If the images we're inundated with on a daily basis are any indication, the world is an exceptionally angry place. From riots in Hamburg to demonstrations in Berkeley to unrest in Caracas, the world seems to be undergoing a collective catharsis that explodes in violence only to be temporarily quelled by state-sanctioned water cannons, acrid clouds of tear gas, and rubber bullets. Despite – or perhaps because of – unprecedented progress in global connectivity and social progress, there remains an undercurrent of anger and frustration simmering under the surface of exponential technological growth.
But while the main beneficiaries – plate glass and police equipment manufacturers are probably not starving to death – of this kind of unrest depend on rage to manifest as physical acts in order to maintain whatever profits they derive from it, a small number of exceptionally lean companies are doing the opposite. These entrepreneurs are profiting from the rage and stress itself by providing private physical outlets and spaces to relieve it by smashing plates, furniture, televisions: symbols, perhaps, of the empty promises of consumerism.
(via AFP News/YouTube)
They're called "rage rooms" or "anger rooms" and they're opening up around the world, reflecting a darker aspect of the 21st century's zeitgeist.
The construction and layouts are simple, keeping the overhead minimal. Warehouse or otherwise empty spaces are rented out to provide the actual rooms, which are as sparse as can be imagined, often consisting only of bare concrete or plywood walls, though some – like the French example seen in the video above – may be open air. The rooms are stocked with glasses, bottles, dishes, and various pieces of surplus furniture. Customers are outfitted with hand, body, eye, and face protection – motorcycle helmets seem to be popular – and are allowed to enter the room with baseball bats, hammers, crowbars, or similar items for a specified amount of time.
Then, they simply destroy things.
Yvette Tan, a writer for Mashable, visited The Fragment Room in Singapore where she reported that $26.00 bought a crate of breakables and a half hour in a room. $156.00 purchased unlimited crates and an hour. She was given a helmet with a face shield, overalls, and a bat and told to "Go Crazy."
"The first fifteen minutes were the most enjoyable, when I went around swinging my baseball bat at everything I could find." – Yvette Tan, Mashable.com
Across the globe in Serbia, a similar sentiment was expressed by 18-year-old Savo Duvnjak, fresh from a visit to The Rage Room in Novi Sad, where he spent $6.00 to destroy a bed and other furnishings in a repurposed garage. “I feel I let go of all my negative energy,” the young man told National Post back in 2013. “This last year was a tough one and I wanted to end it with a bang!” He left with a sense of satisfaction as well as a CD with calming music and information on professional counseling services.
“This is better than getting into a fight." – Savo Duvnjak, after visiting The Rage Room in Serbia
The Rage Room appears to have been the first of its kind in Europe and was modeled after The Anger Room, an American business started in 2008 in Dallas by Donna Alexander, a former steakhouse marketing manager. The Anger Room in Dallas offers packages ranging from $25.00 (5 minutes) to $90.00 (a couples package for 10 minutes) that allow users access to "destroy real-life mocked rooms that simulate an actual workplace, living area or kitchen" which are stocked with "dummies, mannequins, TVs, tables and many, many more breakable items." Not surprisingly, mannequins dressed to look like the presidential candidates took on a particular importance during last year's election. "We’ve gone through at least three of the male mannequins that we have to dress up as Donald Trump," Alexander told The New York Times in a 2016 interview.
It's unlikely that mannequins resembling Vladimir Putin will ever be available in Moscow's Debosh Destroyery, but the eastern outfit offers its patrons a similar experience in exceptionally realistic rooms.
Like its global counterparts, the Destroyery offers stress relief, but it also acknowledges something that the others only seem to tease: the appeal of controlled lawlessness and destruction as a form of entertainment. They describe themselves as "a kind of entertainment where people can do things they are restricted to do in everyday life, or may be such things are just hard to do or they may have really bad consequences." The Destroyery is less about stress relief and more about exorcising a repressed urge to break things and raise Hell. "You can come on your own or with your friends and experience a new feeling of freedom and permissiveness like when you were a kid," the site says, "causing mischief and your mom went off on you for broken things at home or your dad smacked your ass for smashing a window."
That spirit of transgression was expressed by 25-year-old Evelyn Botto after visting The Break Club in Buenos Aires.
"I've never broken a bottle before. I've dropped a bottle or a glass, but to do it on purpose is totally different. I feel really liberated." – Evelyn Botto, in an interview with VICE.
If this is starting to sound a little bit like something approaching "The Purge" films, you're not far off: indeed, the Destroyery's website and social media accounts show numerous participants wearing assorted theatrical masks not unlike those seen in various movies.
There is an element of social performance at work, but also something deeper, perhaps ritualistic. To participants, however, it's all part of the experience. In an interview with Al Jazeera, one Destroyery client, identified as "Katya," explained:
"The mask actually does help to forget what kind of beast you are," she said. "It's quite great. I feel better. I feel more at ease, more relaxed."
The entertainment aspect was echoed by Jim Sephton, who has just opened up the U.K.'s first rage room in Birmingham, England in the shadow of Brexit. "Yes, if you come in here stressed out you're going to leave a lot calmer," Sephton told The Mirror, "but the core of it is about having fun. It's a controlled safe environment to just really let go and it creates such a huge adrenalin and endorphin high - people leave here with a smile on their face."
Vice notes that there are now rage rooms in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Argentina, and Australia. Although experts disagree as to whether or not rage rooms are therapeutic, entertaining, or possibly dangerous, it looks like rage rooms are here to stay. As such, the doors are wide open for anyone with a cool head for business.