Lo and behold, I found myself enjoying the latest iteration of what passed as entertainment for a high school and college-aged Derek: Jackass 3D.
The prevailing discourse regarding maturity would have me be ashamed of this indulgence at the age of twenty-eight. It would have me immediately point up my nose at such nonsense and pull out Faulkner in order to get my responsible intellectual vitamins. But something has been yearning in me recently to experience youthful, mindless glory, an unashamed revelry in pain for no reason juxtaposed with the juvenile exploitation of bodily functions.
I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but there’s something symbolically wonderful about Jackass and their stunts. Something boldly anarchic and charged with contemporary frustration. Most would brand me a postmodernist babbler who would also likely deem a piece of contorted metal on stand “art” if I dared to allow Jackass in this category …but I think there are some unrecognized merits in their stunts. Call me crazy.
Although it feels slightly hyper-masculine, in the sense that it’s really just a bunch of skateboarders reenacting the same premise as Fight Club in a more overt and less narratively cohesive sense, I also feel the stunts can be stripped of such gendered interpretations by looking at the motivations behind them. Sure, Jackass 3D does not contain the same rebellious twenty-somethings trying to eliminate boredom, but it does harken back to those initial intentions. Boredom is powerful stuff. It makes one uncomfortably aware of their goals, life intentions, or inherent motivations. And when one doesn’t have a responsible or coherent answer, we’re left with a gripping nausea.
A nausea which makes us want to ride grocery carts over ramps and into nearby pools. A sickness which makes us want to take someone’s fast food bag out of their hand in the drive-thru and spike it on the ground in front of them while wearing a football helmet. The ideological undercurrents informing these kinds of stunts—commercialism/materialism generates absurdity or ubiquitous mendacity—may not be articulated by these guys, but I have a feeling it’s there in essence.
Qualifier: On occasion.
Now…this is not Sartrean existentialism. I’m not saying it has high artistic merits or credibility But it is, on occasion (and when they aren’t over-compensating by attempting to display how manly they are through pain-endurance) symbolically powerful stuff.
Call it the logic, or illogic, of “Jackassishness.” It’s the new way of saying something “just ain’t right, so I’m gonna go hurt myself to pass the time. Cause at least then I’ll feel something.”