Jon Kopaloff, Getty Images
If you haven't caught the new Internet video featuring former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson, you probably should. Or maybe you shouldn't. I don't know, really. It's at once horrific and confounding. Maybe you should just steer clear of it altogether.
Should you decide to press forward, know this: the video is an attempt at humor. Believe me, you'll need a disclaimer. It's designed to be a spoof on rape tactics or what happens if you rape the wrong person. Or something like that. I'm really not sure what the point is, to be honest, and that's because to describe this video as an unmitigated, incoherent disaster would be the most charitable thing I or anyone else could possibly say.
If this most-recent attempt with Jackson is nothing more than a marketing attempt for the online site that created it, it's a success, I suppose. After all, here we are talking about it. The larger issue, though, isn't whether we've reached a new bottom on what some will do to market products. Rather, it's why Jackson - with all he has to lose, all he has to set up for his future - would personally participate in a video this profoundly unfunny and partially disturbing.
It's not as if Rampage came into this video project tabula rasa. Jackson has previously been lambasted for making gay slurs. On two different occasions, he arguably sexually harassed two female reporters. If there is anyone who might want to think twice before making a nonsensical video that's especially lacking in sensitivity, it's Jackson.
This is a piece of work that clumsily uses a botched rape as a conduit for humor. You'd think that would set off alarm bells in Jackson's head. After all, that's not too dissimilar to Miguel Torres' Tweet that got him fired. And whatever one makes of Forrest Griffin's ‘rape is the new missionary' thesis, it's thematically consistent with the material in Jackson's video.
Some will probably suggest the topic of rape itself should be left alone and that's where Jackson erred. Given the baggage, it's not the worst advice. But I'm in no position to tell others which topics are or aren't off limits for their creative pursuits. What we can say, though, is that humor done well is exceedingly difficult. Humor done well in ultra-sensitive territories should only be managed by the experts. In the hands of skillful comedians, charged topics like rape or murder are treated with precision and delicacy. There are subtleties, contexts and qualifiers that have to be firmly established before difficult material can be mocked or used. Even then, it's all still pretty risky.
Jackson and the team at FilmOn.com - a website lead by Greek billionaire Alkiviades "Alki" David, a man who once pranked online viewers into watching the first live physician-assisted suicide only to later reveal the bit was a hoax - illustrate how poorly things can turn out when amateurs brazenly take on the task of dark humor. It's reminiscent of what happens when average citizens play with ignitable chemicals in their backyard for cheap thrills versus the regulated environment employed by ordinance teams who explode bombs at safe distances.
The video - from the concept to the execution - is prima facie bad. There is no defense of it, or none that put any premium on a sense of shame. This brings us back to the central question: why would Jackson participate in such a monstrosity? Between this video and his more recent history of dubious proclamations about a MMA future outside of the UFC, one has to consider he has seriously problematic judgment. Worse, it appears to be fed in part from a poor understanding of how he's perceived and what's required to successfully navigate career challenges.
Jackson has almost always repudiated feedback: from media, outspoken MMA fans or even UFC President Dana White. When Jackson bristles at criticism, he isn't reflexively wrong, though. The fact is most of the aggregate advice or critiques one gets over the course of their lifetime is bunk. It is highly believable Rampage has been given a dose of suggestions in his years in professional MMA that were perfectly dismissible.
Rampage's problem is his absolutist repudiation of it. He's famous for dismissing cynics as busybodies intent on running his life or critics with too much time on their hands. He's going to do what he wants and no one is going to tell him differently. And when you've got the resources to arrange your life in such a way to see that vision though, it can be awfully persuasive logic.
The trick to criticism is not to reject it outright, but to develop an ear for it. Every so often and amid the cacophony of moronic or unsolicited advice, someone will say something that rings true. Uncomfortably, perhaps even embarrassingly true, but true nonetheless.
We aren't necessarily born with the ability to perfectly filter the helpful advice from the harmful either. It's not a dog whistle only the gifted can hear. The painful reality is it takes real humility and the ability to grant others the power to know as much and often more about your life and your ideas as you. This might sound obvious to some, but none of us are Rampage. None of us were born as this incredibly talented fighter who, over the course of their adult life, has had countless offers made across a board room table, heard hosannahs in the highest whispered in his ear and witnessed fan genuflection at his feet.
Fame, adoration and lionization is often the enemy of self-awareness. In fact, it can be downright toxic. When you arrive at a position where your judgment and actions are beyond reproach because they are your judgments and actions, you've passed the tipping point. I don't know if Jackson is there yet, but it certainly feels that way.
As abhorrent as this video is, no one should call on Rampage to apologize for it. That isn't to say we wouldn't welcome it if he organically came to the realization of how regrettable the decision was to be a part of it. But responding to demands or ultimatums isn't Rampage's strong suit. That's especially true in this precarious moment in his life. I wouldn't want a forced and utterly meaningless apology, anyway.
What we can say ask, though, is just for Rampage to take a second look at what he's doing. Not just with this video but the current career path he's on now. Perhaps he could take a moment to consider the idea that maybe this video is not particularly good; maybe the decision to make it in light of previous rape-related humor attempts gone bad among UFC fighters was not particularly smart; and maybe if this is a taste of what's to come post-MMA career for Jackson, there probably is a case to be made for some rethinking about what options he needs to explore.
This chilling part about the video is not so much the content as what it says about Jackson. His participation is as embarrassing as it is worrisome. If these are the opportunities he's taking advantage of while he's still enjoying a measure of fame to lean on, what will he resort to when that's withered and gone?
It's not my life or my career. All of this is really not my business. But it is hard to watch Rampage's detachment from good sense and appropriate decision-making happen in real time. It is also only Rampage - with or without effective counsel - who can stop this descent. Let's hope sooner rather than later he's willing to lend his own ear to the sound and sage, wherever he can find them.
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