Do like Jonas!
You can’t help but admire how Jonah Hill got into surf culture with the carelessness of a cranky old local.
Peroxide hair. The tatoos. The ironic shirts. The 88 condoms. The GQ photo shoot. Throw it in a parking lot in Wategos, Waikiki, or Malibu and no one will blink. It is the ultimate instant surfboi. The simulacrum of Sex Wax.
Add in his associated social media comments and perceived hypocrisy, and it’s safe to say the Oscar nominee has plenty of surf purists in a twist.
Jonah Hill ruined surfing. Or so the sticker goes.
But I think there is more to it. Jonah didn’t go down in the last VAL shower like one of the other recent core villains, MELo.
We live in a post-factual world where everything is subjective. Rule of opinion and counter-opinion. Objects only become real through the meaning you attach to them.
It’s the kind of environment where a cultural agitator like Jonah can thrive. He’s a provocateur, operating in a hall of mirrors.
He’s a guy who’s been in the mainstream media spotlight since he was a teenager. Seen from all angles. Experienced firsthand the tasteless rapacity of tabloid media and, by extension, social media.
He knows how the game works. Probably has an ax to grind. Something to say.
He’s a character actor, a damn good one, and his Oscar nomination would agree.
To be that, it takes incredible self-awareness. Watch him play himself, pun intended, in The end of the world. Cheerfully skewer his public persona, all with a knowing nod to the public.
He is a master in the art of pissing.
Every move Hill made in the public eye would be calculated. He knows what the reaction will be. The reaction to the reaction. The opinion and the counter opinion.
Jonah knows how a subculture works.
He might be a fool, but he ain’t no ignorant VAL inertia make his way through a world he knows nothing about. Go see again mid 90s. As a movie, it’s not perfect. But the way he painstakingly and lovingly recreates the details of this deep subculture is first-rate. Skateboard memes, as the word was originally defined, make the surfing world feel one-dimensional.
To build him the character of a surfer, consciously or not, would be a piece of cake. He understands.
Even the choice of 88 surfboards can be considered. Team 88 has subverted the culture of surfing so much that they have traveled beyond 360 degrees. Post-revolution. They are the ultimate rejection of form. Riding them, Jonah chose the perfect vehicle for her act.
Which brings us to his number: Jonah is getting so surfing it hurts. Openly embraces culture, to the point of parody. Then Jonah begins a commentary around the body image. Writes passionate messages to Chas. Says things which at first glance are entirely valid and pleasant.
But Jonas knows how the commentary is going to play out. Point and counterpoint. The rabid and hypocritical response of the social media world, from angry surf purists to waking dog whistles. The ultimate emptiness of the whole exchange, where the original intention is so twisted that it no longer has any weight, pun intended. Sharon Stone, etc.
This is absurd theater. Think of Joaquin Phoenix in I’m still here. Jonah plays it like a cheap guitar. And we can enjoy it firsthand, for free.
You can’t help but smile.
Everything is guided by an original and organic truth. Jonah went through heavy body struggles. I certainly don’t know the guy. But by all reports, his adherence to both the pursuit and the culture is genuine. Jonas loves surfing. Jonas looks happy. John doesn’t like to be ashamed of his body.
Just cop. More power for him.
But whether it is deliberate or not, I would say that the public character it has built itself over the past two decades can only lead us to this conclusion. That all of this is performance art.
As he enters this room, he holds back a mirror to cancel the culture. To surf the culture. And have fun while he’s doing it.
So being outraged by Jonah is like being outraged by BeachGrit. It means you are missing the point.
If you judge each article here on its individual merit (other than mine), you would be curled up in a fetal position, horrified at what surfing and society has become.
But expose it more widely. Consider the context. The collapse of the surf media. The invasion of culture by dilettantes and manipulators trying to make it something it is not. And then you realize that this is all an art project. Social commentary. Meta comedy.
BeachGrit and Jonah Hill are one. Shakers of shit. Treat surfing with exactly the level of respect it deserves. Because it’s equally the biggest and dumbest thing you can try to do.
As Livia Soprano says, it’s a big nothing.
So do like Jonas.
Enjoy your trip with surfing and comedy, and live life to it.