So I'm curious about this film Into the Wild. It does not look good, nor do I particularly want to watch it. But I am interested to see how Christopher McCandless is portrayed. I've always found his story (which I picked up from Krakauer's book of the same name; everything he's written is gold) to be quite interesting, albeit probably not in the same way that most people do.

I overheard some undergraduates talking about it, and of course they were breathlessly admiring what a brave, idealistic Walden-for-the-90s the protagonist was. There is a reason that both the book and the movie will make a ton of money – approximately 90% of America wishes it could abandon reality and run off to live in the middle of nowhere. And golly, this young rich kid from the East Coast did just that!

Let me be (not) the first to say that McCandless was a fucking idiot. He bravely and romantically ran off into the Alaskan wilderness without the slightest idea of how to live off the land. Lacking even a basic understanding of direction or decent topo maps, this genius managed to starve to death (during the summer) 20 miles away from a paved highway that brings National Park tour buses on an hourly basis. Twenty miles of mostly flat terrain can be hiked in about 12 hours by a healthy adult, which McCandless was until he starved himself.

To quote one of the park rangers who has to deal with this retard's legacy:

"I am exposed continually to what I will call the 'McCandless Phenomenon.' People, nearly always young men, come to Alaska to challenge themselves against an unforgiving wilderness landscape where convenience of access and possibility of rescue are practically nonexistent … When you consider McCandless from my perspective, you quickly see that what he did wasn't even particularly daring, just stupid, tragic, and inconsiderate. First off, he spent very little time learning how to actually live in the wild. He arrived at the Stampede Trail without even a map of the area. If he had a good map he could have walked out of his predicament … Essentially, Chris McCandless committed suicide."

The book was a best-seller, and it's sad how many mentally challenged copycats it created. I don't know much about the film, but from what I hear ("Oscar buzz" and masturbatory reviews) I can only assume that another generation's worth of suburban white guys are about to dash half-assed into the wilderness to either freeze to death or require rescue…at taxpayer's expense, of course.

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  • Would it be really horrible of me to say "Darwinian selection"? Yes, it would, wouldn't it? So, I won't say it.

    Wasn't there a guy similar to this that just LOVED the grizzly bear so much that he went and lived with them and ended up getting eaten?

  • Ah, yes. Timothy "Grizzly Man" Treadwell. He went to protect the noble bears, and he was tragically (amazingly, surprisingly) eaten by one.

  • Thank you, Ed, for assuring me that I'm not the only one who looks at such things and says "What the…[was he]/[were they] insane, or just clinically retarded?" (Which isn't fair, because the genuinely retarded are smart enough to know not to leave helpers/familiar environments, in many ways demonstrating that human intelligence often boils down to common sense, which they tend to have in spades.) INTO THE WILD, like THE PERFECT STORM, and INTO THIN AIR, offer cautionary tales of people who, for really really stupid reasons, do really really stupid things, and die as a result. And yet–and this is the part I love–people then go out and pursue these experiences AS A RESULT OF HAVING READ THE FREAKING BOOK. I'm simultaneously pleased as punch at what Christina rightly pegs as Darwin-in-Action–can't wait for the first bored billionaire to die in space, which you *know* is gonna happen soon enough–and yet infuriated by the literal cost that such people inflict on the rest of us. (Quick flashback to a certain jackass in a balloon…)

    Nobody seems to remember that the only way Thoreau survived his experiment was by the occasional donation of essentials from neighbors–he could not, in fact, make a go of Walden, though he ignores this in his recounting of the experience. Amateur odysseys end badly. When my father read the story of McCandless, his only comment was "Good riddance." I didn't argue. I still don't.

    That Sean Penn is behind this Rousseauean attempt to convince us that "Sweet And Gentle Nature Holds The Key So Don't Bother Doing Any Research Just Go For It" doesn't surprise me; Penn's always struck me as an angry misanthrope–perhaps this is just his way of encouraging the witless to a lemming-like plunge…

  • I hope people realize that Thoreau lived on Ralph Waldo Emerson's land in Walden, and it was a well thought out experiment. Also, I hope people realize that the Grizzly Man was eaten by a bear.

    Why don't people just visit a national park for a few days or something instead of trying to live of the land without a clue how to do it? I think it would be funny, in a black comedy sense, to see some spoiled rich college student try and do this. "Hey, where's the Gap and Starbucks? Do they take Visa out here? My BMW SUV ran out of gas, and I can't find a gas station ANYWHERE!"

  • firstly, I would like to make a stronger rebuttal when I'm less drunk, BUT…

    At least this guy had the balls to do something. Hubris comes to mind more than stupidity; or being retarded as you put it. I think it's an important distinction… he at least had intent. Writing essays or a blog about possibly living in the wild might have been a braver choice I guess.

    While I'm on my rant… I'm not well schooled enough to know which logical fallacy this has fallen under, but I know something when I see it. Everyone is judging this guy based upon they feel he represents. I haven't seen the movie and it's been a while since I've read the book, but everyone is criticizing Chris based upon Thoreau. Is it fair to judge him based upon what you judge him to represent? It's easy to go with a text book criticism of Thoreau and just say it's the same thing. But where are the balls?


  • i think you hit the nail on the head with the phrase "suburban white guys." a friend of mine used to teach a writing course at a community college attended mostly by nontraditional students (most of whom were also working class and not white), and once was assigned to teach a course themed "rites of passage." she decided to teach Into the Wilderness, and said that her students, having life experiences that were actually applicable to their learning, pretty much uniformly thought that Chris McCandless was a "big fucking loser." The students worried about things like taking care of aging relatives and paying the rent and putting food on the table for their children, and couldn't believe the gall of a privileged white kid wandering off into the wilderness without a map or enough trail mix because he was too emo to bother.

    so yes. some people are morons. and a lot of them, it seems, are either republicans or at least share most of their major traits.

  • Courtney, I liked your post. But I have to admit, I'm a little confused. This topic has NOTHING to do with politics.

    "so yes. some people are morons. and a lot of them, it seems, are either republicans or at least share most of their major traits."

    Come on now, was that really needed? I'm no Republican either, but pointless bashing does nothing other than make the person look silly.

  • Anonymous, this has plenty to do with politics. The Republican traits that Courtney refers to can include arrogance, a sense of entitlement to resources, the privilege inherent in not dicking over anyone that depends on you when you take your resources and leave the country/ state/ civilization for an indeterminate period of time, and blindly believing that you will succeed by virtue of your perceived position at the top of the (economic or natural) pecking order. Please see the our current occupation of Iraq for more concrete examples.

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