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Fiction: Books/movies involving feats of endurance for profit
March 2, 2013 3:47 AM   Subscribe

Please suggest some stories that have characters -- who as regular people, not trained athletes -- are involved with risky feats of endurance for profit.

Fiction can be any form: movies, books, short stories, graphic novels, etc.

Here are some examples of endurance "crazes" from the past: walking long distances (hundreds of miles), treading water in swimming pools (80+ hours with no rest), marathon dance-offs (that would last weeks), fasting (for months at a time), etc.

In the 1970's, I remember there were events where contestants had to keep both hands on a new car without rest. It typically took place in a store or busy parking lot. The last person who had their hands on the car would win it as a prize. This type of thing would go on for weeks, with people being hospitalized due to exhaustion or heart attacks.

Anyway, can you suggest some fictional stories that involve characters participating in these "endurance for profit" games?

For instance, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? involved characters desperate to win a marathon dance-off during the 1930's. Kafka's A Hunger Artist involves a man who fasts himself to death as part of a vaudeville act.

Dystopian or futuristic settings are okay, but I am looking for situations where characters VOLUNTEER to become involved (even if out of desperation) because they want to win a prize. Not looking for stories where someone is forced or coerced into participating to avoid being killed or tortured. If the character's motivation is borderline, please post your suggestion anyway but leave a caveat.

Thanks in advance for any answers. It is much appreciated!
posted by 99percentfake to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The Long Walk - Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
posted by crocomancer at 4:02 AM on March 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Deep Space Nine novel "The 34th Rule" does NOT have the volunteering part; it's a bit a reverse case. Quark gets imprisoned in a Bajoran labor camp and endures it because he is forced to, but when he later (after it is over) learns that the Grand Nagus came up with this plan to gain maximum profit out a deal, he considers months of torture to be justified and is basically ok with it (he earned more due to this plan, too).
posted by MinusCelsius at 4:12 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hands on a Hardbody is a Broadway musical about the kind of keep-your-hands-on-a-car contest you mention. Based on a 1997 documentary of the same title.
posted by escabeche at 5:22 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obvious, but Around the World in Eighty Days?
posted by redondo77 at 5:46 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The main character in Harry Crews' short novel Car attempts to eat a Ford Maverick in six ounce increments. It's not a contest, and the profit motive may be secondary, but the idea is to create a spectacle and there is a promoter involved. The book is very hard to find, but it is included in the Classic Crews collection.
posted by gimli at 6:25 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Man Who Ate the 747
posted by backwards guitar at 6:28 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Along with The Long Walk, I'd suggest the King/Bachman novel The Running Man (note: the novel, not the film adaptation), about a man who volunteers for a TV game show in which he's relentlessly hunted because of his extreme poverty and desperation for money to buy medicine for his wife. I thought it was very much in line with They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and the idea of poverty being exploited for mass entertainment.

A storyline in the film The Safety of Objects involves a "Hands on a Hardbody" style radio contest.

Slumdog Millionaire might loosely fit into this category, since Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? is structured similarly to an endurance test.

There's Spellbound, a documentary about a national spelling bee.

Also possibly The King of Kong, about people playing a video game for hours to win a record high score.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 6:55 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hidalgo?
posted by pecanpies at 7:01 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia where they have a dance marathon in the bar.
There is also an episode of Psych where Shawn's father tries to win a truck by keeping his hands on it.
posted by the twistinside at 7:19 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


How to Eat Fried Worms
posted by cass at 8:28 AM on March 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anton Chekhov's The Bet.
posted by drdanger at 9:53 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was an episode of Happy Days involving a dance marathon (episode 70, "They Shoot Fonzies, Don't They?").

That 70's Show had an episode with a radio contest where the person who kept their hand on the van for the longest won. (season 4, episode 4, "Hyde Gets the Girl").
posted by anaelith at 10:07 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was an episode of Las Vegas that had an contest where people had to keep their hand on a truck.
posted by cali59 at 11:36 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a dance marathon episode of Gilmore Girls called "They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?" as well.
posted by bcwinters at 11:45 AM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is non-fiction OK? The book, Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America, is the story of a woman and her daughter who walk across the country in 1896 hoping to win a $10,000 prize to save the family farm in Washington state from mortgage debt. Good story.
posted by Corvid at 12:11 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gladiator at Law by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth seems to fit:
Willkie snapped, "You know this is the big one, the show of the year, ladies and gentlemen. Double fees and survivors insurance for this one. And in return, ladies and gentlemen, we expect you all to do your damnedest for the Stadium."

He measured the crowd. "Now, let's get on with the casting. First, a comedy number. We need some old gentlemen and ladies — nothing violent; padded clubs in a battle-royal to the finish. The last surviving lady gets five hundred dollars; the surviving gentleman gets one thousand. Let's see some hands there! No, not you, buster — you can't be a day past 60."



"Now, are there two good men who fancy themselves as knife-fighters? Scandinavian style? It'll be naked, so don't waste my time if you have a potbelly." Scandinavian style was fastened together by a belt with two feet of slack. "One thousand? Anybody at one thousand? All right, dammit, I'll make it twelve fifty, and if there isn't a rising ovation we drop the number, you yellow skunks!" Perhaps a dozen pros hopped up, grinning. "Fine response! Let's make it six matches simultaneous. Take 'em away, boys!"
posted by Lexica at 4:57 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The hands-on-a-truck story was also the basis of the novel Show of Hands by Anthony McCarten.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:19 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was that episode of The Twilight Zone where the guy takes a bet that he can't go without speaking for a year while he's on display in a big cage-apartment in a gentlemen's club.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:31 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all of these answers!

Anton Chekhov's The Bet
Around the World in Eighty Days - ?
Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America (true story)
Car - Harry Crews (included in the Classic Crews collection)
Gilmore Girls – episode called "They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?"
Gladiator at Law by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth
Hands on a Hardbody - Broadway musical based on a 1997 documentary of same title
Happy Days – episode 70, "They Shoot Fonzies, Don't They?"
Hidalgo - ?
How to Eat Fried Worms
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia – episode where they have a dance marathon
Las Vegas – episode about keeping hands on a truck
Psych – episode where Shawn's father tries to win a truck
Show of Hands by Anthony McCarten.
Slumdog Millionaire might loosely fit into this category
Spellbound - a documentary about a national spelling bee (saw this?)
That 70's Show - season 4, episode 4, "Hyde Gets the Girl"
The Deep Space Nine novel "The 34th Rule" – not volunteering but okay with it
The King of Kong - about people playing a video game
The Long Walk - Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)
The Man Who Ate the 747
The Running Man - King/Bachman novel (not the film adaptation)
The Safety of Objects – contains a "Hands on a Hardbody" style radio contest
The Twilight Zone – episode where a guy takes the bet that he won't speak for a year
posted by 99percentfake at 5:42 PM on March 5, 2013


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