Last week, Ryan Dunn of Jackass, the television stunt show where cast members put themselves in dangerous situations for laughs, died in a fiery Pennsylvania car crash. Having never been a fan of the show or its film spin-offs, I was mostly unmoved, aside from the general feelings of sadness whenever anyone dies. However, the cult of grief and remorse on Facebook and Twitter mourning his passing made me sit up and pay attention.
Once I heard the circumstances of his death, I was not only paying attention; I was concerned.
Dunn died while speeding in his Porsche 911 on Route 322 after a night of drinking, which, knowing the guys at Jackass, was more than likely not in a responsible manner. He got into his $100,000 sports car with his friends and proceeded to speed right off the road into the woods, where his car caught fire, killing his passenger and himself.
As soon as the report of his death went public, young people all over the country were starting Facebook pages with titles like "Ryan Dunn4life" and "Remembering Ryan Dunn." People started posting his picture as their profile pic and video memorials were everywhere.
This is a frightening response by youth, and a scary vision of the types of heroes they look up to. Ryan Dunn tested twice the legal alcohol limit when he killed himself, his passenger and greatly risked the lives of everyone on the road. This man should be remembered - as an example of the selfish and careless mistakes he made.
While it is understandable for young people to be attracted to the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants lifestyle of these daredevils, they need examples to follow now more than ever. The bad examples are all that interest corporations like MTV, which first put Jackass on the air. With shows like Jersey Shore, about heavy drinking and promiscuous young people in New Jersey, to Skins, about very young kids who are sexually active and experiment with drugs and drinking, one must ask if these outlets truly have the best intentions for their viewers or the talent that they hire to make these shows at heart.
With people dying every day in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, one in five U.S. families struggling to put food on their tables and millions of homeless and unemployed, the attention paid to this one irresponsible rich playboy who died as a result of his own idiotic behavior is a worrisome indication of who has the eyes and ears of American youth.
I can only hope that Dunn's death serves as a warning to all his young fans, like a living Mr. Bungle cartoon, that what these Jackasses do on the silver screen and in their everyday lives can and will kill you.
Photo: Manuel Sagra // CC 2.0