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Romanticized Adventure


142 Fairbanks City Bus – Image copyright Christopher Johnson McCandless Memorial Foundation

I’ve found it fascinating how the story of Christopher “Into the Wild” McCandless has become legendary. It touches on a deep spirit of adventure that is common among most people, whether they express, or even recognize it, or not. I’ve noticed that this story tends to polarize people into one of two camps: McCandless was a reckless fool, or McCandless was a noble adventurer pushing the limits. Whatever your opinion, it probably rises from the same basic emotion involving a fascination with adventure.

W.B. Churchill was seeking something with far more depth and seriousness in the same sort of wilderness isolation that I wrote about in the book Forty Demons. It also appears likely that Dustin Self was also on a similar kind of extreme adventure.

However, the poor young man in this incident, if you can believe what is written in the online story, is not in the same category. Jonathan Croom was reported to be distraught before he disappeared, unlike McCandless, Churchill or Self, who were all on epic adventures of self-discovery. He was found a short distance from his SUV, not in a remote wilderness area, days from civilization. If the 18-year-old Croom committed suicide as the authorities believe, they probably have evidence of the fact. Both Churchill and McCandless were initially thought to have made mistakes that trapped them in a remote area, their bodies weren’t found 1000 feet from their car.

Unfortunately, the media has apparently decided that because there was a remote link to the McCandless story, they decided to exploit the tragic death of Jonathan Croom. Croom must have been “inspired” to go off into the Oregon wilderness and try and adventure for himself. Perhaps he was in some way, but the reality seems to be that it’s an attention grabber for a media outlet desperate for web hits. Note all the photos of McCandless and publicity photos from the “Into the Wild” movie, both of which have only the most remote connection to Croom.

The terrible downside to this is the romanticizing the mix of McCandless’ adventure and tragedy into a seductive death-wish archetype that can be so appealing to young adults. This is a good example of irresponsible media at it’s worst. The least the media could do is publish stories about actual tragic adventures of self-discovery, there are plenty around.

Posted in 40 Demons Archive, Journal by with 2 comments.