Jackass 3D in a 4D World

Jimmy Chen


Ever the organized bunch, Jackass 3D, which opens this Friday, is conveniently also Jackass 3. It’s a pun made more timely, given our film industry’s current absurd obsession with making everything 3D, as if real life were not nauseating enough. I suspect Jackass are in on the joke. Their reverse low-brow (or, as I prefer, “low-bro”) anti-art as Art is always joyous for me to watch. Perhaps they, willing to break bones and drink their own piss, are the real avant-garde, for mere written manifestos fly away in the wind.

The Jackass franchise operates under similar devices as pornography: the visual documentation of extreme and excessive behaviors which viewers either wish they could participate in, or don’t dare to. As with porn, sexuality is often hyperbolized and misunderstood. A large ratio of the stunts involve homo-erotic, or at least homo-social, sodomy of some sort, usually accompanied by self-emasculation: anal beads attached to a kite and flown from the ass, beer enemas, a toy car inserted and x-rayed, fireworks emitted from the anus, electric shocks administered to the scrotum and perineum, a penis dressed as a mouse and placed inside a populated snake tank, ingesting cow semen, etc. They can barely wait to all get naked together, which they often do, as in D.H. Lawrence’s dirty world of men who wrestle each other with unresolved passions.

Cast member Chris Pontius’ trademark skit is stripping in public (most hilariously, in Japan) down to a pouch thong and rubbing up against strangers in a free jiggle dance. His other look is Cowboy; whether it’s pre- or post-Brokeback Mountain barely matters. In another skit designed to bother boundaries, Preston Lacey (morbidly obese) chases Wee-Man (a dwarf) down streets mumbling and grunting for the latter’s return, both in their underwear with the implication that there’s some sort of out-of-bed morning love tussle.

The homo-allusions don’t end (or start) there. Their production company Dickhouse’s logo is a gay pride rainbow, their mascot a rooster—or, rather, a cock—wrapped in the palm of a hand. All this gay posturing, on the part of front man Johnny Knoxville and producer Spike Jonze, is highly “ironic” and sophisticated, if we are to (which we will) give them the credit of being the “non-douchebag nerd bro” type which they seem to be, a demographic implicitly aligned with other marginalized communities such as gays.

With great power comes great responsibility, and what Jackass may be missing is that their gay-friendly deprecating self-emasculation is most likely lost on their target audience (i.e. white suburban middle- to upper-class teenage boys) who are simply in it for the dick jokes and violent undertones of many of their stunts. Of their WARNING disclaimer “[…] no one attempt to recreate or re-enact any stunt or activity performed on this show,” they have perhaps inadvertently included irony, and surely these kids would not perform such a subtle stunt.

The ambulances and paramedics are never seen on camera during Jackass’ more dangerous stunts, for nonchalance is their primary conceit. Mortality, as with the POV war video games our target audience plays, is abstracted—never visceral, just celebrated with inconsequential hyperbole. A sniper rifle’s trigger, after all, is only a button. This complicit “understanding,” at an age where understandings change, is truly dangerous.

If time is the fourth dimension, with its rather sculptural and irrevocable effect on space, what will these kids say—years later and grown into men, after the literal “ROFL” fits have subsided—to a giddy group in a hotel room waving their balls around? Probably “fag,” a word by which unexamined and non-ironic deep anger may be summoned. And then what? I’d hate to see somebody get hurt.


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