A Fine Line Between Stupid And Clever

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Sean Penn & Alexander Supertramp

Posted by bmac on December 4, 2007

Yesterday I was flicking through channels on TV, and came across an episode of “Iconoclasts” on the Sundance channel, featuring Sean Penn and John Krakauer. Normally I would move on, but I thought I’d see what lunacy Penn had to spew for possible blog fodder, and the Krakauer guy (an adventurer and writer)  seemed kind of interesting. These two were brought together by the subject of a book written by Krakauer, and now a film by Penn, Chris McCandless, AKA “Alexander Supertramp.”

The story of McCandless is a faint blip on my radar, as he died in 1992 on an ill-fated journey into the Alaskan wilderness, and I had forgotten completely about it, till I saw this show, and found myself fascinated by this kid’s story. The short version:

McCandless, from a wealthy family, graduated college, cut up his credit cards, burned his social security card, donated his savings of 24,000 dollars to charity, cut ties with his family, and hit the road for two years, and ultimately ended up in the wild of Alaska, where he starved to death in an abandoned bus that was his makeshift home for 112 days. He documented his travels with pictures and a journal. Excerpts from his journal appear in Krakauers book, but only a few of his photo’s have been released by his family, including this one, self taken in front of the bus he died in, before things went south for him.

You can read the full story here.     bus.jpg

Unbeknownst to me, this kid has become a cult hero of sorts, due to Krakauer’s bestselling book “Into The Wild,” and now the film by Penn will further add to his mythic status among young idealists. I’m not sure why I’m fascinated by this story, because the kid was a bit of an idiot, and at the end of the day, basically committed suicide, but I’m fascinated nonetheless.

The bus McCandless died in, originally put there as a shelter for hunters, has become a destination for like minded idealists, and surprisingly, remains virtually as he left it, with his belongings still inside after 15 years. I say surprisingly because hippie worshipers usually grotesquely deface the shrines of their heroes, ala Jim Morrison’s grave, but maybe the remote location makes it hard for any but the most zealous seekers to get to.

When McCandless failed to get out of the wild, due to an uncrossable river, (because of melting glaciers), he began to starve, and finally, realizing he was about to die, took one last picture of himself, rail thin, smiling, and holding a sign that read:

“I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all.”


Tragic. This picture is heartbreaking to me, and even though it’s his own fault, I feel sorry for this kid. I don’t find anything heroic about dying alone of starvation in an old bus deep in the Alaskan wild. On the other hand, I have some level of respect for people that take chances in life, and accept the consequences as McCandless clearly did. He wasn’t looking to be a hero, but the likes of Sean Penn are gonna try and turn this tragic story into something it wasn’t.

McCandless was a hard core lefty, and the fact he burned his social security card, and gave his life savings to charity and “dropped out” is what has fueled the interest in him, especially from Penn. From what I can tell, Krakauers book doesn’t necessarily glamorize McCandless, because it points out all the bad decisions McCandless made that eventually took his life. Penn on the other hand, is trying to make McCandless a hero to his core audience, the Looney Left, and environmentalist types, many of whom will undoubtedly set out on their own journeys trying to ape McCandless, and some will surely end badly. I’ve seen the trailer, (which I won’t post here) and Penn clearly glamorizes McCandless as a kind of modern day Kerouac, instead of the somewhat hapless dreamer that McCandless was.

Watching Penn during this one hour show, in which he and Krakauer re-trace McCandless’ Alaskan journey, it was obvious what an angry, miserable prick Sean Penn really is. At one point while they’re in a tiny town in Alaska, a girl who is having her Bachelorette party recognizes Penn, and asks for a picture. Penn responds by being totally put out, as if in this tiny little town in Alaska, he’s gonna be over run by fans. Which is laughable, because earlier in the show, he was carded trying to buy liquor. I feel sorry for Penn’s family, he must be a million laughs to be around.

As much as I don’t think McCandless was or should be any kind of hero, at least he had the balls a Sean Penn will never have. It’s easy to sit back on millions of dollars, and make a movie about a kid who willingly walked away from civilization to his own death, and act like he’s some kind of role model. I wonder if Penn would encourage his own kids to do it, because his movie is gonna encourage other people’s kids to go on a trip that some may not come back from. Will you take responsibilty for that Sean?


115 Responses to “Sean Penn & Alexander Supertramp”

  1. Enas Yorl said

    Very sad. I had never heard of this guy before, but I’m sure we’ll all know all about him by the time this movie comes out. You gotta wonder what kind of high octane lunacy he was fed in college that led him to decide to do this. I will admit though that I once had thoughts of “Going Walkabout” a la Mick Dundee. I was already “off the grid” so to speak and facing eviction from my little hole in the wall anyway, so it wasn’t that much further of a step to go. Common sense re-asserted itself quickly and I decided to get my act together instead. Fortunately that worked out pretty well.

  2. eddiebear said

    I guess all of us have a bit of the wanderlust and wish to escape the crappy world we live in. Ultimately, most of us just go on with our humdrum lives.

    Maybe that’s why I felt and still feel a bit of admiration for people like Evel Knievel, Steve Irwin and this guy (my cousin is one of these trust fund hippies, and she has bene to his bus. So I have heard of him). Yeah, in one respect, they were stupid. But you have to admire a guy willing to do stuff they really want.

    Oh, and I bet Sean Penn will totally ruin this story. Just a hunch.

  3. bmac said

    It’s something every guy has thought about doing, and I think that’s the appeal of the story. His act was political on a level, but unlike say, a Rachel Corrie, he wasn’t looking to get attention for any particular cause, it was his own personal journey, and I respect that.
    You can see the trailer for the film on Youtube, under “Into The Wild.” It may even be on DVD already, as Penn’s films tend to tank horribly. I’m still debating whether to see it or not.

  4. I read “Into the Wild” years ago (whenever it came out in hardback). Pretty wild tale.

    While I admire him for going out on his own, I recall thinking at the time I read the book that he was a typical liberal idiot – daydreaming of “living off the land” like it was easy or something, and (no-doubt dreaming of the “noble savage” image he cut – while neglecting to do his background data-gathering on the environment.

    He was not in Kansas, folks. The area he was in will kill – unmercifully – if you don’t know what you’re up against.

  5. bmac said

    I think I’ll check out the book, and yeah Mcgoo, he was definately a liberal dreamer in way over his head, in fact, he refused to carry maps, and there was a tram that would have easily gotten him over the river very nearby, which he would have known if he had one.
    Another intersting factoid:
    Alaskans hate him, and think he was an idiot. (he kinda was)
    Still, a great story.

  6. I recall the “torrential river” issue that (IIRC) forced him to go back to his li’l bus. And I recall that – almost from the begining of his stay there — his journal was almost totally on the subject of food, catching and eating.

    I’d say he was an idiot – USDA prime grade. Like all of science, natural selection works.

    Him and that Bear Guy that got eaten (along with his girlfriend) up there a few years ago. They were both doofii of the First Caliber.

    Heinlein wrote: “Stupidity is the only Crime Against Nature. The punishment is death, the sentence is automatic, and there is no appeal.”

    BTW: I do sympathize with him – and all people who die untimely. But my sympathy does not extend to his DNA – which was flawed.

  7. bmac said

    Great Heinlein quote. I guess in the end, it’s a great example of the unrealistic expectations of liberals. That kid could have lived, simply by having a map.
    For me, what buys my sympathy, is that it seems he had no regrets about the predicament he got himself into, and accepted his fate.
    I can respect that, even from an idiot.
    The problem is, the same unrealistic romantisim that drove this kid, will be passed on to another through Penn’s film. I haven’t seen it, but I doubt it will highlight all the dumb things McCandless did.

  8. I’m sympathetic – but I can’t help noticing in that last photo of him; he’s a teeth person! He coulda used those choppers as a signaling device.

    I wonder if they found his corpse by the gleam of his teeth! They may have spotted his teeth from space!

    (Actually, IIRC, he was found in his bus by some hikers – who found one of his “help!This is no joke!” notes he left here and there.)

    I will not be going to see this flick, simply because Sean “Buttboy” Penn is involved. Normally I don’t worry too much about what idiot movie people say about politics (or anything else), but SP managed to really get under my skin. Therefore: nothing he’s involved with will get a dollar of my money.

  9. bmac said

    Agreed, I probably will wait till this flick shows up on TV. Which should be about three weeks from now.

  10. Britt Reader said

    Bet you all vote Republican don’t you. You yanks are so split. Either ‘loony liberals’ or ‘gun-toting conservatives’. Get some bleeding balance for gawd’s sake.

  11. bmac said

    Yeah, things are goin’ great there in the U.K. huh Britt?
    Learn Arabic yet? You’re gonna need it.
    Oh, and do us a favor, take back your national treasure, Becks and Posh. Turns out we didn’t need em.

  12. Britt Reader said

    Yes, well – I agree that some of our ex-colonial cousins are becoming quite vociferous in this land, and I’m not keen on P&B myself either. My point is that in America you seem very polar in your political views. It’s a wonder you all manage to get along. The USA is still a place I would love to visit though, and as a 43yr old man Chris McCandless’ story gave me a feeling of being youthful again, now that middle age has cruelly claimed me.

  13. bmac said

    Fair enough Britt, I agree we are more polorized then ever, but you just named two sterotypes that are just that, stereotypes. There’s a lot of gray area between “loony liberal, and gun totin conservative.” Our media is to blame for showing only extremes, but I assure you, it’s not as black and white as you may think.

    I too would love to visit the U.K. and the rest of Europe, (particularly Italy.) One of these days…..

    Glad you liked the McCandless story.

  14. cranky said

    bmac, excellent post. I would read the book but I would not put a dime of my money towards anything involving Sean Penn. Unfortunately, both McCandless and the bear food couple (who caused the bear to be shot) were blindingly stupid people too. I would say that I respect McCandless for following his dream while giving up his wealth. Bear Guy gets no respect or sympathy, he caused the death of the bear that killed him by his very arrogant belief that he could become one of them. He did become one with the grizzlies. But it was as he was being digested.

    Your gun toting conservative redneck buddy,



  15. bmac said

    Thanks my redneck friend!
    And just FYI, Penn gets no money for the book, just the movie.

  16. Did you see that Iconoclasts show with Mike Myers & Deepak Chopra? Pretty good if you’re into New Age shit (snark aside, I actually enjoyed it.) Neat concept for a show.

  17. bmac said

    It is a cool show Cuffy. I didn’t see the Mike Myers one, but I liked the Laird Hamilton/Eddie Vedder episode. As long as they keep politics out, it’s great.

  18. Wim G (B) said

    Whats the problem here… I think i should probably read the book someday, but who cares who gets the money for playing Alexander. Someone will anyway, do you really expect somebody like Alexander himself would take the role? Come on, i think Sean Penn did quiet a good job here.
    Lots of respect for McCandless.

    • Miranda said

      I enjoyed this movie very much. I am also fond of Sean Penn, although most of you are not on this site.

      What most people don’t understand is that Alexander wanted to do these thing on his own. Call him what you want…stupid… ignorant..whatever. He was living his life the way he wanted to. Deep down I TRULY believe if he wanted to really leave Alaska he would have walked down the river more. Maybe he just wanted to see if he could make it a little longer until winter again. Although he was young, I do not believe he was stupid. He was quite intelligent. Many of you agree he should of taken a map. What you don’t understand is he didn’t want to. He wanted total freedom from everything and he wanted to do it by himself….Is that Stupid? or liberating….I’ll take the latter.

  19. Wim G (B) said

    Ok, sean isnt the actor, lol. But still dont care anyway

  20. pajama momma said

    Is ^ that a relative of your bmac?

  21. pajama momma said

    your= yours

  22. bmac said

    That would be a no PJ.

  23. Virgil said

    There are plenty of people with minds like the supertramp. People
    who are between being a idiot and a genius.

    The guy probably wants to die anyway. He is adventurous, tries anything to test his ability and his body. But his mind is not sound.

    A guy with a sane mind would have prepared much for that Alaskan
    journey and survive.

  24. cinnamon said

    This child was amazing. Yes, he did die alone in the wild but, he was prepared to die in order to live. For all the critics, I am ashamed. People are so filled with hate I don’t think they look for the good or truth at all. This is a world who is taught to judge instead of inspire. I see Chris as a hero, he lived his life doing what he loved. He never settled for anything less. Bravery, he contained it. He had the money and the means to live the “American Dream” but that was not his dream. He lived his own.He lived his life. Maybe I just see myself in him. I am just a bit younger than he was when he passed. I have a college degree. In reference of a great poet,I am taking the road less traveled by, an that will make all the difference.

  25. Maybe I just see myself in him.

    What? In a casket feet under?

  26. cinnamon said

    No. Did you not just read what I said? Why do you bother on this site if your are just going to criticize? My fiancée is from Alaska and that is where we plan on moving when we get married. Of course when you are outdoorsy you have bravery, part of it is risking your life. He took a chance. He died happy. Let it be.

  27. bmac said

    Don’t mess with PJ Momma girl! Seriously, you don’t know who your messin’ with, and she’s got a crew (including me) that will make you cry.

    She was kidding, lighten up. You have to be able to take a joke around these parts.

    BTW, most Alaskans think McCandless was a moron. Just ask ’em when you get there.

  28. cinnamon said

    Trust me I know. I mean it’s not exactly smart to go out into the bush with as little knowledge and gear as he had. You gotta get your stuff right if you want to survive. But the kid had guts. And thats my point. p.s. I can joke around:) I just say whats on my mind.

  29. bmac said

    Fair enough, just lookin’ out for my peeps.

    If you notice in the post and comments, I said I thought the kid had a lot more balls than Sean Penn, and that I admired him on a certain level. He did something many of us would like to do, he just did it in an incredibly reckless and ignorant way.

    Ultimately, it’s just a waste.

    But that’s why it’s such a great story, whether you love him or hate him.

  30. Colfax said

    You do an incredible disservice to Alexander Supertramp by labeling him as a “liberal.”

    As an editor of his school newspaper, he often wrote glowing reviews of the Reagan presidency for one. While he was a big fan of Nietzsche and Frost, many of his thoughts (at least the ones recorded) seem to indicate he was more in the vein of a Thomas Jefferson. Hardly what we’d call “liberal” in today’s day and age.

    It’s a shame that ending hunger is seen as a liberal notion and is derided as such.

  31. bmac said

    Well Colfax, I’m not his biographer, but when a guy eschews capitalism, burns his SSC, gives his life savings away, calls himself Alexander Supertramp, and cuts up his credit cards to go on some kind of soul searching journey, I certainly wouldn’t call him a conservative.

  32. blogoprofundo said

    I think the bummer here is that everyone is trying to draw political lessons from the guy. He wanted to go camping…for a really long time. I love camping, and the idea of being entirely self-sufficient has a certain appeal, especially in the US.

  33. lovelyleah said

    I’ve got to agree with Colfax about the idea of Chris being liberal. Bmac, I see what you mean when you say “a guy eschews capitalism, burns his SSC, gives his life savings away, calls himself Alexander Supertramp, and cuts up his credit cards to go on some kind of soul searching journey, I certainly wouldn’t call him a conservative.” However, I think that all of those things were in order to escape his family/past/etc…and not neccessarily to go against society. I could be wrong, but that’s how it felt to me. They weren’t ever intended to be a statement for anyone except for himself. Most liberals would have made a big to do about something like that. Also, in regards to the “bear food guy,” if you’ve watched the movie, you know for sure he was crazy. Anyway, I think the big difference between the two is that the bear guy wanted to draw attention to himself…that was his whole purpose. Chris just wanted to do his own thing which is probably why I like him and not the bear guy.

  34. bmac said

    Hey, I never said I didn’t admire the guy on some level, but “liberal” does not necessarily mean he’s gonna make a big deal out of….being a liberal. He may not be an “according to Hoyle” liberal, but he’s close enough.

    And yeah, bear guy was a moron.

    P.S. Responding to this comment just cost me half a dollar. See what I do for my readers?

  35. trivia-guy said

    He was sort of like a trapeze artist who felt the act just wouldn’t be the same if you did it with a net. The sad thing to me about this guy is that – from what you read about him – he appeared to have a lot of potential. We’ll never know what he could have achieved if he could have walked out in July. If only he’d taken a safety net – a map and a compass – for emergency only. 🙂

  36. what a great movie said

    the bear guy was a complete nut job. his voice alone was enough to tell you that.

    there is some great irony in the truth of this movie. he gave his 24,000$ to a non profit for famine related causes and then dies of starvation. that he went out into the wild only to realize that happiness is to be shared with others but by the time he comes to this realization, it was too late. there was a quote in the movie which he wrote between the lines of a book, i don’t recall but something of that nature. i spent 6 months living out of my car and i did make it to alaska. i was the same age as this guy was. i’m not really sure what i accomplished other than seeing that being alone is a sad existence. i wasn’t reading gogol or anything, i just was trying to figure life out. i still haven’t figured it out.

  37. alaskan said

    wow I am so glad all of u have done your homework on chris. its nice to see that before u start making ur own opions of him that u have done some research on him o wait i dont think any of u have. first of all its tragic that this had to happen to anyone. first off he starved to death because of alkaloids from the seeds of the wild potato plant his bood he had said nothing about the seeds beint toxic and up till this they have never been published as toxic because in the summer there not but in late winter alot of plants concentrate alkaloids to the seeds so that animals wont eat the seeds so depending on the time of year some edible plants do have posinous seeds and some of the signs of some types of alkaloid poisoning are depression emacitaion and nervousness especially when u are stressed so most people as i believe that he didnt mistake the plant for a toxic one but he was safely eating the roots of the plant for weeks the effects of swainsonine poisoning are chronic the aldaloid rarely kills but the body is preventend in turning what it eats into source of usable energy so if u would eat to much of the seed no matter how much food u eat after ur bound to starve now i know he was already in a starvation mode and thats one of the reasons it hit him so fast cause he was already weak but any way sorry to ramble on sometimes it upsets me to see people talk about chris this way i ahve spent some time in alaska and have been out to the bus and spent some time there well u can think what u want of him but hes touched more and affected more people then any of us ever will so next time thinnk twice about what u say about a person u know so little of

  38. bmac said

    I’d respect your opinion a lot more if you’d bothered to use a little thing called “Punctuation.”

    And it seems you also didn’t bother to really read the post or the comments, so you’re guilty of the same offense you accuse me of.

  39. Chris said

    I hitchiked across the US and Canada in 1970 and also lived on a commune in Vermont living off the land. Anyone attempting an adventure such as this or what McCandless did is well advised to learn at least adequate skills for survival. That is of course if you want to live to tell the tale yourself. McCandless is a study in what happens when your luck finally runs out. As long as he remained in civilization his mistakes had no serious consequences. Once on his own in the real wild, mistakes were no longer an option. As he wrote he was no longer ‘In the Wild but trapped by it.

  40. Happily Lost said

    I am a ‘johnny come lately” on this story. I saw the movie a week ago; a 2 AM insomnia induced viewing. I was, and still am to some degree, profoundly moved. I’m not sure why. And I can see by the countless websites, blogs, and op ed pieces on the internet that many people have also been profoundly moved. I think we should end the debate of whether he was an idiot or silent-prophet and ask the important question: Why such visceral reactions?
    There is something to be learned from Alex and Chris, but each of us will only discover what that is by going inward, to our own internal bus 142. Enjoy the journey!

  41. tam said

    i wish this guy would have been able to come back and tell his story himself. although i think if he had, the adventure would never have been as glamorized as it has been made out to be and would have been just a story he could tell his grandkids. we all have stories of adventure and life lessons, to bad stories from the living aren’t as inpirational as those who died during theirs. i admire the guy not for what he did but for who he was, himself.

  42. David said

    Wow. I would love to have the courage to drop everything and go out on my own like Chris did but I don’t think I will ever do it. Sadly it is true that the book and now the movie will encourage some other inexperienced people to head outside of societies safety net but some people think it is the quality of life and not the quantity. I do not think he was “stupid” at all as some have said to venture out. I think he was a young man that followed his own heart and mind. Now of course to some that is a perfect definition of “stupid”. None of us really know what life was like inside of Chris’ head so we don’t really know everything that drove him to feel the need to be alone. It is sad for him that he died alone and for his family who I am sure truely missed him and would be willing to change anything to have a second chance to be in his life. In the end I hope that Chris live as he wanted too and if so then I have no doubt that he accepted his death without remorse….

  43. Michael V said

    BMAC You’re my hero!

    Somehow you knew my feelings and words exactly as I would have like to have deployed them! I would have never seen this movie if it had not been for my wife renting it. Are you kidding me?, support Mr.Penn in any manner, no way, but I am happy to have seen the movie.

    What a tragic ending to a beautifully promising life! I told my wife while this kid was on the unbekownst suicide mission, I also had freely accepted my mission while in the US Army to protect and serve, in a crazy way, the ability of the Supertramps in the world to do as they please.

    I guess in summary, we choose are paths and we must accept the consequences.

    The movie to me showed he did and for that I am happy to live in this great country I once served proudly.

  44. bmac said

    Thanks Michael, and thank you for your service.

    When I wrote this post, I had no idea the interest in McCandless was so huge, and I too got sucked into this kids story, and subsequently got the book, and saw the movie. As much as I hate to put a dollar in Penns pocket, I do have to say he captured the book beautifully. Credit where credit is due.

    I’m going to do a follow up to this, easily my most viewed post in the one year history of this blog, on my thoughts since I’ve learned more about this kid, and his fascinating story.

  45. Marc said

    I’ve known the story of Chris for many years. I watched the movie last night and was blown away. It was a great movie of a great story. It could be seen both ways, either as heroic or tragic. Regardless of which point of view you see it there is no denying it as an inspirational story. He had his mind made up and no one was going to tell him any different. I wish I could come to close to deciding which direction I would like my life to go but haven’t gotten the kick in the ass yet to wake me up. Chris did and never looked back, just forward……..into the wild.

  46. Sheila said

    All this endless talk about the “potential” he had, what he “could’ve done”….might we think of it in the light that he perhaps CHOSE in what form he wanted to use this potential!? He didn’t WANT to contribute it to society, he had a mission. All this talk that we must use our full capacities, when what if that’s the very source of misery for so many brainwashed individuals! I don’t hear anyone on here speaking to the soul’s need and the all consuming power of something grander in many of us at any point during all these RATIONAL criticisms. Always there must be REASONING and LOGIC to simple truths. There must be a plausible reason why there’s a fine line between the “idiot and genius”, that I think frankly NONE of us are supposed to understand. I think if McCandless were to see all of this back and forth, he would be grieved by the amount of argument and separation that’s taking place to due moral placements. Just observe, learn and let be. (-from not a hippie, but an open mind!)

  47. Kevin said

    Wait, did you say you’ve read the book? Did you see this page? (123 of first Anchor Books edition)

    “More and more of the classes he took addressed such pressing social issues as racism and world hunger and inequities in the distribution of wealth. But despite his aversion to money and conspicuous consumption, Chris’s political leanings could not be described as liberal.

    “Indeed, he delighted in ridiculing the policies of the Democratic Party and was a vocal admirer of Ronald Reagan. At Emory he went so far as to co-found a College Republican Club. Chris’s seemingly anomalous political positions were perhaps best summed up by Thoreau’s declaration in ‘Civil Disobedience’: ‘I heartily accept the motto–“That government is best which governs least.”‘ Beyond that his views were not easily characterized.”

    An honest mistake, perhaps, because the man may meet some of your criteria of a “hard core lefty”. But you may find more peace in life if you concern yourself less with classifying people into these “left” and “right” camps. If you consider him on his own terms instead of worrying how his life fits into a political matrix, you may more easily come to terms with what attracts and repels you about this person.

  48. johan said

    I love that movie anyway .that guy was amazing ……. god bless him……

  49. David said

    I saw the movie, and am inspired to read the book. I believe there is a certain selfish naivete ingrained in this fellow. Blaming parents seems to be a common enough sport, but his very first act of “abandonment” comes with the donation of what is refered to as his life savings to Oxfam. Well, the “life savings” was actually a gift from a family member for his education. Had he earned it himself, I believe he would have been somewhat reluctant in his generosity. I feel it is representative of this fellows selfishness. You become a product of your enviroment, pushed to greater accomplishments and responsibility through struggle and adversity. To decide that I have a touch of the wanderlust and do not want to be a member of a society that I have judged and found guilty at the tender age of 21, instead of using the gifts that have been afforded me to change it, is self serving and catering to a naive agenda.

  50. bmac said

    That’s a really interesting take David, and one I don’t see too often. You’re right, he was clearly very selfish, and I suspect a bit spoiled.

    If you read the book, you’ll learn he was angry at his father for having another family, which Chris discovered purely by accident, and his adventures I think, were fueled by that anger.

  51. Emily said

    I watched it last night and I loved it. It doesn’t really matter whether he was naive, selfish and stupid ( although I’m sure his family wish everyday that he had not been so unprepared for the Alaskan wilderness) or whether he cuts a heroic figure. There is something about his story that fascinated and moved me even though all those competing judgments and assessments of him were going through my head.

    The idea of doing what he did terrifies me. It fascinates me that he sought such isolation however I can understand his desire to somehow ‘merge’ with nature and see what might come of it.

    I think my fascination is seeing someone pursue such a ‘romantic’ idea to the extreme and then to watch them live-and die- through the consequences of their actions. That sounds a bit cruel. I mean to say.. it seemed he was trying to find an essential meaning, truth and beauty to what it is to live and how best to approach life. But of course by the time he finds out it’s too late: classic tragedy.

    All of those people along his journey who seemed to need him but he couldn’t be pinned down by them and then when he needs human company and assistance he has gone too far from it.

    If he really was ‘self serving’ and ‘naive’, as the last person wrote, he paid the ultimate price for it and had to accept this in his last days.

  52. Dana said

    I see a lot of talk about how ‘stupid’ he was being. It’s so easy to judge others based on your standards. You can read about someone’s life or watch their lives play out in a hollywood movie, but that’s not the same as BEING that person at that time. It’s so easy to look back on history and say, ‘well, if he only did this’ and then judge him.

    Who cares if he was conservative or liberal? Who cares if he was selfish? You’re judging a dead man who can’t defend himself… one of the easiest fights to pick.

    Instead of pointing out whether he was a hero or just some stupid kid… (and I don’t care if the Alaskans hate him… it’s not like the Alaskans are flawless gods) just LEARN from his example. He seemed to live a very happy life in society even though he kept his belonging to a bare minimum. If anything, we should take his story to heart and understand that our happiness lies in loving our fellow man, not pointing our fingers at ‘the other side’ and ridiculing them to fuel our egos.

  53. Alex said

    I was just wondering which were the actions from sean penn that causes all the bad opinions that I red here. Just that.
    For give me for my english because I’am not used to speak or write in english

  54. Anonymous said

    Did you read the book? He wasn’t “a hard core Lefty”…actually he was a republican and started a republican group at college. If you are going to judge the man’s life…get the sh*t right before you blog about it…ha ha ha!

  55. yourmama said

    Did you read the book? He wasn’t crazy Lefty…actually he was a republican and started a republican group at college.

  56. yourmama said

    Since you have trouble reading I thought I would post it twice!

  57. bmac said

    You are fucking hilarious, “Yourmama” and you have such a funny handle!
    Do you even read the comments douchebag?

    This has been covered in this very thread, so pull your own fist out of your ass and calm down.

  58. StraightDs said

    I read the book and then watched the movie. I must have some sort of problem, for I hold a different opinion than most here.

    Perhaps it is that old “over-hyped” issue that happens when you hear from loads of people that something is going to be great, then upon experiencing it yourself, you find it somewhat lacking.

    I read the book shortly after it first came out and I was not “moved” at all. A guy pissed at his family decides to take off and hit the road. Hmmm. If he was 10 years younger he would have just been another teen runaway – but being that he did it after graduating college he is some sort of hero? Tragic? yes. Another Jack Kerouac? No.

    While the movie was well done (Penn is a pretty damn good director in my opinion, but Im one of those shifty “Lefty’s” so that is to be expected I guess), and I DID feel more emotion for the guy at the end I suppose, I am still left wondering “What was the point of it all?” I think his life would have had more meaning if he would have survived myself. Hell, maybe in a couple of years he would have changed his mind and then went into a whole new period of his life with its own rewards. But hey, he will never know the ups and downs of being a mature man nor an aged man and all the joys and experiences that would have come.

    Hell, if people are going to see him as some sort of role model, more power to you.
    For me, I would say with uninformed but statistical assuredness that there are a LOT of people living lives similar to his right this moment. Only their stories will never be glamorized on the pages of a book, nor glow larger than life on the silver screen.

  59. bmac said

    Excellent comment Straight D’s.

    I did a follow up on this post after seeing the movie and reading the book, and it’s in my “top posts” sidebar if you’re interested.

    I agree, Penn did a great job on the film, even though I hate him with the intensity of a thousand burning suns.

    I also agree that ultimately, it’s a total waste, but it somehow fascinates me. Obviously it fascinates a lot of people.

  60. StraightDs said

    Yeah, read your follow-up. Well written and well said. He definitely is a fascinating lad.

  61. tia said

    i fell in love with chris mccandless as soon as i saw the movie. i then decided to read the novel and wasnt able to put it down after i started. as a young idealist myself, i almost feel an impulse to do what he did. i admire him, although i would try to be a bit more prepared or at least take a map with me. i find critics of his behavior annoying and disrespectful due to the fact that most often people tend to steer away from things that mean alot to them because of society but chris actually stayed true to his beliefs. its really a tradgdy that mccandless died and i look up to him and admire him so much!!

  62. more prepared or at least take a map with me.

    A map would have been good, had he had one he could haves used it to float across that uncrossable river. Too bad he wasn’t as smart as you are.

  63. Ok, to be honest after actually having read his story just now, a map would have been good for other stuff too, like living.
    The guys whole story was very cool, the only thing that irritated me was his donating that money to charity. Sure that’s nice and all, but it was intended for his education and I’m sure his parents would have enjoyed putting that money to other uses had they been given the choice. He could have at least given him that option. I do admire the guy though. I know people like him who just get up and go, no plans, nothing.

    In fact I have a fisherman friend from Alaska who’s just like that, but he’d bring a map.

  64. but he doesn’t shower often and everytime he comes I make him go straight to the bathroom and have him give me all my laundry.

    I kid you not, one time I was doing my laundry and the stench made me start dry heaving, had I had any food in me, it would have been bad, course I was also pregnant at the time, but his clothes stunk man, ok? sheesh

  65. bmac said

    Does he come straight off the boat to your house?

    Cuz yeah, I’ve been on some fishing boats, and they reek man.

  66. It depends. When I first met him, we lived in Arizona. He’s a snowboarding buddy of PJdaddy. He travels all over the world doing odd jobs. ATM he’s working on a ship that’s docked in New Orleansy area somewhere and all that ship does is wait for the Iraq war to end so it can bring equipment home, but they keep it up and running and have people living on it year round. That’s weird to me.

    He stopped fishing in Alaska because he fell off the boat (in the summertime) but he said it freaked him out of that kind of fishing for a while. He just stinks cuz he’s a smelly hippy and even for a liberal I love him.

  67. withoutaname57 said

    There is a fine line seperating bravery and stupidity. However, it is perspective that proves the decisive factor on which is which.

    I love how people will go as far as recognizing the beautiful danger of the journey, how perilous the road to self discovery can be. But in the same breath criticize the man as not living up to his potential, attaching a label to his life and death. The story and the reasoning involve may suggest this type of behavior might be the very thing the man was trying to escape.

    Cast your stones and call him a hippie or liberal. Attach Sean Penn to his cause, and slander his them both. It still doesn’t change the fact that he (McCandless) made a choice and set a goal; to live and die on his own terms.

    Like it or not, in the back of a broke down bus Christopher McCandless found a measure of grace within himself that most people will put off finding in their entire lives.

  68. abel said

    It is funny how some one finds his destiny in the same road he choses to avoid it (I just saw kungfu panda, sorry). McCandless was running away from socity and now he seems trapped in it more than he could have ever imagined.

  69. Booyakasha said

    I don’t know…if it were me I would have walked up and down the river a little bit to see if I could get across at another point.

    To find out that there was a tram 1/4 mile from where he tried to cross boggles my mind.

  70. DA said

    I’m 1/2 way into the book and did not see the movie (movies typically are very good after you read the book, plus JK’s writing has enough visual language). All the positive and negative things said about CM probably have a grain or more of truth. He was adventurous and brave to leave socity and follow his path. He was selfish to cut off his parents no matter how much he dislike them because they seem to love him. He was stupid not to take the proper tools and experience nor walk the river to assess alternative crossings. His political view are unimportant.

    I’d love to have some of the experiences and time for introspection that he had, but never will. Many of the readers/viewers of the story are like me, gainfully employed with kids who can’t drop out of society. So what’s in it for us.

    Are there lessons to be learned or messages to take away so that we can apply CM’s positives within society and allow our kids to imagine and experience the world without running away? Are there lessons that we as parents can apply so that our children can follow their own path but stay connected to us?

  71. dirthippy said

    I just got the movie from Netflix. What an idiot–and I’m one of those liberals that you talked about in previous posts. I live in Alaska part of the year and have to say this guy was just like Timothy Treadwell. Darwin Award winners. The sad thing is that he could have gotten out of the wilderness if he had ventured 1/4 mile away from the bus. There is a hand-tram that will take people across the river. That’s how hunters get there. If he had a map, he’d have known that. And a .22! I carry a .454 Casull and bear spray! There are berries galore-enough to dry for the winter. And he only lived there in the summer!!! That’s effed up! We also treat our neighbors as elders and LEARN FROM THEM!!! There is a reason that those folks have survived for 35 years in the woods.

  72. Kafba said

    I haven’t read the book so I don’t know if it is even handed or not. The movie is certainly a one-sided attempt to glamorize someone who was basically a dishonest, delusional, idiot while at the same time demonizing modern society. Bad, bad, bad stifling, impassive, evil ol’ modern world and shame on us for living in it! (although I doubt that Penn will be giving it all up and moving to the woods. The best we can hope for is that a bear might get into Beverly Hills and eat him as he gets into his limo.)

    Poor McCandles was dishonest? Maybe disingenuous is a better way to put it. Throughout the film, over and over, you see the beautiful, brave “Alexander” complaining about materialism and eschewing all manner of things not natural enough for him. But, throughout the film, he uses other people’s modern property by hitchin’ rides with people in evil ol’ cars, ridin’ on them evil ol’ trains (one of the funniest parts of the movie was when the RR cop dragged him off the boxcar and whipped his behind…probably didn’t happen quite like that but it was funny none the less) or relying on things made in our big evil ol’ modern world – like a plastic kayak. Nothing says I can make it on my own like relying on a factory to provide you with what you need to live your dream.

    And what a bright young man he was. I can almost hear him thinking, “I much smarter than you and the evil American government machine can’t tell me what to do!” as he slipped his kayak through the spillway of a dam – you go rebel-without-a-clue! Even once in Alaska, as he went off to live like a wild man, he sets off with yet one more piece of evil ol’ American industrial production – a rifle and ammunition. Yep nuthin’ says just say no to modern society like a Remington Nylon 66 and several hundred bullets. All conveniently made in a big factory somewhere – by a man or woman with kids they are working to send to college someday – hopefully their kid won’t be such horse’s patoot.

    This guy was simply a spoiled rich kid who wanted to hurt his supposedly passive, long suffering mother and (gasp – stereotype of stereotypes) his abusive, father – and he starved to death because of it. Apparently natural selection won another battle to fix the gene pool.

    If this kid had been as smart as he thought he was, he would have taken note of this little nugget from long ago. Hobbes used the words, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” to describe life in man’s natural state. It was true in 1651 and it is true today.

  73. nato said

    im so sick of hearing people ridicule this guy for going on his journey of self discovery and spiritual enlightenment, yes it was selfish but thats the whole point. this was a guy who saw a need to figure out what life means to him personally and being surrounded by the conformities and regulations of a culture and society based on greed and power and dictatorship was no environment for him to figure things out and for him to become quintessentially a human being, he wanted to start over with nothing, to cleanse and purge his spirit. anyone who wouldnt want that is simply contributing to the problems of today and im sure those people are envious of those people who decide to take control of their own life rather than let society mould and shape them accordingly. consequences dictate actions, alex knew that but sore a more important lesson to be learned. i have much respect for alex for not bowing down like most others. his last message was “i have had a happy life and thank the lord, goodbye and may god bless all”.
    i only hope i can say that when i die. his ideology should be an inspiration to all!

  74. CT said

    Although I have never seen the movie- partly because I wanted to read the book first (which i did) and partly because the book was so good I didn’t want the movie to ruin it for me- I do believe that the movie added random things to the story that never really happened. For one, it wasn’t a “plastic kayak” that he got into and rode around in mexico. It was an old metal canoe- how modern right kafba? I don’t think that Alex/Chris could care less what we all think about what he did or didn’t do on his trip of self discovery and thats the point. It was HIS trip, not yours.. so leave it alone. As far as the movie glamorizing it… what did you expect? That’s hollywood… thats movies. I am 110% sure that Alex/Chris didn’t set out to die so that a book and then a movie could be made after him. That was out of his hands. And as far as him “being an idiot” for going into the Alaskan wilderness unprepared.. you are mistaken. He lived in that wilderness for over 100 days by himself killing his own food and surviving. He died because he allegedly ate some nonpoisonous potato seeds that were moldly(the poison) from the moist weather, a pretty honest mistake that i would like to say anyone could and would make. And with the whole being selfish.. defying his parents blah blah blah crap… We don’t get to pick our parents… we are born into this world and we are stuck with these two people that made us. Lame. Who here wouldn’t take a few years away from your parents after 21 years of being under their control?? I know I sure would. Selfish?? come on. Buying that brand new abercrombie t-shirt for 80 bucks when you could be buying a bum a few meals is selfish. Buying more crap with your credit card when you can barely afford the minimum payment thus screwing up our already fragile economy is selfish. But going out in the world for a few years on a mission of self discovery… wanting to “live off the the land:.. to live natural is not selfish it’s life. It was his life.

  75. TV said

    My 16 year old son left home on Tuesday, January 6th, leaving me a note that quoted an exert from the book “Into the Wild”, a book that he is studying in his English class. My son has always been a little “left” and the 72 hours he was missing broke my heart. To go into his bedroom and find his cell phone and all of his identification on his desk along with a goodbye note is a feeling I will never forget. I would NEVER glamorize homelessness. The selfish act of leaving your friend and family worrying about you is inexcusable.

  76. Rachel said

    Even though Chris took his “adventures” to the extreme, its obvious that you didnt remember the full story, or how he survived for at least over a year traveling around the country living hand to mouth, pretty successfully…
    As for sean penn…seems you know very little about him also…he is far from the “prick” you make him out to be…he is an intense, talented, generous, loyal and a wonderful director(see Indian Runner)…He has put himself in many situations to immerse himself in his acting and to learn about characters he wanted to portray, sometimes in very dangerous or uncomfortable situations….
    Maybe you too would have seemed like a prick when formerly married to a media whore and photographers who hounded you night and day, provoking your temper, only to get good pics of his anger and rage…He is no longer judged by that standard in Hollywood, so why should you judge him that way??

