Jackass’s Ryan Dunn: a bad role model

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


Jordan Farrar
Jordan Farrar

Jordan Farrar is a fan of European football, reggae music and camping, and played the bass guitar for a local garage band in Baltimore. He has been involved in youth and student struggles since high school and works with various groups aimed at fighting racism, sexism and homophobia.


  • In his 34 years, Ryan Dunn lived a fuller life than most people will in 90 years. He was always happy and constantly smiling in his pictures and on film. If you read and listen to interviews of his friends on his death, they all talk about what a nice and caring person he was. Yes, he made a mistake by mixing drinking and driving, but that doesn’t make him a bad role model. The fact that he spent his life making people laugh and loving life makes him a great role model. We all make mistakes, even those who you would consider perfect role models. But the truth is no one is perfect and no one’s death should be celebrated or talked about like this. His legacy will live on in the hearts of those who were fans. RIP Random Hero Ryan Dunn, thanks for the laughs.

  • You must understand that kids who watch shows like skins are watching because they already participate in such things. If anything it’s the painful outcomes shown in such story lines of the tv shows, and in this case, real life, that give examples of the real dangers of excess TO these kids – & myself.
    His death has come as a shock & warning to the ones who loved his work (myself included) – more than any advert or unrelateable role model that you may wish to proffer.

  • Who are you to judge people, every one in this planet make bad mistakes: unfortunately he died over a bad judgement.
    However he was not a bad influence, he was just tried to live his life, “live hard die young”. But people like yourself would never understand this concept because your never leave your safe parameters, Although: you live “longer” you are always going to be stuck in the same cubicle with the same routine for the rest of your life. “Next time your have a though…just let it go!”.

  • While I thought Jackass was mildly entertaining at times, I think we need to show youth the other side of the picture – we need to show them that it’s great to look up to writers and artists as well, rather than simply daredevils and reality show pseudo-celebrities.

    Bam Margera in particular is an interesting character, and has a great taste in music, but after years of Jackass and Viva La Bam, I always ask myself, “what has this person actually contributed to society?” People shouldn’t be paid for moronic behavior while others suffer.

    I was sorry to hear that Dunn died, but I think you make a good point with this article, man.

    Also, thanks for tackling the issues with Jersey Shore – a show that I despise and feel gives New Jersey, where I was born and raised, a bad name.

  • You seem to be coming across as a very I’ll manored fool! Your words are hurtful and disgusting to those who idolised and loved Ryan Dunn. Teens from all over enjoy and are fond of the known programme jackass, and at the start of each episode viewers are warned not to attempt these tricks at home. This is enough to set aside the idiots at home who do attempt these tricks and the ones who simply enjoy the entertainment and leave it too the professionals. So it’s time to stop accusing and making accusations to the many young viewers of today. Fair enough Dunn made a big mystique leading to his deathbed, but he loved what he did an loved to live his life by having the guts and currage to pull of these stunts! I’m willing to do any thing it takes to turn this headline around of this mug of an article, you seem to have forgotten about a thing called respect! Ryan Dunn will always be loved and deaply cherrished by family, friends and his many hundreds of fans! So it appears that no matter what you call him or his fans your idiotic words and point won’t get through to the people who have a sense of humer.

  • While no loss of life should be celebrated (ask not for whom the bell tolls, and so forth), the simple fact is that we’re better off without Ryan Dunn’s puerile, self-destructive antics and gaudy self-promotion. Youth will always look to daring, but there’s no shortage of that in the world, from workers who face down bosses to activists who put life and limb on the line in the fight against oppression and injustice. Here’s to the day when media outlets will begin telling the right stories, and replace rebellious jackasses like Ryan Dunn with revolutionary heroes.

  • Well as far as I’m concerned Ryan Dunn was a great person to look up to. A person who enjoyed life. I think you need to give young people more credit, they aren’t all stupid and willing to kill themselves by drink driving. And any teenagers and young people who do drink and drive just because Ryan did it may very well end up dead. That’s just how it goes.

  • A better article would have focused on the sensationalist, though sometimes entertaining, fare on corporate television and how it prefigures our lives and values–how private control of the media will always champion the lowest common denominator. I did enjoy Jackass.

  • why even write this article? Ryan Dunn was a way better person then you

  • Ryan Dunn was a moron and he died like a moron. Reckless, drunk, and stupid in a performance car that could pay for my house and yours, and he couldn’t even drive it.

  • My son has followed Ryan Dunn for ten years, starting at the age of 14 and now at 24 is still a fan off Bam and Ryan. We live in the UK and watching Ryan Dunn has been fun for my son and his friends. They have never copied his antics, they have never thought they could do the things shown on the tv shows, my son, although terribly saddened by Ryan Dunns death does not think it is a good idea to drink and drive whilst speeding his car.

    He found Ryan Dunn entertaining, not a role model. Is it so hard to understand that young people of today do have opinions and morals that actually those that are beratting Ryan Dunn have too. The young people I know can realise the difference between entertainment and damn right stupidity and they also value thier lives! My son has found this whole thing very shocking and has told me he is upset by this awful death but also wishes to pay tribute to a man that kept him in fits of laughter all through his teenage years. Incidently, the passenger in the car had also been drinking and was not taken into the car at gun point! Lets hope this is a lesson to those that may think its ok to drink and drive, but lets not forget the youth of today on the whole are not the mindless idiots that they are sometime perceived to be! Ryan Dunn is being fondly remembered for his comedy and fun antics, he will be missed by a generation for this, it may not be your type of entertainment but thats diversity!

