EDITORAL: Rubbing alcohol incinerates Generation Y Bother? apathy

Peter Gillette

SEATTLE, Washington (Reuters) — A 15-year-old Washington state boy suffered serious burns when he set himself on fire trying to re-enact a stunt similar to those from MTV’s controversial show “Jackass,” though an MTV spokesperson noted the stunt the boy tried had never appeared on the show or in the recent movie based on the show. The boy from the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Washington, soaked his shirt in rubbing alcohol late on Friday and ignited it while his friends stood by with a video camera shooting footage they planned to sell, police and local media reported . . . .

“The stunt obviously went very wrong,” Issaquah police said in a statement.

Included above is an excerpt of an actual story that appeared last week, courtesy of a viable news agency, on CNN.com. After reading the article, I found myself wondering two things: who is Issaquah police, and what does he think would have happened had the stunt not gone wrong?

Didn’t the 15-year-old Washington state boy perform the stunt incredibly well? Here we are, in Appleton, Wis., and we know that this young man burned himself. In fact, the saddest part of this entire story is that nothing went wrong. Everything transpired according the plan.

I will not address then, as the Issaquah police did, the degree to which this boy was successful in enacting the stunt.

My first impulses upon reading the fateful news about the young victim were torn between a cold resignation — that the boy was participating in some rite of natural selection — and of course (as everyone feels in these situations) the desire to unconditionally censor any television program however tangentially related to Tom Green, Paulie Shore, Jesse Camp, or MTV in general.

If you recognized two or three of those names, by the way, the chance is favorable that some censorship could have aided your upbringing, too. But censorship, of course, is not the way.

But where did the chain break down? What could we fix?

Perhaps counties in Washington should now begin carding for rubbing alcohol. Maybe junior high schools (or are they middle schools again? I can’t remember) should feature Rubbing alcohol Awareness and INcineration (RAIN—everyone loves a great acronym) month in schools.

Perhaps we should fix up ball fields. Because in the old days, kids didn’t sit around in front of the television thinking about how to incinerate themselves; instead, they got in fistfights over contested basketball games. But they didn’t film it because kids didn’t have video cameras.

It’s the one-parent household, or maybe the two-parent household. Unsupervised children plus cable equals incineration.

Then, of course, there are the guys who make millions off of “Jackass”. We could always blame them.

Or, how about we give the kid the blame—and respect him.

While Generation X was known for its weary, cynical irony, Generation Y (or Generation Y Bother?) seems doomed by our apathy. We sit around, inactive and unaware. We passively receive media. (Laugh all you want, but you’re doing it right now, most likely.)

But one kid found a way to wake up. Sure, maybe his journey to self-discovery did lead to self-incineration, but I suppose we all have to learn somehow.

Maybe next time little Johnny goes to light himself on fire, he’ll think twice. Or perhaps he’ll realize his plan’s greatest flaw: Jackass star Johnny Knoxville found a buyer for his self-destruction before strapping himself to a lit barbeque grill.