I have to say: I totally don’t get the Roger Ebert “controversy” over tweeting (I still wince, using that as a verb) a mildly critical comment about a dead guy, a few hours after he died.
The dead guy, Ryan Dunn, is part of the “Jackass” crew, a bunch of young men who do heedless, outrageous stunts on camera and release them as movies, which people pay to see. I guess that makes him an actor, although “personality” seems to be a better word for it. Whatever, I think we can all agree one line we don’t want in our obituaries is “was famous for inserting a toy car into his rectum.” But there you go.
You can read about what happened elsewhere, if you haven’t already — Dunn died and gossip sites posted photos taken hours earlier, of Dunn drinking at a Philadelphia-area bar, while police agencies weighed in, estimating that Dunn was traveling far in excess of posted speed limits, maybe as fast as 100 mph. Adding 2 + 2, Ebert said on Twitter, “Jackasses don’t let friends drink and drive.” A “firestorm” ensued, led by the Jackass crew member Bam Margera, and blah blah blah, now it’s a full-fledged “controversy.”
For what it’s worth, I thought Ebert’s partial walkback was artfully done, and contained just the right amount of apology, which boiled down to, “maybe there’s a time for observations like this, but it’s not in the immediate aftermath of a painful event, and I’m sorry I did.” I rather wish he’d gone further and said, “maybe we should all stay away from Twitter and Facebook for, like, a week. See if the world goes on without it. See how we feel about it.” But he didn’t. Alas.
But yesterday must have been a slow news day, because in my perambulations around the web last night, it seemed every major news outlet had a little piece on it. None of them said what I feel like saying, however, so I’ll say it now:
What the hell?
It seems to me that when you make a living doing outrageous things, when you’re an edgy envelope-pusher and toy-car-up-the-butt shover, when you’ve made a nice buck making the mothers of 13-year-old boys around the planet hate your guts for reasons so obvious they don’t even bear repeating here, when you’re known far and wide as a very fast driver and you pose for photos in bars slurping up liquor with your buddies — when you’re all that, and you then die in a fiery car crash, and the worst thing anyone says about you is a mild observation of the obvious, well, maybe you got off easy. Someone else died in that crash, a Jackass hanger-on who was a passenger in the car, which makes you guilty of second-degree murder in many states. You have now officially lost all claim to my sympathies. Jackass.
But also, this: You can track the outrage over this along demographic lines, don’t you think? The younger you are, the more likely you are to be offended that an old man said something mean about a young man who died so tragically, so unfairly. Young people have a hard time believing they will ever die, ever ever ever, and dislike being reminded they will. Plus, old people disapprove of “Jackass” because they’re old and their bones break easily. I remember riding in an elevator at the Columbus Dispatch after the Who concert tragedy in Cincinnati, and listening to some geezer copy editor thunder about these young people “trampling their own kind,” as though that’s what the stampede was about — hey, screw those people if they can’t stay on their feet, I wanna get Roger Daltry’s sweat on me! No one ever did that at a Benny Goodman show, by cracky. I seethed. I kept my mouth shut. I’m sure, had Twitter existed, I’d have marched to a computer and said something stupid about it.
Well, every generation has its Jimi Hendrix moment, I guess. The lesson remains: Friends don’t let friends drink and drive.
A little bloggage today?
Jon Stewart runs down the list of Fox News lies. Very funny.
Newt Gingrich: The other diamond earring drops.
Michele Bachmann’s first dude, Marcus. Fascinating.
Another busy day awaits, but today it pays me some actual money (I hope). So off to do it.