The Douchebag Martyrdom of Jason Alan Ross
By David Metcalfe
April 17, 2019
In the beginning of the Ben Stiller classic, “Zoolander”, there is a scene where a group of male models go to fill up their car at a gas station. One of them sprays the other with gasoline, the other sprays them back, and, sure enough, they have a full out gasoline fight. It ends up in a massive explosion which kills all of them except for the main character, Derek Zoolander.
I laughed a little bit at the absurdity of the scene, but that was the extent of my emotions.
Male models are treated as a joke in “Zoolander”. They are stupid, arrogant, narcissistic, flamboyant, and pretentious. It’s hard to feel empathy for people like that, and the writers of “Zoolander” were counting on that for the success of the film. You can’t feel sorry for the models; their deaths serve as comic relief.
All of those things- stupid, arrogant, narcissistic, flamboyant, pretentious- describe the male model Jason Alan Ross. So why was I choking up, even brought to tears, by his death? As always, I have a theory. To explain it, I have to share his story.
The first we hear of Jason Alan Ross is that he is a male model turned professional actor turned fitness/life coach and mentor to his step-son (who is currently training to become a male model). We see some pictures of his modelling, and a brief clip of his acting (it’s not good). The first time we see him in person, he is working out at the gym. He is handsome, muscular, and well, a total douchebag. He’s rude, arrogant, and clearly checking himself out constantly in the mirror. He’s basically everything I detest about someone. I expected him to remain that way.
Jason has everything a guy could want: a hot wife, a mansion, a son who looks up to him, good looks, a muscular body, and a successful career…that is, on the outside. What we gradually come to discover is that none of these things are as they seem. He didn’t pay for any of the things he has; it’s all paid for by his wife’s ex-husband’s alimony payments. His wife bosses him around and treats him horribly. His son’s adoration is flimsy, shallow, and selfish. His modelling and acting careers both failed. His muscular body and good looks, rather than bringing attention from women, draws the attention of a creepy man in a sperm bank (which, out of desperation, he is forced to accept).
It’s hard to say the point at which Jason Alan Ross becomes an object of sympathy. For some, maybe he never is (Sophie Gilbert’s column in “The Atlantic” described his story as an “absurdist, infantile comedy about show-business”). But for me, I was quick to empathize with Jason.
He doesn’t start off well, but his descent is a difficult one to watch. Through a series of events, his wife leaves him, he gets kicked out of the house, his son despises him, and he loses his one hope in life (to become a successful actor) after he is turned down for the part of “Marco” in a television drama. It culminates in what is a horrific and heartbreaking scene; he overdoses on drugs, and lies naked in the bath tub. As he’s dying, he gets a phone call from “Fox” telling him he got the part of “Marco”. Unfortunately, it’s too late, and the last scene shows him lying dead on the bathroom floor.
What Jason Alan Ross teaches us is a type of empathy we might not think too quickly about. We often have empathy for sick children or people who lose a loved one, etc. But who has empathy for the douchebag in a convertible driving down the freeway with his hot girlfriend? Nobody…but I think we should start to; we need to rethink our approach to empathy.
Socrates famously said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I didn’t care when the “Zoolander” models died; they were douchebags who “deserved” it. Jason Alan Ross was the quintessential douchebag. If he died right off the start, I wouldn’t have cared. But I got to know him as a person, and see his inner and outer struggles. I didn’t even think to have empathy for the “Zoolander” models, and I only began to feel it for Jason Alan Ross when I got to know what he was going through.
Socrates was right- whether we know it or not, everyone is fighting a hard battle. Even the people who seem like they have the greatest life ever still have fears, insecurities, stresses, and hardships of every kind. Kindness isn’t reserved for the obviously down and out; it’s for everyone, regardless of what they seem like on the exterior.
Jason Alan Ross was a douchebag, but he was a douchebag worth caring about; just like every other douchebag. A martyr is defined as someone who is killed for what they believe in. Jason Alan Ross fits that description because he believed in family, in acting, in becoming someone who mattered- and he died because of it.
So, next time you meet a douchebag, be nice- they might be fighting a tough battle, and could use a kind word, or a genuine friend, to help them along their way. Jason Alan Ross’ death may have been fictional, but it is representative of a bleak reality many people face, and learning to empathize with douchebags can help real people in real ways.