Whether or not there is music in jackass: the movie is completely irrelevant. There probably is. But I doubt that this MTV/Paramount production (let’s not give too much credence to the “MTV” portion as both firms are owned by Viacom, so the fact that MTV provides some level of cred to the film is really irrelevant: it is nothing more than a certain type of conduit through which the wares of the firm that owns things including CBS, Showtime, Comedy Central, Infinity Broadcasting, Blockbuster, etc., etc., etc. are marketed) is something that people come away from humming a tune. That’s because, by and large, sound is irrelevant to jackass: the movie. In fact, it could be a completely silent film, one done, in effect in pantomime.
While certain people will undoubtedly decry the film is being moronic, filthy, puerile, and otherwise disgusting—which it is—what many people undoubtedly overlook is the fact that the exploits of Johnny Knoxville and his crew of post-juvenile delinquents are actually fundamentals of historic performance and psychology.
For the first, let me note that this film, which opened with a respectable $22.7-million weekend, is precisely in the lineage of the commedia dell’arte, which really came into its own in the 16th century. Although the commedia dell’arte tended to have a narrative story line, something that is completely lacking in jackass: the movie, which is nothing more than a series of brief sequences, what the two share is the character type. For example, while the commedia dell’arte performances often had a character known as the “Captain,” which was the young, adventurous type, jackass has Johnny Knoxville, who is clearly the leader of the group and is certainly adventurous. Wee Man in jackass has his forerunners in the characters of Zanni, the jester, and Punchinello, the hunchback. In either case, the character is somewhat short on brains and long on physical difference.
One of the departures from the classic form, however, is that while commedia dell’arte included women—and there were performances setup so that there could actually be naked women on stage as part of the festivities—jackass: the movie is all all-men’s—or all boy’s, as it were—club. The level of homosexual sadomasochism that pervades the movie is remarkable, all the more so as it tends to be underdetermined in the discourses that have looked at the film. Essentially, there is a single woman of any significance in the entire film, who remains fully clothed throughout. As she is Bam Magera’s mother, that’s probably just as well. Her key role is to be coerced, by her son, into uttering the word “fuck,” which opens up a huge can of Oedipal whoop-ass, all the more so as the father figure is portrayed as being completely ineffectual. There is a tremendous fascination in the film with excrement, both solid and liquid forms. Freud (who, oddly enough, wrote about the intersexuality of eels in his first publication) examined the anal stage rather carefully, concluding that the id likes to expulse excrement whenever and wherever, due to the fundamental enjoyment that’s consequence to the movement of one’s bowels (assuming, of course, that one doesn’t have a condom-covered Hot Wheels-like toy car shoved up one’s rectum, as is clinically portrayed in the film); the ego and the superego, as you might well imagine, counteract the id’s propensity to want to, say, take a shit in the showroom of a plumbing store or eating a yellow snow cone, which is the consequence of one’s own bladder relief.
Yes, there are undoubtedly those who will find the film to be revolting. But a thorough examination, based on the motions we have briefly referenced here, will undoubtedly indicate that there is much, much more than the filmic capture of a group of men who have a propensity to wear nothing more than jockstraps.
In addition to which, my 13-year-old nephew thinks it is “a classic.”