I have never seen the Jackass movies, nor have I sat down to willingly watch their programs on MTV. I’ve also never been a CKY fan, and I think the genre (with these examples being the most prolific) promotes a form of ‘entertainment’ that is dangerous in many respects.
The most dangerous, in my eyes, is holding up for full view a group of young men who get paid unreal money to perform infantile, dangerous, and potentially fatal stunts for shock value and laughs.
The danger develops a stranglehold on the impressionability of youth. I can tell you from personal experience that I have friends who have videotaped themselves performing similar stunts in their yards and neighborhoods. I know this, because I was forced to endure their versions of “home movie night” in their living rooms.
From this, you could infer that I have little sympathy for Ryan Dunn, the 34 year old troupe member, and best friend of Bam Margera, who died early Monday morning in a particularly horrific car accident in eastern Pennsylvania.
In the accident, Dunn, along with friend Zachary Hartwell, were virtually killed on impact, as Dunn’s speeding Porsche took a tight turn, and barreled into a railing before slamming into a tree, bursting into flames.
When you have to be identified by your tattoos because almost nothing else about you is recognizable, that’s a pretty bad wreck.
As images of the charred Porsche circulated the web, tributes began to pop up for Dunn. After all, Dunn is a celebrity whose fame coincided with the youth of people now into their twenties and thirties. Checking Facebook on my lunch break at work, my newsfeed was littered with “RIP Ryan Dunn” from, literally, no less than 100 friends.
And there’s nothing wrong with paying tribute to a fallen man. He has family and friends who, I’m certain, can look past the depravity that made him famous, and see him for being a kind soul with little to no malice in his heart.
Then came the pictures.
Hours before the accident that claimed him and Hartwell, photos on Dunn’s Tumblr page showed him to be drinking. As Dunn was the driver in the fatal crash, this raises questions of how intoxicated he was at the time of the wreck.
Roger Ebert, the world-renowned movie critic, tweeted “Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive”, with the ‘jackass’ word choice making it less-than-ambiguous who he was referring to.
And then suddenly, out of the woodwork crawled every Jackass fan to wave their imaginary flaming torch on an anger trudge toward Dr. Ebertstein’s laboratory, with venom sludging out of their raging jaws.
Boy, did Ebert take a verbal beating. From threats to curses to rotten remarks about Ebert’s losing his jawbone due to cancer, if Ebert had taken anymore of a textual horse-whipping from Dunn supporters, he could fill a book with them and double, or even triple, the length of “Your Movie Sucks”.
But I’m glad that Ebert tweeted what he tweeted, even if he did backpedal a smidge. After all, I don’t think he intended to disparage a dead man. Instead, he highlighted what seems to be a cautionary tale: fame doesn’t excuse one from living recklessly, because it sure didn’t excuse Ryan Dunn.
And Ebert was absolutely right. The truth hurts. By saying what he said on his Twitter account, Ebert provoked a rather interesting stimulus response from people who are, let’s be honest, not in touch with reality.
The truth is, celebrities, like any of us, have the capacity to die in infamy. Chris Benoit killed himself after murdering his wife and son. I was a Benoit fan since 1995, but I won’t begrudge you or anyone else from saying “Benoit’s a f—ing murder and I hope he’s burning in Hell”.
Kurt Cobain blew his brains out in 1994, although that’s come into question, as conspiracy-minded folks seem to think there’s a little more to it. But assuming he did commit suicide, he left behind a young daughter, Frances Bean, to be raised without her dad. If one wants to question Cobain’s irresponsibility, they’re permitted. It’s not a blight on his musical talent or enlightened creativity. I’m a Cobain fan, and a Nirvana fan, and if he killed himself, it makes me respect him less.
Just as I fail to understand Dunn supporters who don’t see the forest for the trees. If he was drunk, and the arrow is leaning that way, then paying tribute to a man who ended another man’s life irresponsibly is wrong.
Just as wrong as getting mad at a movie critic for hitting a nerve with honesty.
And invoking George Carlin’s “seven words” on a cancer-stricken movie critic isn’t going to paint over that rust adequately enough.
Soon enough, Ryan Dunn’s family will lay him to rest. Zachary Hartwell’s family will do the same. Maybe Zachary’s family will file action against Dunn’s estate. Maybe Hartwell’s mother will become an important figure for MADD.
All I know is the saga’s not over. Ryan Dunn’s name is fixing to be dragged through the mud moreso in the next several weeks and months, perhaps deservedly so.
So pay tribute to Ryan Dunn all you want. Just don’t get offended if people who prefer “honesty” don’t.
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.