to parkour is David Belle, IPF and FIG’s polyamorous relationship – moms and dads are fighting and it’s affecting all us children of the jumpy jumps. But there was a time not that long ago when one single piece of media did more damage than any single person’s actions ever could to the young sport from the streets of Lisses and Evry.
That piece of media, of course, is the Season 6 Premiere of NBC’s The Office “Gossip” episode which has unfortunately been coined the “Parkour PARKOUR” episode. It is still the most viral parkour video to date (hard to quantify) but I don’t have to tell you that because a muggle friend has undoubtedly shared it with you on Facebook in the last year because it reminded them of you – how kind. It boggles my mind that a friend can post that video to you but never share your training videos.
To quote Jurassic Park 3, “Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.” and that certainly applies here. The Office sought to leverage the attention of a growing internet trend (the first time they had done so on the show) and they even received a nomination for best comedy episode from the Writers Guild of America. While parkour may have received higher search results after that infamous episode in 2009, the lasting damages of the blatant disrespect for the sport have left their mark on practitioners still almost a decade later.
And yes, I understand The Office is a comedy. And yes, I understand the show writers had no intention to harm the sport in any way. They wanted to entertain the masses and they did. But those masses still shout “Hardcore Parkour” (Parkour Parkour?) at practitioners from their cars and on the street just as an ill-mannered man catcalls a beautiful woman walking by. The average person no longer remembers Sebastian Foucan’s daring stunts in Casino Royale and they never saw District B13 – no, they only remember goat parkour and The Office.
I don’t know about you, but I was bullied in school growing up, and I learned very young that you have to fight back in order to protect yourself from future bullying. But that doesn’t really apply here, because you can’t fight every pedestrian that heckles you on the street (not unless you have a get out jail free card). The real enemy isn’t The Office. It’s just the narrow minds of individuals who don’t seek to understand but only to label and dish out judgments of others.
I don’t have to explain this frustration to you because if you’ve been training for more than a year, someone has undoubtedly asked you if you’re training for American Ninja Warrior or if you’re trying to kill yourself. So how is it that some of us are so taken by the warrior spirit of being strong to be useful while others are so content with poking fun and shaming effort? Well, I guess unfortunately that is the way of the world but it deeply upsets me every time I hear it. It seems no matter how hard our athletes train and try to represent themselves there is always a louder voice that detracts from the true spirit of parkour and keeps us a joke in the public eye.
So what do we do from here? Do we ask Steve Carell to make a public apology to parkour? Do we sue NBC and make them pay for therapy for all affected practitioners (we could all use it)? Or do we just continue to train as hard as we can regardless of the public perception of our sport? Obviously, the latter is the only option. Perhaps it was all for the best. Perhaps the clip got enough muggles to get their shit together and become practitioners that we love today. But I’ve never once heard someone say they started training because they saw The Office, have you?