VICE recently wrote a profile of Bartosz Bruski and a group of his friends and fellow LARP enthusiasts who have created an "American 4th of July" LARP at a resort outside of Warsaw, Poland. Bruski is a 29-year-old software engineer who leads a group of about 60 LARPers who enact their version of an American trailer park 4th of July celebration. According to Bruski, he found a resort on some land outside of Warsaw, where he and his crew and cast create the fictional scene, which is modeled after a trailer park in Ohio. He and his fellow LARPers (LARP stands for Live Action Role Playing) build the set and act out what they imagine life to be like an American 4th of July party. Dozens of people participate, and they all have roles to play — they stay in character as their assigned role, with their assigned family, and live in "their assigned trailer home for 28 hours at a time."
In the VICE interview, Bruski explains the origins of this LARPing experiment:
Why did you decide to do a LARP based in Ohio?
It started about five years ago, together with a bunch of friends. We decided to do a LARP. Inspired by Stranger Things and X-Files – we wanted to recreate a small town in the United States where strange things happen and because of that, men in black arrive. We visited various resorts in Poland, looking for one that would perfectly reflect the small town on the edge of the great gloomy forest.
We found a resort in Łódź province, near [the city of] Tomaszów Mazowiecki. One of us – I don't remember anymore to whom this glory falls – said it wasn't the place we were looking for, but if we redesigned it a bit it would look like an American trailer park. At the next project meeting we didn't talk about Stranger Things and X-Files, but we talked about American trailer parks. That's how it started.
He also explains the research that his vision of 4th of July in Ohio is based on:
How did you do the research?
When it comes to production, that is the look of the game, the costumes and the scenery, we worked mainly on the Internet and how we imagined the scene when we type "4th of July" into Google. But apart from nice fireworks and costumes, it also has a 700-page plot for characters and the whole scenario. This is where we have often worked with sources like, Hillbilly Elegy, Nomadland, and Three Billboards [Outside Ebbing, Missouri]. And from books – for example, I read These Truths: A History of the United States, a great book which gives a different perspective on this country.
We grew up with a vision of the States as if it's the land of milk and honey… Then when you grow up and information is shared more, it turns out that it's not so nice in the States. We came up with [the idea of this] "broken American dream", and this was the motif for the project.
I perused the comments on the LARP's Facebook page and round a range of reactions to the LARP by Americans, from humor, to praise, to helpful critique. Some commenters seem to not understand that this LARP is intending to depict the "broken American dream." Some folks are simply delighted by it all and praise its authenticity:
"Midwesterner here. Very accurate. It made me laugh."
"As a true 'Murican patriot I love this so much, thank you for your service!"
Others had to invoke all things "patriotic" and "Let's Go Brandon" (because of course, they did, or maybe this is sarcasm? It's hard to tell):
"As a proud Virginian, it is good to see the Red White n Blue flying while these good folks git an extra hitch in their giddyup and have themselves a rootin tootin hootin good ole time! Git her done, God Bless the US of A, and Let's Go Brandon!"
Some suggest that the LARP is not realistic because of the lack of guns (they're not wrong!):
"If no one blew their fingers off it's not a real 4th of July."
"This is good but, need more guns for a more accurate presentation."
"These are fantastic. The only thing that's not quite right is the people here all need to gain at least 50 lbs and they should all be holding guns with guns in the background (and more guns)."
Building on that last comment about American bodies, others expanded on this idea that the LARP isn't authentic because the people LARPing as Americans are too fit and attractive or don't wear the right clothes:
"Y'all are too fit and attractive, but otherwise, entirely spot on."
"Throw in a couple of Old Navy t-shirts."
"This is amazing. I love it but the clothes are more interesting than anything found in Ohio. People from Ohio are not that interesting."
"You need more tattoos (men and women), more tights on the women, tractors, lawn mowers, non-running vehicles, fishing poles, sunglasses, uncut lawns, etc. Everybody looks too nice. Goober it up some more! Still, Good Job!"
Or because it fails to capture specifically Ohioan culture:
"Born and raised Ohioan here pretty on target, missing a lot of the iconic things. Gus Macker, people playing football, tailgating, night fishing, golfing, fireworks, beer beer and more beer, snipe hunting and cow tipping."
Or because it doesn't capture the true diversity of the US:
"What most people from outside the United States don't understand is that the United States is *big*. Really big. As in almost as many cultures as the entire continent of Europe big. You've adequately captured one view of Americana—but it's only three out of 11 cultures. You're doing well at capturing the culture of Appalachia, of the Midwest, and of the Far West quite nicely, but you're missing the coasts, you're missing the Deep South, you're missing Yankeedom, you're missing the weird Mexican diversity of El Norte."
One person posting provided a very detailed critique and list of suggestions. Perhaps this person should be a consultant for American authenticity for next year's LARP!
"Ways I think this could be better (tongue in cheek while also being sincere also it's long sorry):
– Y'all need sparklers and illegal fireworks. The more illegal the better. Americans do enjoy breaking lesser laws and mostly don't care about fire safety if it stands between us and our fun.
– No KFC. Do real BBQ. I would suggest southern BBQ in the style of the states North or South Carolina, Missouri, Texas (Texas isn't actually proper southern, Texas is Texas separate from the rest, just trust me) or Kentucky. From this Texan all other styles of BBQ are inferior and should be laughed at. Seriously y'all need to talk about how inferior their style is while making the BBQ. Or make the BBQ other states suffer through, burgers and hot dogs (but it's sad to just have that, go with real BBQ, you'll thank me later).
– Unless the soldier came home within the last few hours they probably wouldn't be wearing a uniform. Rather, it's not a usual thing for people to sit in full uniforms. If you're going for the PTSD look then ok but not fully, like the shirt and hat mixed with regular clothes.
– No one plays chess on the 4th. Rather I'm sure it happens but not in the rural white world you're cosplaying.
– People watch American football, drink beer, cheer/yell a lot and debate (sometimes heatedly) about it all including players or teams not actually playing at that time.
– You need crying children in diapers crying about not getting a sparkler, not getting enough macaroni, having their baby back BBQ pork rib taken away from them, fell down, parents left them so they could go drink, someone yelled at them and/or a dog barked at them loud/a cat scratched them because the kid poked it. Points for a dirty t-shirt and no pants.
– People always get into arguments or tense situations on holidays about almost anything. It's not as bad as Thanksgiving but Americans love to start shit and then pretend we're victims. It's something we do even to each other.
– I don't know if y'all play music but it should be a blend of classic American rock and whatever's popular at the time.
– Someone needs to be shirtless.
– A broken toilet needs to be out on the lawn in front of the house.
– Did I mention the sparklers?
I'm not sure why this is happening/why this is something you'd want to do but it seems fun and y'all seem to be enjoying yourselves. Cheers."
You can judge for yourself how authentic the LARP is (but I would question if authenticity is even the point), as there are lots of photos of the LARPers in this Twitter feed and this Facebook page. You can also read the full interview with the creator of the 4th of July LARP here.