When the daredevil tendencies of energetic adolescents meet an unquenchable thirst for social media notoriety, the two can make a combustible combination. In some cases, it can even prove lethal. Such an incident occurred to a member of Brewman, a group of teenagers who film themselves in perilous situations to the delight of online followers. Produced by the BBC, the documentary short Train Surfing Wars: A Matter of Life and Death chronicles the group's exploits, their motivations for risking life and limb, and the disturbing trend they represent in our modern interconnected world.
The boys are shown jumping from one rooftop to another, performing double flips on the edge of a cliff, and balancing their light bodies from the highest elevations in Europe. They are bonded by their love of adrenaline, and their aspirations to build a vital social media brand.
But tragedy has put a wrench in these plans, and driven a wedge between their friendships. One of the teens dies from massive head injuries during a foolish stunt between carriages in the Metro rail station.
The boys fight back against the claim that they engage in senseless daredevil antics; they say their physical feats are the end result of extreme training and preparation. In their minds, it's akin to a sport. Critics, and the family of the deceased, contend that it's all a grandiose example of self-harm.
Worst of all, this penchant for self-harm is spreading. In the aftermath of the teen's death, copycat train surfing incidents began to emerge in the UK. Authorities are on alert, and increased media scrutiny has added a layer of stress to the already fragile spirit of the group.
While adults try to make sense of tragedy and find a way to curb this troubling trend, the boys and their followers continue to look for their next risky stunt. The teens don't seem adequately equipped to process their sense of loss or their duty to accept personal responsibility.
Train Surfing Wars: A Matter of Life and Death shows us how the old adage of "boys will be boys" carries a much more sinister connotation these days.