  • There are a few mistakes in your writing. The accident did not involve any other car at the time of the crash. Ryan Dunn crashed his car into a guard rail after losing control of his vehicle at speeds of around 130-140mph.

    Another mistake is that you mention ‘passengers,’ there was only one passenger in the far. His friend who unfortunately lost his life along Ryan Dunn.

    Another mistake, the accident took place June 11, 2011. Not last week.

    Though I agree that the circumstances of Ryan Dunn’s death could have easily been avoided with proper judgement and precautions, regardless, his actions and carelessness proved to be a lethal mix.

    I think that perhaps you hold Ryan Dunn’s credibility differently than most of his modest fans. Ryan Dunn was an entertainer, regardless of what he and the rest of the Jackass crew did for laughs and smiles is no different then the crass and violent humor of Three Stooges. I’m sure in their time, they were treated with the same scrutiny and judgement as those like Steve-O, Johnny Knoxville and of course, Ryan Dunn.

    Children and Teenagers should be allowed to mourn those they looked up to, not for life aspirations (though Ryan Dunn and other Jackass alumni have lead very successful and professional lives,) but because Ryan represented laughter in an otherwise dark and humorless society. These kids who look up to Ryan and Bam and Johnny appreciate what they do – give them some small relief from the pain and judgmental society they are living in.

    Sure, there are the kids who will go out and try all of the wacky and crazy stuff they see on Jackass. But the same can be said for kids who imitate wrestlers, NASCAR racers and what not.

    Try and see it from the the youth’s point of view – a piece of their adolescences, a part of their method of recovery is gone, what is supposed to replace their happy memories?

  • Your article contains a lot of flaws, on top of that…get off your high horse. This guy inspired youth to do what they want, he had fun and made people laugh. So what if he died in an extreme way…He was a good person and people loved him. People die from drinking and driving everyday and no one does anything about it, if anything Ryan Dunn’s death is helping young people understand the consequences. Too bad this is how people started to pay attention…but it worked.
    Rest in Peace Ryan Dunn

  • Ryan Dunns influence and life lessons: Live life to the fullest, don’t be a stuck up tightass to the point it’s stressful and annoying to be around, don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t judge, live everyone, don’t be scared, loyalty, toughness, lead a fulfilled life, chase your dreams and have fun doing it.

    Jordan Farrar the thing that struck me the most was your need to mention his $100,000 car. Who the [bleep] are you to judge or question any ones legacy? Ryan Dunn made a mistake granted, but he did not die in vein. The people he touched and influenced will always think of him and Zach Hartwell before getting into a car drunk.

    Rip Ryan Dunn you are sorely missed, don’t drink and drive and most important don’t judge someone elses mistakes to justify your own it’s tacky.

  • While I agree with you, you must understand the connection many youth felt with such a “free spirit,” if I may call him that. While the circumstances of his death are completely atrocious, you can’t take away the sadness that many feel who grew up with his antics, whether you were a fan or not. It is a sad situation for all involved and it’s a true shame that his final legacy is that of drunken manslaughter.

  • First off.. iam not condoning what Ryan did, but you are out of order on so many levels

    “This is a frightening response by youth, and a scary vision of the types of heroes they look up to.”

    – Do you really believe these kids look up to Ryan for drink driving? everyone makes mistakes, some more serious than others, people who look up to Ryan & are saddened by his death because he was an entertainer & had an admirable outlook on life. people will miss the person.. not a fatal mistake.

  • As I do respect your opinion on how you feel as Ryan was a bad role model, you should get your facts straight before publishing an opinionated blog. You wrote “his friends and proceeded to speed right into another car and off the road into the woods, where his car caught fire, killing all the passengers including himself.” First, he did NOT speed into another car, there was no other car involved. Second, “all the passengers”, two people died, Ryan and his passenger in his car Zachary Hartwell, who were in the same car. I understand this is an opinionated blog, but when posting facts please make sure they are correct.
    RIP Ryan Dunn and Zachary Hartwell.

  • Something you failed to write in your self righteous preachy story was that Ryan Dunn was also an actor and had fans that sector of his work not just his Jackass/Viva La Bam stuff. So please, he’s not the “Idiot” you claim him to be. Also I might ad you need to do some research on someone before you ad your 2 cents. Ryan Dunn donated $50,000 to the Garth Brooks foundation for building skate parks to keep kids out of trouble. What have you donated besides bashing someone you know NOTHING about?

  • I think you’re missing the point. Not all of us mindlessly liked him because he acted like an idiot on television.
    He was someone that the quiet kid with no friends could relate to. He had a manner about him that could coax us out of our shell.
    Loving the show, and more especially, the people involved doesn’t equate to us supporting their choices to drink and drive, nor does it mean we’re going to go do it (or anything from the show for that matter) ourselves.
    For those of us who had no one else, he was a quiet hero. He symbolised what we wanted from our lives: to be outgoing and to have friends who got us.
    He made a stupid decision, but who among us isn’t guilty?
    For me, he will always be a hero. The first person who made me re-evaluate my life and helped make me into the person I am today.
    And you…
    I’d suggest you get back in touch with what it means to be human and quit throwing stones in your glass house.


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