If you never asked your parents, hat in hand, for a sweet-ass hoverboard after seeing Back to the Future: Part II for the first time, you’re either lying or you’re too young to know what the hell I’m talking about. Truthfully, all you need to know is that the hoverboard is an immaculate piece of fictional technology capable of doing just what its name describes: making you look insanely rad while hovering eleven inches in the air. Now, thanks to HUvr, you can own one, too.
Or, you could, if the whole thing wasn’t a complete hoax (and a mighty expensive one, at that). Carefully watching the video reveals that the celebrity riders (including Tony Hawk, Moby, Terrell Owens, and a guest appearance by the one and only Doc Brown Christopher Lloyd) reveal the harnesses under their clothing, and shadows on the pavement occasionally betray the illusion by broadcasting the outlines of cranes.
Still, you have to admit, for something that isn’t necessarily real, the team at HUVr sure put a lot of work into this. As much as I wish it was all promotional material for Back to the Future 4, it’s been confirmed that this viral sensation was orchestrated by the website Funny Or Die. This doesn’t necessarily stop me from wanting one, of course, but it definitely made my Christmas list just a little bit shorter. Good thing Marty McFly’s power laces are still coming out, right?
Some hoaxes are funny. Some deftly satirize some aspect of our culture. Some, like the computer-generated gibberish papers that made it into scientific journals, cleverly expose dangerously low institutional standards.
But other hoaxes—and these disproportionately tend to fall into the “viral marketing stunt” category—amount to nothing but cynical exploitation of humans’ tendency to believe other humans when they say something is true.
It’s a hostile, self-promoting act—a covert ad for Jimmy Kimmel Live—rendered as ironic acid that corrodes our sense of wonder. If the Web provides a cabinet of curiosities, full of freakish baubles of humanity, the hoaxer smashes it to bits, then counts his money while he preens atop the rubble.
That goes double for this one. Whatever the video’s intent, its primary achievement is to leave young people feeling a little more jaded than they were before. Is that really what you want, Christopher Lloyd?
A clever hoax invites you to believe; a bad one has to beg.
Will Oremus on the viral HUVr video.
This is some of the worst cases of hoaxes I have seen since the #STOPKONY2012 incident.