The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Fireworks! Baby, are you really one? And just how special do they make an occasion?
Lie #1: Baby You’re A Firework / Come On, Show Them What You’re Worth
While still catchy as hell after a decade, there’s an inherent flaw in Katy Perry’s logic. The thing with fireworks is, they can only really be used once. There isn’t a market for used fireworks. So, while she’s imploring the subject of her song to come out of their shell and show the world how great they are, the fact that they’ll be destroyed doing it makes it a bit… suicide bomb-y?
Katy Perry is absolutely not trying to convince anyone to be a suicide bomber. But if she were, there are less convincing things she could say when checking the fuses on their vest than the lyrics to Firework. “You just gotta ignite the light, and let it shine. Just own the night like the Fourth of July. ‘Cause baby, you’re a firework. Come on, show ‘em what you’re worth. Make ‘em go, ‘Aah, aah, aah’ as you shoot across the sky. […] Let your colors burst. Make ‘em go, ‘Aah, aah, aah’ – you’re gonna leave them all in awe.”
We should all be thankful that Katy Perry channeled her talents into pop music, really, because otherwise she could be a threat to civilization as we know it.
Lie #2: Fireworks Are for Special Occasions
Not this year! If you live in or near a city and can’t hear fireworks going off right now, you might need to have your hearing checked — in Boston, for instance, the first week of June saw 1,445 firework complaints, where the same week in 2019 had 22. In New York City, there was a year-over-year increase for the month of May of 920 percent.
So what’s going on?
There are a few factors at play, some ongoing and some specific to this godforsaken year. Firework laws have relaxed in a lot of states, which, combined with gradually falling prices, means the average firework a-bangin’ per capita has doubled since 2000.
Also, uh, people aren’t very happy at the moment. Bored is just about the closest thing there is to happy anywhere. Fireworks have a dual purpose in such circumstances: They can both be a sign of dissent and provide a momentary flicker of positive excitement. (NB: Even if you’re woken up and/or pissed off by them, don’t call the fucking cops.)
Fireworks are pretty hot on TikTok at the moment, too. That’ll lead to a few booms. It’s also 10 years since Jackass 3D, with lockdown providing a perfect time to revisit the entire franchise and a more-than-reasonable amount of pyrotechnic rectum-based hijinks.
Lie #3: Dogs Fucking Hate Fireworks
The vast majority of the time, this is true: Dogs and PTSD-affected veterans don’t tend to have a lot of fun on the Fourth of July. (If someone says, “I hate this holiday because I’m a vet,” you need to check for animal hair or visible medals to know exactly what they mean.)
So, when it comes to your hound, what can you do? There are products available specifically designed for such occasions — dog earmuffs, canine anxiety vests — but as we’ve just established, people are setting fireworks off all the damn time. Permanently wearing earmuffs and an anxiety vest won’t just make your dog look like a dork, it’ll create extra work for you — the Thundershirt FAQs recommend periodically removing it.
However, in the dog-loving Italian town of Collecchio, only quiet fireworks are permitted, which means dogs aren’t so inclined to hate them. They aren’t silent — a firework is basically an explosion, and it’s hard to blow shit up on the quiet — but they’re a lot closer to it than traditional wheee-BANGBANGBANGBANGBANG displays. Part of it comes down to firework selection, and choosing types of firework that aren’t based around one enormous boom. Quieter fireworks can also be more colorful as, according to the New York Times, the giant-ass ‘splosion can fuck up a bunch of the colors (they phrase it in a slightly more grown-up manner, but that’s the gist).
The booms are the least-entertaining part of fireworks anyway. There’s only one noise, and it just varies a bit in volume. The visual stuff is where it’s at.
Lie #4: Fireworks Are Super Fun!
Not if you work in a fireworks factory they aren’t. Unlike in The Naked Gun, real-life accidental firework explosions are pretty mirthless occasions, involving horrific fiery deaths. They happen fairly frequently as well. Even in these modern, high-tech, futuristic times, factory workers (not traditionally the most highly paid group of people in the world) frequently die in the business of making or storing fireworks.
In 2000, 23 people were killed and around a thousand injured by a huge explosion in the S.E. Fireworks depot in the Netherlands. The factory, which was in the middle of a residential area, was illegally using storage containers for extra storage rather than moving to larger premises. In 2004, one box of fireworks being dropped in a factory in Denmark led to one death and 17 injuries. The same year, a fireworks test in the Philippines ended up killing eight people, and three years later, a discarded cigarette resulted in a fire engulfing 10 firework stores in the same town.
2008 saw an unlicensed firework factory in Istanbul burn and collapse, killing 22. Eight were killed in Manila in 2009 when a factory burned down. In 2010, a fireworks factory in the Chinese city of Yichun exploded, killing at least 19 people and injuring at least 150. In 2012, an unlicensed factory in India exploded, killing 40.
2013, Montreal, two killed. 2015, Colombia, one injured. In 2016, an explosion in a Henan, China factory killed three and injured seven, and a mere two weeks later, three more people were killed and 53 injured in a blast at the Hongsheng Fireworks Plant in Jianxing. In 2017, an Indonesian factory exploded, killing 49. In 2019, seven people died and 23 were injured in an explosion in Hunan Province — in a truly inhuman twist, factory employees were found to have hidden some of the bodies in a bid to keep reported casualties low.
Sure, fireworks are reasonably entertaining, but should people regularly be dying so we can occasionally go, “Oh, that’s nice”?
Lie #5: It’s All About The Big Finish
What do you want, a well-paced and tasteful fireworks display, or brief global viral fuckin’ fame? At San Diego’s big Bay Boom in 2012, every firework intended for an 18-minute display went off in 35 seconds in an apocalyptic, orgasmic fuckup, like the world was trying to kill God.
While the incident — recounted in oral history form here — could easily be seen as a failure, San Diego was suddenly on every news show in the world. Attendance at the 2013 event was way up. Eighteen minutes is too long for modern, fractured attention spans. Just blow everything up and move on!
Not that everyone has — not for the people responsible for the small mistake that caused the cacophony, anyway. As August Santore Jr of Garden State Fireworks puts it, “Nobody ever wants to talk about the 6,000 great things that you did, only the one bad one.”