photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
i remember it being a big deal in elementary school when my friend's much older half brother got featured in the national magazine TRANSWORLD SKATEBOARDING. i wasnt a skater but i have a distinct memory of seeing SHON FARREN doing a long FRONTSIDE MANUAL down this pitched road in front of my friend's house in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. dude just glided effortless across my vision with a dyed day-glo red hair to match. i think it was then that i realized SKATEBOARDING was not just COOL because of the technicality of its TRICKS, but also the ATTITUDE of its participants. FARREN was a very nice dude and multi-talented as well, i heard he later went into graphic design and worked with various SKATEBOARDING brands over the years.
there is no 1990s SKATEBOARDING magazine that more epitomized that spartan DIY ETHIC and unbridled sense of REBELLIOUS abandon than the NORM-SHATTERING BIG BROTHER. as the recent documentary DUMB: THE STORY OF BIG BROTHER MAGAZINE (HULU, 2017) attests, the publication was as more about the ENERGY and PATHOS of the SKATER COMMUNITY then the actual activity itself. when it began in the early 1990s, the industry was at low point and the two competing publications THRASHER and the aforementioned TRANSWORLD felt played out. both had established core demographics that utilized them for tips and how-to's on landing specific TRICKS and essentially both played into those constituencies. it felt STALE. i dont believe kids get into SKATEBOARDING (or guitar or science or drawing or whatever) necessarily because of the tricks, they get into it because someone way cooler than themselves (and im pretty sure FARREN is absolutely still COOLER than me) modeled it for them.
and BIG BROTHER knew about that.
the PROVOCATIVE publication itself was helped/hampered by the fact that nothing was off limits. nothing was too CRASS, VULGAR or OBJECTIONABLE to not be put into print, such as but not limited to repetitive MALE FRONTAL NUDITY, FECAL PLAY, SELF-INDUCED INJURIES, DRUG USE, etc. some of it seemed geared at parodying their competition (with how to's on killing yourself and making a baby instead of a KICKFLIP). on the face of it the whole thing went beyond OBJECTIFICATION and PORNOGRAPHY to something completely different, it seems, because at the heart of BIG BROTHER was a genuine sense of (mostly male) CAMARADERIE. these were a bunch of idiots attempting to push each other's PHYSICAL, MORAL and ETHICAL LIMIS by OUTGROSSING and OUTLASTING one another. there was no MALICE seemingly involved. it was all consented upon and done as a joke by various willing participants.
whats interesting is how brands at the time bought into the magazine. maybe it was because the industry was in such a LULL at the time that they could take the risk of being associated with such a JUVENILE endeavor. in fact, the downfall of the publication was not the departing of key members (JEFF TREMAINE, JOHNNY KNOXVILLE, CHRIS PONTIUS, STEVE-O, JASON "WEE MAN" ACUNA) for what became the JACKASS franchise. it was the relative health of the industry whose key players all decided to take their advertising portfolios elsewhere.
i know most viewers of this documentary are probably going to be either TITILLATED or ENRAGED by the relatively TASTELESS SHOCK ANTICS of the magazine. my interest was more how such a publication exists in the first place and what niche they were exploiting. seems to me that BIG BROTHER could not return as it did before because in essence the culture has morphed along the same lines. modern social media has a never-ending PARADE OF IDIOTS doing STUPID STUFF pleading for your attention and corporations are now incredibly more RISK-AVERSE than they were ten years ago, much less thirty.
but who knows. nobody saw BIG BROTHER coming back then. cant say i advocate for this film, but if you are interested in FREE SPPECH issues, GROSS OUT humor, SELF-FLAGELLATION or yes, even SKATEBOARDING, then definitely check out DUMB.