By Greg Canzio (Fort Pierce, FL, US)
Having a sexual fetish is more common than you probably think. A rather bizarre turn-on for some may be an everyday sexual activity for others. But when does a fetish become an obsession? When does it become dangerous?
Tickled follows David Ferrier, a New Zealand journalist who reports “light entertainment” and bizarre news. He discovers a video where male “athletes” are tied up and tickled by other male “athletes.” This underground phenomenon is called “competitive endurance tickling.” A major industry that pays young males thousands of dollars per shoot. When Ferrier contacts video producer Jane O’Brien Media for a potential interview, he receives a rather hostile response shaming Ferrier’s sexual orientation.
Although bullied and threatened by legal action, Ferrier and his collaborator Dylan Reeve dig deeper. What started as a rather innocent documentary takes a grim turn of events when Ferrier meets T.J., a one-time tickling “athlete” whose life has been subjected to a smear campaign by Jane O’Brien Media. T.J. is not alone as Ferrier discovers many other former “athletes” and employees who have been targeted by this tickling “empire.”
Ferrier and Reeve masterfully craft an engrossing documentary that viewers will not soon forget. But really, how could you? While the film begins as a look inside the fetish of tickling, the filmmakers are somehow able to make an even more compelling and insane story about power, control, and online bullying. Ferrier and Reeve make a huge revelation about Jane O’Brien Media when they discover that the company is funded by a major firm in New York City. Without giving away the most shocking and revealing moments, it’s safe to say the doc gets crazier from there.
It is equally frustrating and impressive to learn how massive Jane O’Brien Media’s presence in the ticking industry is. The company has been able to find “athletes” among sports players, students, and most recently, Mixed Martial Arts fighters. What’s even scarier is that Jane O’Brien Media work across the globe in all major cities. Ferrier and Reeve, only being two men, have set themselves up for a David vs. Goliath battle. But audiences have always been attracted to underdog stories. Maybe there are points of the film where David and Reeve risk a bit too much for the greater good. The filmmakers even put themselves in the middle of an anxiety-ridden scene where they follow the owner of Jane O’Brien Media to a Starbucks. While these moments can be nerve-wracking to watch, you can’t help wanting to see them cross that yellow tape.
Ferrier and Reeves have made and incredibly thought-provoking and necessary film that never mocks anyone involved in this unique fetish. While Jane O’Brien Media may be the richest company, they do not represent the industry. In fact, the filmmakers spend a portion of the documentary interviewing the owner of a smaller company in the tickling fetish industry. This owner is able to speak freely about his fetish, the way he operates his business, and why his company is important to him and many others.
What Ferrier and Reeve do best is showing the dangers of having too much power. Tickled is now the center of a defamation lawsuit, but the discoveries made by Ferrier and Reeve have all been worth it. There has been many films about good vs. evil, but never as bizarre yet fulfilling as Tickled.