Be like Jonah!
You can’t help but admire the way Jonah Hill has dropped in on surf culture with the insouciance of a grumpy old local.
The peroxide hair. The tattoos. The ironic shirts. The 88 soft tops. The GQ photoshoot. Chuck him in a car park at Wategos, Waikiki or Malibu and nobody’s gonna bat an eyelid. He’s the ultimate instant surfboi. The Sex Wax simulacrum.
Add in his associated social media commentary and perceived woke hypocrisy, and it’s safe to say the Oscar nominee’s got many surfing purists in a twist.
Jonah Hill ruined surfing. Or so the sticker goes.
But I reckon there’s more to it. Jonah didn’t come down in the last VAL shower like one of the core’s other recent arch villains, Mr E.Lo.
We live in a post-factual world where everything is subjective. Opinion and counter opinion rule. Objects are only made real by the meaning you attach to them.
It’s the sort of environment where a cultural agitator like Jonah can thrive. He’s a provocateur, operating in a hall of mirrors.
This is a guy that’s been in the mainstream media spotlight since his teens. Seen it from every angle. Experienced first hand the vapid rapaciousness of tabloid media, and by extension social media.
He knows how the game works. Probably has an axe to grind. Something to say.
He’s a character actor, a damned good one, and his Oscar nomination would agree.
To be that requires incredible self-awareness. Watch him play himself, pun intended, in The End of The World. Happily skewering his public persona, all with a knowing wink to the audience.
He’s a master at taking the piss.
Every move Hill makes in the public eye would be calculated. He knows what the reaction is going to be. The reaction to the reaction. The opinion and the counter opinion.
Jonah knows how a subculture works.
He might be a kook, but he’s not some ignorant Inertia VAL fumbling his way into a world he knows nothing about. Go and re-watch mid90s. As a film it’s not perfect. But the way he painstakingly, lovingly re-creates the minutiae of that deep sub culture is top shelf. Skate memes, by the original definition of the word, make the surf world look one dimensional.
Constructing a surfing persona for him, consciously or not, would be child’s play. He gets it.
Even the choice of 88 surfboards can be examined. The 88 team have subverted surf culture so far that they’ve travelled beyond the 360 degrees. Post-revolution. They’re the ultimate rejection of form. By riding them, Jonah’s chosen the perfect vehicle for his act.
Which gets us to his act: Jonah becomes so surf it hurts. Overtly embraces the culture, to the point of parody. Then Jonah starts a commentary around body image. Writes some impassioned messages to Chas. Says some stuff which on face value is all entirely valid and agreeable.
But Jonah knows how the commentary will play out. The point and counterpoint. The rabid and hypocritical response of the social media world, whether it’s angry surfing purists or dog-whistling wokes. The ultimate vacuousness of the entire exchange, where the original intention is so far twisted that it no longer holds any weight, pun not intended. Sharon Stone, etc etc.
This is absurdist theatre. Think Joaquin Phoenix in I’m Still Here. Jonah’s playing it like a cheap guitar. And we’re getting to enjoy it first hand, for free.
You can’t help but smile.
It’s all driven by an original, organic truth. Jonah’s been through some heavy body struggles. I certainly dunno the guy. But by all reports his embrace of both the pursuit and the culture is genuine. Jonah loves surfing. Jonah looks happy. John doesn’t like being body shamed.
Fair cop. More power to him.
But whether it’s deliberate or not, I’d argue the public character that he’s built over the last two decades can only lead us to this conclusion. That this is all performance art.
By engaging in this play he’s holding a mirror back to cancel culture. To surf culture. And having fun while he’s doing it.
So being outraged by Jonah is like being outraged by BeachGrit. It means you’re missing the point.
If you judged each article on here by its individual merit (other than mine) you’d be left curled up in the foetal position, horrified at what surfing and society have become.
But lay it out more broadly. Consider the context. The collapse of surf media. The invasion of the culture by dilettantes and manipulators trying to turn it into something it’s not. And then you realise this whole thing is an art project. Social commentary. Meta comedy.
BeachGrit and Jonah Hill are one and the same. Shit stirrers. Treating surfing with exactly the level of respect it deserves. ‘Cause it’s equal parts the greatest and stupidest thing you could ever try and do.
As Livia Soprano says, it’s all a big nothing.
So be like Jonah.
Enjoy your journey with surfing, and comedy, and live life accordingly.