Michael Mullenniex 1:43 p.m., May 25
Why the (Bleep) Am I Watching Jackass?
During dinner the other night, I got to pick the movie that a group of us would watch on the TV in the living room.
The choices? Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Frank Tashlin’s Bachelor Flat, Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning, and Jackass 3.5.
I opted for Jackass 3.5.
As nutty as it sounds, I couldn’t resist the chance to see the 2011 sequel to Jackass 3D, featuring leftover footage from that film plus interviews with Jackass star Johnny Knoxville and other cast members.
By turns lame and hilarious, inane and inspired, Jackass 3.5 flaunts the foolhardy stunts and crotch humor that have made the participants famous (and infamous).
They surf over barrels. They aim basketballs and tennis balls at each other’s private parts. In one jaw-dropping skit, a woodpecker pecks at something it would never encounter in the wild. In another segment, an alligator snapping turtle bites a bare bottom, leaving a bloody wound.
There’s a gleeful nihilism at work here, a what-the-heck recklessness that shoves aside prudence and political correctness. As Johnny Knoxville once put it: “I just love that spirit that makes people do things that they probably shouldn't.”
Youthful males constitute most of the Jackass audience. They’re also the ones who make the mistake of attempting to duplicate the dangerous stunts. (Don’t try this stuff at home, kids!)
As a tea-sipping, arts-loving, garden-tending married mother of two, I don’t fit the target demographic. I’ve never ridden a skateboard. Or walloped anyone for fun. I’d much rather listen to opera than hip-hop. And I know more about Casablanca than The Hangover Part II.
So why do I like Jackass?
It makes me laugh so hard that tears run down my face. Jackass turns vulgarity into a virtue in ways that are often wildly inventive.
I wasn’t always so enthusiastic. About 12 years ago, when Big Screen blogger Scott Marks introduced me to Jackass through its MTV series, I was outraged by a skit about a baby. You may remember it. (Click here to refresh your memory.)
Knoxville pretends that he is an absent-minded parent who’s in a hurry. He drives off with a fake baby left in a carrier atop his vehicle, much to the horror of the passers-by who flag him down. I thought it was cruel to mock people for their compassion and concern. I still think it was mean. (Like when Mitt Romney put his dog in a carrier on the roof of his car.)
But the more I watched other Jackass episodes on MTV, the more my revulsion turned to fascination and finally, amusement. When the films came out, I saw them in San Diego: Jackass: The Movie (2002) in Mission Valley, Jackass Number Two (2006) at the Hazard Center, and Jackass 3D (2010) in Clairemont.
I get the most laughs when the Jackasses make juvenile fun of themselves instead of others. At the same time, I have a maternal concern for the well-being of these adrenaline-fueled thrill-seekers who are handsomely paid for their pranks. I hope they will be careful and avoid injuries that may have long-term consequences.
But it’s unlikely that Johnny, Steve-O, Bam, Wee Man, or any of the other participants are open to motherly advice. They’re more interested in new stunts, the more outrageous the better. To paraphrase a Jackass leitmotif, "If they're gonna be dumb, they gotta be tough."