Aritcles on Jackass copycats

Youth dies trying to be a Jackass

Stunt is linked to comedy film
Teenager thrown from car, run over

Toronto Star (E3)
Dec. 18, 2002. 01:00 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- A teenager died while practising what police say was a stunt he and a friend had seen in the movie Jackass.

Stephen Paul Rauen, 15, was ejected from the top of a friend's car Monday after he'd jumped on to the hood, Albuquerque police spokesperson Jeff Arbogast said.

When the driver hit the brakes, the teenager hit the pavement and then was run over and dragged a short distance.

"We had reports the individuals had done it before," Arbogast said.

Police interviewed the driver Monday evening, but Arbogast said it was too early to say whether criminal charges would be filed.

Jackass: The Movie, which opened in October, is based on the MTV show of the same name.

The show's creator, Johnny Knoxville, has said that the goal of his kamikaze comedy is simply to make people laugh, and that it has no message besides "Don't try this at home.''

Comic bits in the movie range from running around naked in public and "Candid Camera''-style pranks to injuries and gross-out antics.

The film is rated R for "dangerous, sometimes extremely crude stunts, language and nudity," according to the Motion Picture Association of America. The movie is also rated R in Canada.

The television show, which still airs in late-night reruns, has drawn criticism that it encouraged dangerous behaviour.

After Knoxville wore a fireproof suit and allowed himself to be set ablaze and "roasted" on a grill, a few imitators were severely burned when they defied the show's disclaimers and performed their own variations on the stunt in 2001.

Just last week, a 13-year-old Indiana boy died and five other teens were injured after the van they were travelling in hurtled off a railway track at more than 110 kilometres an hour.

The van crashed into a parked car and slid more than 120 metres.

Authorities found a camcorder and video cassette near the van with scenes from the show.

They say they believe the accident may have been an attempt to recreate one of the show's stunts.

The movie and the television show repeatedly run disclaimers, urging viewers not to imitate the antics.


Crude film tempts teens to re-enact wild stunts

Mercury News
November 8, 2002
By Mike Antonucci

Waking up parents by lighting fireworks in their bedroom.

Giving yourself electric shocks.

Jumping off a trampoline into a spinning ceiling fan.

As dumb or crude as such stunts sound, ``Jackass: The Movie'' is tempting some teenagers to imitate outrageous and dangerous behavior just as the earlier MTV show did. And it's no mystery to health and media experts that a San Jose teen said he was inspired by the movie when he was set on fire Tuesday.

``A large part of its popularity derives from the very fact that it drives parents, teachers and cultural guardians crazy,'' said Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University professor who closely follows the impact of movies and television on popular culture.

``Now that it's gotten to the point of being such a cause célèbre,'' said Thompson, ``there's almost a sense that it's taunting us. This is the stuff that's supposed to be beyond what was on the MTV show, and I think a lot of viewers are almost taking this as a challenge.''

San Jose police said a 14-year-old told them he drenched himself with water and had friends set his clothing on fire after seeing the ``Jackass'' movie. He was unharmed because a nearby police officer had a fire extinguisher. That particular stunt is not in the movie.

Reports of adolescent boys who injured themselves imitating stunts have swirled around ``Jackass'' almost since its debut on MTV in October 2000. Before the show's cancellation last summer, MTV was pelted with complaints about the show's recklessness and crudity.

But the viewers it appeals to -- Thompson thinks the core audience starts as young as 8 and runs through college age -- have generated a healthy box office for the R-rated movie.

At last count, it had brought in more than $42 million since its Oct. 25 opening. The audience from the first weekend was reported to be overwhelmingly male and under 25.

Tessa Jolls, president of the non-profit Center for Media Literacy in Santa Monica, said controversies over the influence of all types of media is both old and new, with educational systems increasingly offering instruction in ``viewing'' as well as language-arts skills such as reading, writing, speaking and listening.

But she also noted, ``You could go back and look at examples of copycat situations for over 100 years. Young people committed suicide over Lord Byron's poetry.

``The issue,'' said Jolls, ``is how do we strengthen the ability of young people to deal with all this media influence in their lives?''

Lenore Terr, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco, said copycatting is a condition that adolescents can be susceptible to, whether influenced by a peer group or some form of media.

``Media influences are very strong in some groups, especially early teenagers,'' said Terr, whose books include ``Too Scared to Cry'' about psychic trauma in childhood.

``If the early teenager has problems that might not fall into the category of major mental illness, that teenager could still get involved in copycatting,'' said Terr. ``Who doesn't have issues when they're teenagers?''

Thompson argued that teenagers who want to distinguish themselves as cool or hip generally feel the need to push behavior to new extremes.

``Rock 'n' roll used to do that,'' he said, ``but now grandparents listen to it. There's a cultural space that needs to be created by each generation. We see it in pro wrestling, body piercings, things like that. And `Jackass' serves that purpose.''

But Thompson added that the thrill of ``Jackass,'' for some groups, includes just viewing it. ``For a 10-year-old boy, it's as much a matter of getting away with it.''

Echoing some movie reviewers, Thompson said the ``Jackass'' franchise also has entertainment appeal that will stretch to some viewers of all ages.

``It is,'' he said, ``in sort of a sick way, kind of funny to watch.''