Saturday, July 12, 2003


In my sitcom writing class, I have been arguing with the teacher about the value of the movie Jackass. His stand, as far as I understand, is that there's no motivation or goals in the movie (except to shock?), and therefore uninteresting. I, on the other hand, loved Jackass (and some other reality television like the 5th Wheel, and The Osbournes), but haven't thought it through as much and have a tough time defending my view. For the sake of having something to blog (I'm completely exhausted from the demands that the school has been putting on me) I'll try to figure it out now.

I loved Jackass, there are so many absurd, yet layered scenes; to chuckle, chew over, and almost piss my pants laughing at.

If it were only about shock, then yeah, I'd probably hate it even more than my teacher. In fact, a lot of the problems that I have with the sitcom writing, and the cheesy reality shows (Fear Factor, American Idol, Survivor... and others that I've never even watched: Big Brother, The Bachelor, The Mole, Extreme Makeover, The Bachelor, Real World, etc.) is that they are overwritten and shticky... One can say that the motivation for the characters is too defined and controlled.

When people are controlled, and their motivation determined by outside forces, then what you end up with is aggressive manipulation and humiliation. Humiliation, by the way, is very in nowadays; and accounts for the success of many of the shows mentioned above. Many sitcoms resort to humiliation (Sex in the City, Friends, The Drew Carey Show, etc.) and almost nothing else. The levity is contrived, the laughs nervous and artificial. Without consent - and I don't mean just the desire to get rich or famous - humiliation is just ugly and unnecessary. Lazy degrading and dull sitcoms and reality shows humiliate and shock. It's also shocking to watch people make asses out of themselves on Jerry Springer and the Six O'Clock News. Most of the shit out there tries and succeeds at shocking.

I guess the difference is, like everything else I blog here, motivation. When humiliation is directly faced off with either humor or sorrow, it becomes much more, and less. It becomes the obstacle to the persons objective - completeness and integrity. It becomes something to overcome, and transcend.

It's just like the respect that I have for my favorite radio personality Howard Stern. He's been called a shock jock, but it's wrong to do that. Howard, Jackass, and other forms of great reality entertainment don't just shock us, they do more; they surprise us. I think that that's its motivation and why I like it so much. There is method in their madness, the adventures that they put themselves through build and evolve. They actually transcend pain by making it interesting. Enough, I'm going to go see how long I can stand it rolling down a hill in the "doggie duty" bin in the park ;b

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