The Cultural Gutter

beyond good and bad, there is awesome

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

I Double Dog Dare You

alex macfadyen
Posted December 16, 2010

jackass bullseye thumb2.jpgLast month I wrote about Jackass as a cultural project, but what I initially intended to write about was how I feel just a little bit better about myself and the world after watching it. And no, it’s not because they’re all more of a jackass than I am.

It seems like a show about a bunch of
guys trying to impress each other by doing the most dangerous,
painful and/or disgusting things they can think of would play into
all of the stereotypes about masculinity and body shame, but under
the surface Jackass is the opposite of what you’d expect.

In some ways the Jackass version
of masculinity is pretty standard, but in other ways it’s
subversive. There’s a macho one-upmanship involved in who can be
the most extreme, but it’s coupled with an insistence on having no
pride and a mandatory willingness to look like an idiot that are
counter to the usual goal of proving masculine worth. And they do not
take their male parts seriously, witness “Snake Bites Penis
Puppet
.”

The behaviors that draw genuine mockery
or contempt on Jackass are not necessarily stereotypical macho
ones. Sure, no one is supposed to chicken out or be a downer, and
everyone tries to top each other’s stunts, but when they criticize
someone it’s usually for acting like a jerk. There’s a quality of
everyone being in it together and no one being above anything. They
value good sportsmanship, especially respecting each other’s
physical and creative abilities, not judging one another and not
holding grudges. When they put one over on each other, they shake
hands. In short, they display genuine affection for one another.

Like the finer points of playground
goading, in which “I double dog dare you” is not the same as
“don’t be a chicken,” it’s all about testing limits and the
thrill of doing something crazy and idiotic. There’s a big
difference between making fun and having fun, and one of the best
things about Jackass is that they’re having such a great
time, rolling on the floor in agony notwithstanding. They’re doing
stupid things, but, like clowns, they’re doing them on purpose to
entertain you. Contrast that with embarrassment-based shows like
America’s Funniest Home Videos or Canada’s Worst
Handyman
, which are designed to get the audience to laugh at
people for being unintentional idiots, and you have the difference
between slapstick comedy and social humiliation.

toycarupbuttfinal.jpgTheir creative repurposing of objects,
their delight at a good idea or a stunt that succeeds, and their
twisted science fair approach to scientific discovery remind me of
some of the most fun (and yes, stupidest) things about being a kid.
Like racing down a hill inside giant truck tires, for
instance. They also remind me of a time when having a body wasn’t
something I really had an opinion about, it was just interesting to
see what I could make it do.

The Jackasses are willing to show off
everything about their bodies, and a no shame philosophy is essential
to the project. Their acceptance of their bodies as is allows each of
them to use what their body can do that other people’s can’t,
whether it’s Dave England’s projectile pooping or Wee Man
posing as an aggressive traffic cone
in Toyko. It also allows
them to play with social norms and other people’s perceptions, like
they do in one of my favorite skits from Jackass 3D, “Watch
My Dog
,” where the sizeable Preston asks a bystander to watch
his dog while he goes into a store, and, a minute later, Wee Man
comes out dressed exactly the same, thanks the guy for watching his
dog, and walks off with it.

The casts’ range of body types
doesn’t include gender variance or race, but since Jackass
operates at the body’s lowest common denominator, having no use for
shame extends to everyone. They genuinely appreciate each other’s
abilities, and excrement is cast as the great equalizer: everyone’s
bodily fluids are equally gross and mundane. They manage to celebrate
the differences between their bodies while highlighting the ways in
which all bodies are the same, which is essentially the basis of
egalitarianism.

Basically, looking bad just doesn’t
bother them. I mean, I think about how much I’d hate constantly
having my outfits ruined or my hair messed up, and how annoying it
would be to come to work and end up covered head to toe in flour
or blue paint or urine. Or how horrified most people would be
at the idea of going to the doctor to have a toy car removed from
their butt
.

In fact, Jackass seems like a
project in radical non-attachment. They push each other and
themselves to dive into the things they’re uncomfortable with and
face their fears. Knowing Bam Margera is terrified of snakes, they
trick him into snake skits: “I realized the hard way that you don’t
tell people from Jackass what you’re terrified of because
that’s just a new skit for them to film. But, I deserved it.” I
suspect that if they think of something they’d hate to do, they
immediately pitch it as a stunt.

Of course, self-image naturally adapts
to environment, so as men they may be jackasses, but as Jackasses,
they know they’re awesome.

~~~

alex macfadyen is a former bookstore manager who
is currently a house hippo, spending his days exploring the universe
of the tiny with his toddler.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Comments

2 Responses to “I Double Dog Dare You”

  1. NefariousDro
    December 16th, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

    You know, what strikes me as affirmation of your point the most is that last quote: “…But, I deserved it” says it all, I think. Having been the small outcast from a small town, I admire their courage to make themselves the butt of their jokes, and the lengths they’re willing to go for the joke.

  2. Carol Borden
    January 17th, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

    johnny knoxville recently did a nice little documentary about detroit. (and no, it’s not all ruin porn):
    http://www.palladiumboots.com/exploration/detroit

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Comics Alliance suggests seven Star Wars comics to read before Disney makes them disappear. (Including a comic by one of Comics Editor Carol’s favorite creative teams–Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman). “Starting in 2015, Disney’s handing the publishing of any and all new Star Wars comics over to Marvel Comics, with an all new, optimized-for-corporate-synergy canon that will spread across all their media platforms. Anything that’s not a movie (especially one of the Original Trilogy movies), or a Clone Wars cartoon, will be unceremoniously Order 66-ed out of existence, giving future filmmakers a clean-ish slate to make movies (and money) on. But what about all those Dark Horse comics? That’s where we come in with 7 Dark Horse Star Wars comics you should track down before they disappear.”

    ~

    At the New York Observer, Ashley Steves writes about Craig Ferguson’s The Late, Late Show. “No one could ever prepare you for watching an episode of Ferguson’s Late Late Show. A friend could not sit you down and explain it (“Well, it’s really meta and deconstructive and there’s a horse”). There was really no good way to recommend it. It was something you discovered and became a part of. You had to stumble upon it on your own, perhaps restless or bored or simply curious while flipping through channels when your eye quickly caught some of the madness. And that’s the best part. It was an unexpected gift. At its worst, it could still send you to bed grinning and comforted. At its best, it was art. It was silly and fun and truly not like any other late night show.”

    ~

    At Comics Alliance, Chris Sims interviews Ed Brubaker about his work on Batman, Gotham Central and Catwoman. “When I look back at [Catwoman], I’m so proud of the first 25 issues of that book, when I felt like everything was firing on all cylinders. I probably should’ve left when Cameron Stewart left instead of sticking around. That’s one of those things I look back at and think “Ah, I had a perfect run up until then!” (Incidentally, Comics Editor Carol’s first piece for the Gutter was about Brubaker’s first 25 issues of Catwoman).

    ~

    At Sequential Art, Greg Carpenter writes a lovely piece about Charles Schulz’ Peanuts. “After only two installments, Schulz had solidified the rules for his comic strip.  Random acts of cruelty would punctuate this irrational world, and Schulz’s trapped little adults would be forced to act out simulations of human behavior, using hollow gestures to try to create meaning in a universe where no other meaning was evident.  If Shakespeare’s Macbeth had been a cartoonist, the results of his daily grind, “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” might have looked somewhat similar—each character a “poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage” until he or she was heard from no more.”

    ~

    The Smithsonian Magazine has a gallery of US spy satellite launches. “Just as NASA creates specially designed patches for each mission into space, [National Reconnaissance Office] follows that tradition for its spy satellite launches. But while NASA patches tend to feature space ships and American flags, NRO prefers wizards, Vikings, teddy bears and the all-seeing eye. With these outlandish designs, a civilian would be justified in wondering if NRO is trolling.”

    ~

    At The Guardian, Keith Stuart and Steve Boxer look at the history of PlayStation.“Having been part of the late 80s rave and underground-clubbing scene, I recognised how it was influencing the youth market. In the early 90s, club culture started to become more mass market, but the impetus was still coming from the underground, from key individuals and tribes. What it showed me was that you had to identify and build relationships with those opinion-formers – the DJs, the music industry, the fashion industry, the underground media.” (via @timmaughan)

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: