Ticked is a deceptive documentary. From the outset it seems like a quirky dive into the world of competitive endurance tickling. It seems like the type of off-kilter sport that will introduce an eclectic group of competitors who provide insights into the meaning of life by partaking in this odd hobby — Tickled is not that kind of documentary.
From the minute gonzo journalist, David Farrier, receives a hostile email reply from the company that organises competitive tickling events after making an inquiry; it’s clear something is not quite right. And the emails keep coming. Then the legal threats start. Soon, men are arriving in New Zealand to meet with Farrier to snuff out his investigation.
Farrier and co-director Dylan Reeve give the impression they can’t believe what they’ve lucked themselves into as they begin to document their encounters with the tickling overlords. Farrier himself is a fascinating subject because his trade is in light entertainment news, which has become a commodity in the digital age where click-bait websites feast on stories that used to be the silly item at the end of a news bulletin. You can see from the outset that Farrier’s interest in competitive endurance tickling is the kind of thing that’s going to drive clicks and social media shares for his various employers, especially when considering a bulk of what Farrier is investigating centres on videos of young men being restrained and tickled; people love to share these internet oddities with a dose of WTF. Farrier and the ticklers have a symbiotic relationship in the new media landscape. The pursuit of the documentary is advantageous to the career progression of a modern journalist like Farrier.
As Tickled progresses, Farrier learns the light-hearted nature of the story turns to a darker shade as he meets people from the tickling videos who have been humiliated due their involvement. There’s a cautionary tale within Tickled of the harm our digital footprint can do when it’s manipulated online by others. It gets spookier when you see how easy it is for media to reappear online long after it has been perceived to have been deleted — nothing stays dead for long on the internet. Tickled peaks around the halfway point, and it becomes more about the necessity of solving the mystery than attempting to gain insights into why any of it is happening in the first place.
Tickled ends up being more like a great story you heard at a party about a friend of a friend. It’s bizarre but the oddities can’t fully sustain the entire documentary before it blends with all the other odd human behaviour occupying the 24-hour new media content cycle.
Cam Williams - Follow Cam on Twitter here: @MrCamW