The nature of the humanistic approach means that the observer must look beyond what he is seeing and go into the subject’s background and delve into motives. For example, Steve-O on the surface seems to the lay person like he is attention-seeking; however there is more to him. He considers himself an entertainer and even went to clown college – he considers what he does an art. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, by doing what he does, he is achieving (the stage of ‘esteem needs’). This is most obviously seen by the fact that he went to college but also something which he briefly says after the crocodile-challenge. When asked why he fell from the tightrope, he said that he didn’t know how but “could learn” – this epitomises the stage he needs to entertain and will thus do things such as burning his hair to entertain. This isn’t a cry for attention but some realises their unique potential and is acting toward it.
With Raab, there is a development – he has satisfied the needs of one stage and gone ‘up’ the hierarchy. His background is that of a lack of love – Bam’s parents were more like parents to him. This meant that he was on the ‘belongingness and love needs’ stage and this would explain some of his behaviours: defecating on school property and being expelled. This also seems to be present in his Jackass days where he seeks acceptance. However, once he satisfies this level, he moves up in the esteem needs where he moves forward with achievement in his mind – this explains him going to university and pursuing a real-estate career.
In a similar way, Bam has also developed. He starts off at the ‘belongingness and love needs’ of the hierarchy – but he seeks attention not from anyone, like Raab, but from Raab. He drops out when he gets expelled because he wants to be accepted and avoid alienation from Raab. In fact, he actually says that the only reason that he went to high school was because of Raab. However, he does seem to develop through the fact that he goes back to get his GED becomes a professional skater and sets up his own production company. Thus although he entered the ‘esteem needs’ section, he reverted back because of the group he hangs around with. The behaviour exhibited in Jackass can also be explained through him being at the belongingness and needs section – he feels the need to be accepted and so acts in such ways.
Jonny Knoxville’s behaviour can be explained in terms of him being at the ‘belongingness and love needs.’ He is friends with a wrestler and thus may feel the needs to masculine tasks such as being shot so that he is accepted by his ‘masculine’ wrestler friend. This fits in line with his background: he wrote an article on self-defence equipment. The fact that he is at this stage may also be reinforced by the fact that he bought a caravan from his idol – Johnny Cash – he needs recognition.
Chris Pontius is the ‘esteem needs’ in the hierarchy, this can be seen through the fact that he seeks recognition from others. While he is dancing in the Japanese shop, he continually follows and stops the sales assistant – this is clearly a need for recognition. This is not the only evidence for him being in this stage, he publishes a book with all his writings – this is clearly the ‘achievement’ and ‘recognition’ part of esteem needs stage. This applies to Ryan Dunn as well. When Ryan fights the female wrestler, he does so because, even though he knows he will lose, he needs to respect and recognition that he will accept that challenge.