The Cultural Gutter

hey, there's something shiny down there...

"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

    Actor, director, writer and artist Leonard Nimoy has died. Nimoy was most famous for playing Spock in Star Trek, but he also appeared in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), In Search Of…, Ancient Mysteries, Columbo, Fringe, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Faerie Tale Theatre, Mission: Impossible, Dragnet and Bonanza.  Nimoy directed Three Men And A Baby (1987), two Star Trek films and an episode of Night Gallery (“Death on a Barge”) among others. The New York Times and The Guardian have obituaries. Here are some tweets from William Shatner’s online memorial for Nimoy. George Takei remembers Nimoy. Zachary Quinto remembers Nimoy. EW also has other remembrances, including one from President Obama. Code Switch’s Steve Haruch discusses Spock’s importance as a biracial character. Nimoy talks about his work at the Archive of American Television. You can see some of Nimoy’s photography here. And a reminder that Nimoy had an Etsy shop.

    ~

    At Graveyard Shift Sisters, Ashlee Blackwell considers Jonathan Demme’s Beloved as a horror film as part of their Black History & Women In Horror Month series. “Beloved takes us on one journey of the Black American experience of slavery through the body of a Black female protagonist.”

    ~

    Watch Nigerian writer and director Nosa Igbinedion’s Oya: The Coming Of The Orishas here.

    ~

    At Bitch Media, Sara Century wonders why Michonne isn’t in charge and considers which medium is better for the ladies of The Walking Dead: comics or tv. “As I was thinking about the numerous questionable writing choices made with these could-be-so-great female characters, I got to wondering, which medium is better for the ladies of The Walking Dead: the TV show or the comic? In other words, which one is less sexist?

    I wrote up a short list of the main female characters that appear both on the show and in the comic to decipher the differences in how these women are written. These descriptions contain spoilers through season five of the TV show, because it’s impossible to write about The Walking Dead without talking about how people die all the time.”

    ~

    Vixen Varsity shares Olufemi Lee-Johnson’s tribute to Milestone Media and Dwayne McDuffie. “For the first time in my life, I was around comic writers of color telling stories that mirror or surpassed the storylines of America’s favorite heroes. Icon dealt with being the ultimate immigrant and not understanding current black culture. Rocket (Raquel Irvin) was his guide, but also aspired to be more than just a woman in the projects. Static (Virgil Hawkins) was just a normal teenager dealing with fitting into school and then was put into this extraordinary circumstance of being a hero. Hardware (Curtis Metcalf) wanted respect from his mentor, but later learned about the bigger picture when it came to being a hero and the characters from Blood Syndicate…they were just trying to make it day by day and maintain their respect as a gang.”

    ~

    At Soundcheck, John Schaefer talks with Jim Jarmusch about “making music for someone else’s films, and a penchant for walking the tightrope between narrative and abstract art in his own movies. And if you thought his C.V. was looking a little thin, Jarmusch is also working on an upcoming opera about the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, with Robert Wilson and composer Phil Kline.” (Thanks, Kate!)

    ~

  • 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: