Saturday, 2 November 2013

If you're gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough - Why Jackass is important television

I couldn't of been the only person who watched MTV's Jackass with just a twinge of envy every time they did something as stupid as snort wasabi, shoot themselves out of a rocket, or rampage in a golf buggy. And yes, the massive disclaimers that appeared at least four times during each episode where a constant reminder that these are dangerous and stupid stunts, but, god damn it!, at least some people have the balls to be stupid and dangerous!

Of course, bodily harm has always been a source of entertainment. On the macabre end you have the public burnings and hangings (that have thankfully stopped in most of the world), and with the rise of cinema you have the greats of physical humour; Charlie Chapman, Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton.

Physical humour is steadily falling out of favour in the media however, as it is commonly perceived now days that causing bodily harm to yourself or others is morally repugnant (you've only got to think of health and safety monstrosities such as banning the delightful game of conkers to see what I mean). Also, there is the common misconception that watching people hurt themselves and others will lead the audience to commit those same crimes.

The truth is that programmes like Jackass and the likes of Dirty Sanchez and even Epic Meal Time (a YouTube show where they make grossly calorific food and then gourge on it while drowning in whiskey) are not really violent programmes, in the common sense anyway. They are an immitation of violence, a simulcra if you will. This is not the violence of battles and wars, not even of the playground, just an exploration to see what that violence would feel like. This is why watching Jackass and the like can be quite cathartic; it's a way experiencing something without actually having to do it.

(I've always been interested in why people do violent things, so if you want a bit of an expanded explation of simulcrum in relation to violence, why not have a read through my university dissertation. It's about the performance artist Chris Burden and his peice Shoot, but it relates quite well to Jackass.)

Have a listen to our Bad Grandpa review and let us know what you think of the Jackass antics.


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