The Jason Factor


Intellectual Fraud

Intelligent Design

Mega Fix

Ron Brown

Popes & Bankers

TWA Flight 800







It had something to do with the '60's, I think, and the abrupt end thereof.

The first wave of baby-boom America was poised to settle down and move fully into mainstream. Not the hard-core 60's types--these few would grow up to become jugglers or Deadheads or career Democrats (and name their children God or Moonbeam or Lumumba). But the fringe players, those who came of age on the decade's cusp, the great mass of American youth who did not have nearly as much sex or drugs or fun as Time Magazine said they should have. And almost as a way of compensating, literally millions of them made a final, quasi-rebellious gesture to the decade that had just sideswiped them like a day-glo mini-van. An extraordinary, inexplicable gesture it was:

They named their first son JASON.

Yea, verily, Jason. A rebellious act indeed! To have stuck this frou-frou monicker on a red-blooded boy a decade back would have ranked as an enormity somewhere between child abuse and communism. In the 50's, less than 1 in 10,000 young Americans was so afflicted. As late as 1970, the name still only ranked 23rd among newborn boys. Yet by 1973, incredibly, incomprehensibly, the name ranked first, and would remain first or second through the decade.

Stranger still, the name had no known provenance. The dads, to be sure, had respectable tags like Fred and Tom and Irving and Stanley and Patrick and Angelo and Leroy and Julio and Junior. Nor was there a Grandpa Jason or Great Grandpa Jason deep in anyone's woodpile. No Saint Jason either. No President Jason. No General Jason. Not even a soap star Jason. The one possible source--the backwater sea epic, Jason and The Argonauts--had sailed through the theaters more than a decade earlier and left no cultural residue in its wake.

Strange as it may seem, Jason came out of nowhere. And that was its beauty. Jason was the ultimate name without roots for a blooming class of deracinated Americans: Northerners who moved South. Easterners who moved West. City folks who moved out. Farmers who moved in. Blue Collars who moved up. Bourgeoisie who moved down. Republicans who moved left. Democrats who moved right. Blacks who moved white. Catholics who lapsed. And the whole freaking mass of whom had moved to the suburbs.

A sheepish act? Mass man run amuck? Not in any conventional sense. The truly extraordinary part of the Jason Factor, the distinguishing weirdness of it, was that it was not a "movement" at all. Just the opposite. Nearly every mother-loving, wanna-be do-your-own-thanger among the Jason parents presumed the gesture to be unique. They named their son Jason not because other parents did, but because they thought other parents didn't. Barely in recovery, the moms and dads would call the world and tell it proudly, smugly even, that their first born was a Jason as though they had conceived not just the baby, but the name itself.

TWENTY YEARS LATER, the Jason families have come of age. Jason Parents have a second child, Joshua or Jennifer, but no third. The more successful own their own homes in subdivisions all over America. The less successful own their own mobile homes. None of them rent. All of them--and this is critical--have a strong rooting interest in the whole shebang Americana. Jason dads work hard at the nearby office complex at something vague the young Jasons don't fully understand. The moms work too--as nurses, teachers, real estate agents--but don't take their careers too seriously.

When younger, every Jason in America played kiddie soccer and/or hockey. (Baseball was too ordinary. Basketball too "unstructured.") All the Jason dads coached. Some of the Jasons might have gone pro had they not worn so deep a groove in the rec room couch--too much Nintendo. In high school, the Jasons pulled down B's at South or West and now pull down C+'s at State--too much MTV. Spoiled a tad, they've been known to set the family cat on fire or wreck a car or two, but no Jason in America has yet to murder or be murdered, save for the hockey-masked Jason of celluloid fame--named, of course, in supreme irony.

Savvy marketers, like the creators of Friday the 13th, have understood the Jason Factor all along. In Kansas City, for instance, the Comets rode the tail of this phenomenon to undreamed of heights (and quick descent). While KC's NBA franchise could muster only about 8,000 weary Morts and Tyrones and Vinnies for a Laker game, the Comets were packing in over 14,000 screaming Jasons and dads for their own Nintendo-like game of pseudo-soccer with its unfathomable rules, unpronounceable player names, and extremely dubious competition. So what if the league didn't exist three years ago? Jason families don't fret about tradition. They don't know worry about history. Hell, they are history--a living, breathing, Neilsen box of the historical moment in the making.

A potent marketing force, the Jason families represent an even more explosive political force, especially now that so many Jasons can vote. Enter Ross Perot. A few months back, he descended upon millions of them--Jason kids, parents, grandparents--like an electronic epiphany and nearly short circuited the electoral process by so doing. Like them, he had no history, no roots, no ideology. Plus, he seemed cool and unique, much like the name Jason once did. Surely, he was worth a nod on a telephone poll, a poolside declaration of rebellion, maybe even a defiant bumper sticker.

But Perot had a problem. A big one. He presumed he had created a movement, one with a core, with an identity, with staying power. But he presumed wrong. These weren't Argonauts, after all; these were Jasons, each an island unto himself. Independents. They have no more integrity as a group--even when they coalesce around a candidate--than does the audience for Roseanne.

Pre-election, they flick through candidates as casually as they do their cable stations. And every free spirit among them insists on holding the channel-changer. When the show grew weary, as Perot's (like the Comets') quickly did, the Jasons simply flicked it off and moved on to a better program--in this case, the Democratic convention. Perot, as Ross was the first to realize, had been cancelled.

But no cause for alarm. For all their flaws, and their seeming vulnerability to the media, the Jason families are the most thoroughly invested political rabble in the history of the world, the great washed. They may vaunt their indifference, their orneriness and occasionally their ideological empty-headedness, but come November, they'll do the right thing. They always have. They always will. They've got too much at stake not to.



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