Posts tagged ‘Skateboarding’

Being Ryan Sheckler

It would be hard to be Ryan Sheckler. It is hard being a teenager no matter how rich or photogenic you are. Of course, Sheckler also is, at 17, a professional skateboarder and a millionaire, with all sorts of young girls all over him, and has clothes and shoes named after him. Oh, and he has a show on MTV.

Or maybe it wouldn’t be too hard.

Sheckler is one of those skaters who is no better than the sum of his tricks. He goes big, skates clean, and is relatively tech. He is a very good skateboarder all around, and his style isn’t so unstylish. But there doesn’t seem to be any joy in his skating, or exuberance, as there is, for example, in someone like Omar Salazar or Zared Bassett. Everything he does seems rigorously planned, attempted, executed, hand in front of the fish eye. His life as a pro skateboarder seems equally rote: skate a park here, get a clip there, sign your name on some boobs, get on a plane to go somewhere else. Never has skateboarding looked so dull.

It is no surprise that Sheckler, with a round baby face and piercing green eyes, from a colorfully broken home deep in the OC, would wind up with his own MTV show. He’s a perfect reality star for the latest MTV generation, which doesn’t recall MTV ever playing music videos. He has a lot in common with those obsessively tanned, late teen to early twenty, upper to upper-upper-middle class SoCal youngsters. Sheckler, like his friends in the Real OC or Laguna Beach or the Hills, walks the palm-tree lined walk, and talks the meandering, California clueless talk (you’re over it).

Like these other swank-angsty teens, Sheckler is being used, semi-consciously by the looks of it, to sell a fashion lifestyle in the form of a glittering SoCal skate/surf life, to those who have to muddle over their teenage anxieties and problems in the enclosed confines of the PacSun at the mall. The girls wear oversized sunglasses, the boys wear oversized New-Era hats, and they both are awash in the dirtiest of expensive denim. Nary is there a shot of Sheckler where he isn’t fiddling with his Plan B hat, Nixon watch, or sporting one of his many sponsors’ t-shirts. If he drinks any more Red Bull, things will start falling off of the guy.

The problem for Sheckler and his other reality TV friends is that it doesn’t seem all that real, and his not-that-real life isn’t surprising or eventful. His droll voice over details his problems with girls, his family, friends and sponsors (who are hard to differentiate). The scenes play as if they had been written by one of the more untalented writers currently on strike.

Another pseudo-skate show, Rob and Big, is being marketed alongside Sheckler’s show. The two couldn’t be more different. Rob and Big is fun, mainly because it feels spontaneous and it’s stupid. They buy a pony, laugh as Big Black strips, play jokes. There’s no bullshit existential quandary like there is in Life of Ryan. Nobody cares if Big Black has daddy issues.

Both the product of skateboarding’s limited mass appeal, and MTV’s cunning marketing department, but only Rob and Big seems like a show made by skaters. It’s stupid fun, and everybody involved seems to know it. A cross over is inevitable, if it hasn’t already happened, and it would be interesting to see Sheckler’s soulless, consumer-driven veneer collide with Rob/Big’s raucous glee.

But Sheckler’s just a kid, so you can only hate on him so much. He’s been led through the mechanisms of a skateboarding industrial line that has been infused with huge amounts of money. By the time he was starting to notice hair in funny places, his image was being honed by those as disconnected from skateboarding as the MTV executives who now pay him. I heard somewhere that he had the words 2 million written on his grip tape. When asked what it meant, he replied: that’s how many people watched my show last night. The person that told me this gave me a this-is-what’s-wrong-with-skateboarding look. Sheckler may be overly concerned with his persona, but it’s a persona that has been branded on him. He’s still young enough to grow out of it, but would you if you had your own show?

December 19, 2007 at 10:22 pm 2 comments


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