Roger Ebert, who’s gotten perceptibly dottier in his old age, is at it again. The self-appointed moral arbiter (who famously objected to last year’s would-be cinematic provocation Kick-Ass by running a review full of spoilers and concluded, in a weak attempt at poeticism, “[T]he movie moved into dark, dark territory, and I grew sad.”) decided yesterday to weigh in on the death of Jackass star Ryan Dunn in an apparent drunk driving incident with the following thoughtful tweet:
"Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive."
I’m sure some of us thought of something pithy when we found out that one of the Jackass guys—who’ve made millions by doing goofy things to their goofy selves—had died in a car crash. Who could possibly have seen something like this coming, ho ho? But it’s one thing to think it to yourself or wisecrack to your office mates, and quite another to broadcast it to your millions (and, yes, there are millions who follow Ebert—without him, how would we know that The Seventh Seal is a “great movie”?) of followers.
To their credit, some of those followers called Ebert on it. “That was in disgustingly poor taste,” remarked amanda_clap, while escalantedaniel wondered, “why is this a joke? he is still a person. have some respect.” J0hn0b cut to the chase: “@ebertchicago, you’re an asshole.”
But perhaps the most relevant Twitter riposte came from Dunn’s Jackass co-star Bam Margera: “I just lost my best friend, I have been crying hysterical for a full day and piece of shit roger ebert has the gall to put in his 2 cents,” later adding, “Millions of people are crying right now, shut your fat fucking mouth!”
Ebert’s famously fat fucking mouth has actually been shut for a number of years, of course, since post-surgical complications related to thyroid cancer took away his voice. But the thumbs (and the rest of his digits) still work, giving us the purported dry wit of the above tweet.
Plainly the “drink and drive” line was something that Ebert just tossed off, en route to hyping his old reviews of movies like Bugsy and noting how he’s just sent in another entry for The New Yorker’s cartoon caption contest. But perhaps the outrage over the Dunn remark requires a belated pause for reflection, or even an apology to anyone he offended?
Well…no. After another giant of thought, Perez Hilton, expressed concern over the incident—“Too soon, Roger”—Ebert wrote: "Perez Hilton’s readers agree with me and not with Perez about my tweet on Ryan Dunn. He drank, he drove, 2 people died."
And as we all know, if Perez Hilton’s readers are on your side, nothing can stop you.
Unknown is whether Perez’s readers, or anyone else, found Ebert’s tweet before the “drink and drive” remark agreeable: “'Jackass' star Ryan Dunn RIP. His Porsche flew through 40 yards of trees."
See, it’s funny ‘cause it rhymes!
I’m not going to argue about how we all have a hole in our lives now that Dunn is gone. I’ve never watched Jackass on TV or in its many cinematic renditions, and wouldn’t have been able to pick Dunn out of a police line-up (or in a crowded bar—zing?). But even someone responsible for dumbing down the level of film criticism (Thumbs up! Thumbs down!) should have thought twice before blasting something like that out—and then gleefully pointing to statements by Perez Hilton’s readers (not even Hilton himself) as justification for his remarks. If Twitter had been around in 1983, would he have chortled over how Vic Morrow “really lost his head” making the Twilight Zone movie?
At any rate, there’s no time for contemplation in the Ebert-verse, as America breathlessly awaits his two cents on Ron Paul’s popularity, and Jon Stewart’s new haircut. But for now, the balcony in Ebert’s soul is closed.