Johnny Knoxville: A Real Jackass

By Kevin Brent

Random House defines Anthropology as “the science that deals with the origins, customs, etc., of humankind,” but in no way did they consider the application of this science toward a bunch of screwball skate punks obsessed with vomit and feces. But you know what? Bill Maurer did. Having received his doctorate at Stanford University and currently a Professor of Anthropology at University of California, Irvine, Bill agreed to help us dissect Jackass.

The following are the results of our informal case study.

BILL: There’s a long standing discussion in Anthropology of how people think about dirt, or about bodily excretia. Dirt is referred to as “matter out of place”. There isn’t one universal dirt – instead, what dirt is is anything that doesn’t fit in a particular cultures’ symbolic system. Stuff that falls between conceptual categories.

For example, what is s–t? Is it of the body or not of the body? There are huge debates in Medieval Renaissance Christiandom over the status of Christ’s s–t. Did he have any and, if he did, what was it? Was it of God’s body? The same in regards to the foreskin of Jesus – what happened to that piece of flesh? If it was of God’s body, it should have ascended to Heaven. Did it?

In that respect, is it possible that Johnny and his friends have a deeper understanding of the “stuff that falls between?”I don’t know if it’s a deeper understanding, but it’s some kind of awareness.

Shock value?
Early Renaissance paintings of Hell had things like little demons crapping money, or demon pooping souls into a chamber pot. These things were done for shock value just as this is.

Is there anything more to these guys than who can go the furthest?
Well, they are not really machismo guys. It’s against the shiny boy bands, but it’s not macho. This about being a loser and about putting it on display.

Would you say these guys are lifelong friends or are just put together like an N’SYNC?
It would be pretty easy to put a bunch of guys together and do this.

Do you think they are bored?

Are you getting bored, Professor?
Some of the skits are a little long.

People imagine there is something more to these guys and that they may see it someday. Do you think we’ll ever see the face of genius?
They’ll resent it if we do. The whole thing is predicated on them being stupid dudes who never really get anything right.

So I guess what I’m getting at is there is really isn’t much below the surface.

No. Not much.