Big Game Hunting photo

OK, I have to admit that I sometimes (sometimes, I said…) found the “Jackass” guys amusing. It was only an occasional lapse, and I soon recovered. But of all the innumerable “Jackass” spin-offs, the weirdest one had to be “Wildboyz” with Jackass alums Steve-O and Chris Pontius.

In a nutshell, the show featured these two nitwits traveling the world perpetrating Jackass-like stunts on various and sundry members of the animal kingdom. The only problem is, wild and dangerous animals have neither a well-developed sense of humor nor much tolerance for being the butt of a joke.

Just ask the lions in this clip:

On a purely juvenile, reactionary level, yeah, it’s kind of amusing, and a perfect example of the mindless and purely visual nature of modern entertainment.

But here’s the question no one seems to ask: what would have happened if those lions (or for that matter any other animal featured in these videos) had been deadly serious? How many professional hunters with guns were standing around to make sure things didn’t get out of hand? And if things did get serious, is an animal expendable even if someone makes a deliberate decision to put themselves in danger? Is a lion’s life worth a few moments of cheap entertainment, a few cheap laughs?

I don’t know if the lions in the video are tame or wild, but it really makes no difference from an ethical or philosophical standpoint. When you’re actively trying to provoke a predatory response in a big cat, is there such a thing as “tame?” Does that somehow make it OK?

It’s a disturbing and bizarre form of anthropomorphization, but one in which if the animals don’t get the joke, if they make the mistake of following their nature, they may just end up getting dead.

Think about it in those terms, and it’s no longer so funny. It’s despicable.