Thoughts On: Jackass/Beyond The Mat - Childhood? And Killing Yourself

Jackass/Beyond The Mat - Childhood? And Killing Yourself

Here, I've put together two Quick Thoughts posts that I think speak well enough to each other without needing much exploration or exposition. I hope you enjoy...

Jackass - Killing Yourself Out Of Boredom

More stunts, skits and stupidity.


In the previous post, we looked at the first Jackass movie in respect to our draw to it on a wide scale. Want I to quickly pick up on in this post is the core theme that runs throughout this entire series and an awful lot of films like it: self-destruction. This theme is the crux of a much more acute reason as to why people like this movie. As I alluded to in the previous post, understanding the draw to this film isn't hard if you've ever been a teenager. This allusion was there to imply that this movie resonates with us on a destructively pubescent level. I always assume that almost every single person has stories of how stupid they were as a teenager. Whether it be setting fires, breaking windows, throwing shit at cars, destroying things for no reason or screwing with animals, we all did stupid things - and we did them out of boredom. When we reflect on the stupid shit we've done (sometimes still do) we inherently see a huge risk or danger that we put ourselves in. If it's not ourselves we put in danger by jumping off of things, climbing across high structures or blowing things up, it's certainly others when we throw stones, break windows or make dares. It's because of boredom that we'd risk so much - as our mothers would often say, it'd be breaking our necks, losing an eye or snapping a bone. We did these things nonetheless--and out of a complete disrespect for others and ourselves. Looking past the vicarious elements of Jackass, this is why these movies appeal to us so much. They embody this selfish and disrespectful flippancy that completely disregards safety and sense. I believe that this is the core reason why anyone would hate these films. But, at the same time, it's clearly the reason why we, on an individual level, are drawn to them. There is something twisted and malicious in all of us, especially in young boys, it must be said, that has an affinity to pain in all its forms. As many would say, this has a lot to do with rebellion; we hurt ourselves and others because we have no other idea of how to grow away from people and into ourselves. There is also an added element of existential friction in these films though. This is something that has been inadvertently picked up on quite a lot on the blog. In talking about art as communication, art as a painful endeavor, a Burden Of Dreams needing a Heart Of Darkness, there has been this constant subliminal suggestion that people find worth in pain and hardship. We don't just see this in movies, but in all aspects of life. We respect those that 'work hard' that walk the proverbial path less travelled by. Why? It seems that there is something of a lesson demonstrated by our stupidly destructive teenage years. They show us that we find worth in the things that scare us, because these are the things that, in short, let us know we're alive. This echoes through from idiotic, adrenaline-surge inducing stunts to the simple things in life. From making hard decisions in work to putting in that little bit more effort in our relationships, there lies a core lesson taught by a stupid childhood: the tough, dangerous and nonsensical things in life are the ones that pay off, that make us feel good. I think that explains our draw to this film, our ability to laugh at people being hurt whilst simultaneously respecting them. A lot of what we do in life is there to generate an existential friction that tells others and ourselves that we exist, that we're doing something, that we're causal bodies in this world - and we're rewarded for this by the chemical factory that is our bodies.

So, the final aphorism I'll leave you with is: simply surviving seems to be the mere continuation of life whilst living is almost dying, is tempting death, is skating that painful boundary between being here and about to leave - all so we can retain perspective and a sense of control over where we are in this mess. Such seems to be the near-pretentious take away of this idiotic series of films.

Beyond The Mat - The Profession Of Childhood

Just what it says on the box: an insight beyond the mat and ring of professional wrestling entertainment.

In the previous post, we looked at documentary, performance, actuality and questions of truth. The takeaway from delving into The Act Of Killing and Waltz With Bashir was that documentaries can hold significant power when they embrace their artifice and the performance of their subjects. In thinking about this subject, I gravitated towards a film I've seen before and a representative of a huge part of my childhood: Beyond The Mat and wrestling entertainment.

Growing up, wrestling a la the WWF was the only 'sport' I knew or would pay attention to. I never watched football, basketball, cricket, baseball, rugby, boxing, tennis - I always liked athletics and the Olympics - but, wrestling was it really until a few years ago when MMA caught my eye. And, to me, Beyond The Mat perfectly captures the draw of wrestling as entertainment as, whilst MMA can be considered the most base and primal of sports, wrestling is the entertainment equivalent. The draw of the WWF to a kid is then a mere extension of wrestling with friends, brothers or other family members. Whilst movies were the adult and professional projection of most games you'd play and imaginings you'd have, wrestling was the professional and 'adult' replication of play fighting. And Beyond The Mat makes a subtle commentary on this foundation - especially in the Mick Foley sequence.

I remember watching this match time and time again on video with my uncle, and, in initially seeing behind the scenes of this however many years ago, I was left shocked after recognising what Foley puts his body through. Whilst it's easy to be drawn to the gore and thrill of his pain-seeking masochism and get a sense of "Oh, he's actually in pain; bleeding; writhing", this is usually very intermittent. That is to say, the slight empathising with his pain is part of the match, but not much more; you forget about it quick. But, it's watching Beyond The Mat that you get a sense of the longevity of this pain, not just a few hours after the match as he's in hospital, but years down the line as veteran wrestlers face chronic knee injuries and a plethora of other torturous pain. And this is something picked up on excellently in The Wrestler - a film you get a strong sense was inspired by this documentary and many alike.

When re-watching Beyond The Mat, however, that wasn't the primary take away for me. Instead of the lasting pain and torment being the insight given into the lives of these wrestlers and the structure of the organisations, it was the motivation of these figures that really stuck out to me. It's despite the pain experienced, past, present and future, that these guys perform. And whilst I know I'll never really be able to grip just what it means to feel that incentive, thinking back to myself consuming hours of wrestling does help to contextualise what maybe goes through these guys' heads. As a child, I was seemingly drawn to the apparent profession of remaining a kid that all of these people were in. They all make money, sometimes $25, sometimes millions upon millions, just for play fighting. They take it up dozens of notches above what any 6-year-old is capable of, but there is still that 6-year-old's drive. This appeared as an interesting perspective to take on the masks, costumes, lights, music, terrible acting and stomp-punching, but also a wider idea of art, Hollywood and entertainment - one I'll leave as an open observation.

So, what are your thoughts? Where you ever into wrestling? Are you this guy...

And have you seen this film?

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