After more than a decade of shoving hostile objects in his rectum, antagonizing dangerous wildlife, handling strangers' fecal matter, and otherwise giving the finger to America's public health establishment, Ryan Dunn, a founding member of "Jackass" and the CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) Crew, died last night in a car crash outside Philadelphia.
Dunn, along with cohorts Bam Margera, Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, and a slew of other mischief makers, inspired some truly epic hand-wringing when "Jackass" first aired on MTV in 2000:
A handful of incidents in which youngsters have injured themselves or their friends imitating stunts they saw on television is a powerful reminder of the effect media can have on children, according to pediatricians and psychologists.
Since the music video channel MTV began airing a program in which a young man carries out absurd stunts that in any adult's mind would earn him the show's title, Jackass, a half-dozen youngsters have suffered serious injuries while — they said — repeating what they saw on television.
"It's cumulative," said Dr. Michael Rich, who serves on the Committee for Public Education of the American Academy of Pediatricians. "It's a stalagmite process, drip, drip, drip and then you get something big. It's a major sea change when you look at the whole population."
Most children are unable to sift through the images presented in media, psychologists say, and are particularly vulnerable to the suggestions in images that are close to their own lives.
In the case of a show like Jackass, children who feel starved for attention or the recognition of their peers see a chance to get it, and many simply are not yet sophisticated enough to understand that the stunts are not being held up for praise but for scorn, experts say.
(Unlike the stunts in, say, football, which are "held up" for praise even when participants leave the sport brain-damaged and suicidal.)
According to a picture Dunn posted hours before the crash, it wasn't stunting that killed him, but booze. It appears he was drinking heavily before climbing behind the wheel of what Jalopnik speculates was a Porsche 997 GT3.
Incidentally, this is probably the only dangerous activity that the "Jackass" crew never endorsed on their show.