  77. Mike said

    Just watched the movie as I love the outdoors..I thought it would be more of an uplifting adventerous story. I was wrong.
    Self hating liberal kills himself = darwinism.

  78. Mare said

    Bmac, that was really, really interesting. After reading the whole Outside article, having not seen the movie, Supertramp sounds like another sweet fool who underestimated the importance of knowledge, preparation and experience. Nothing to glorify really… just another case of a guy with some eccentric demons.

  79. bmac said

    Hi Mare, glad you dug it. Nice to see you around this old dusty place.

  80. Adam Shinners said

    AMEN. In all respect for the guy, he was trying to be something he wasn’t. He wanted to find it through nature, yet he FORCED it. These ultra lefty’s need to get in touch with themselves a little more and here’s a piece of advice for the young and stupid; you can find out a lot about who you are by building human relationships. Allow yourself to be influenced by things that catch your eye, your heart, and your mind. It’s natural. HUMAN. NATURE. And check this out, planes, internet, media, music, and CULTURE are happening. Accept it. If you think you’re losing the battle, or you need to break away from this senseless and meaningless enemy being materialism, you’re just another passive, angry moron looking for the wrong in a right situation.

  81. Adam Shinners said

    Oh and Rachel. If you knew anything about anything, which you clearly DON’T, you would know that forcing yourself into a bad situation for almost two years in which you are forced to live hand to mouth doesn’t measure success. Yes, the guy did what HE wanted to do, which is admirable, but success is measured by your ability to make the most out of the situation on your shoulders, and ultimately survive. No, creating the situation doesn’t count. You can’t voluntarily jump into a shark tank, and come out successful, you, or your memory. As for Sean Penn, I think he saw what I saw in this story. He was smart about it though. He took this kid’s story, a kid who hated everything about society, culture, mankind, order, and when you think about it, NATURE; and put this kid’s story on the BIG SCREEN. EMILLE HIRSCH. HOLLYWOOD. I absolutely love that.

  82. Bleck said

    Fuck off asswipes. Chris had guts.

  83. Cha said

    I’m not going to say that Sean Penn is a bad director. He just gave a turn to the true story to make him seem like a hero. The reality of the case is that this story teaches us that we can run risks in life but not being extremist.

  84. me said

    Society does have a chokehold on us..i respect him for wanting to escape and the only tragedy is that it is almost impossible to do so.

  85. NDanielson said

    he was obviously a liberal, in that he chose to feel instead of to think.

  86. Joseph said

    He’s a lib? How so? No liberal I know of leaves civilization to get to the basics of mankind. I admire that. I was 12 years old when Supertramp died. I remember his story I think back from 1995, on one of the late night news shows. I think it was 60 minutes. Alexander Supertramp did something that many dream about doing, even myself. Man vs. Nature. Our Ancestors did it, and I’m sure they would be more than sick and disturbed about the obsequious dullards that populate our modern civilization. Hell I’m sick of the liberal ideologies, rhetoric and propaganda that shouts down truth and justice in this world. I wish for a break too, yet I don’t have the balls to do what SuperTramp did. He was FREE, as FREE as the animals that he shot and ate himself. HE had no laws, other than those that nature provided. He had no government, no allegiance, to this degradation and decadent society. The fact that the he believes in living off the land in his own means without waste is as conservative as it gets. Only today in this screwed up morally bankrupt society, devoid of ethics, do people paint that as “liberalism”. Our ancestors lived that way. Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and the like, preached this, while juggling the responsibility of law, and order, government and freedom.

    The simple fact is the government is running away with itself, and freedoms are being lost more now than ever. He choose true freedom while those of us behind our computer screens pretend we are free, that our society is just, and righteous. To that I say, look around you. Child molesters, murders and rapist, getting slapped on the wrist, while honest law abiding citizens are beaten by Law Enforcement officers and arrested wrongfully. Our police department around the nation are militarizing, and for what? Isn’t the answer obvious? Are we as free, than we were in 92, or 1950, or 1910?

    As an avid hiker/camper and farmer, I’m here to tell you, it isn’t easy living off the land. It requires more thought than you know of. Supertramp tried it and failed, yet he loved doing what he did as it is obvious in his pictures. The fellow looked happy. His farewell message showed that he was happy for his short lived life. Yet the fellow lived a more fruit-full life than many of the people here, even myself.

    In retrospect, if anything Supertramp was a Coward. He ran from the problems that face our unhealthy civilization rather than fight them, yet his form of cowardice was hard lived as evident in his death, and living hand to mouth. Should we respect that? How can we not? He lived life a FREE MAN, while we do not….

  87. MusicMomma said

    I saw the movie with my husband. I agree that it was moving, but what struck me the most was the pain of the parent and parent-figures in the movie– all being left behind. Mr. Franz even had to wake up early and insist on driving Chris to avoid being left in the middle of the night. It touched a nerve in me– as a parent of two young boys, my greatest nightmare is to have a child “disappear”– not knowing whether to grieve or search, only left to wonder helplessly if your child is calling out for you in fear…

    In the end of the movie, Chris’ actual parents are depicted as having been changed from the experience of loss. I’m sure it was difficult for the family to cooperate in telling a story that was, at times, humiliating to them. Maybe the rest of us can “soften” as they did, by imagining the possibility of loss BEFORE it happens, and then treating our loved ones in a way that we have no regrets…

    For those of you with wanderlust, though… that means YOU, too. Leaving people behind intentionally does not breed love– it breeds deep hurt which is passed on, and on. Live your life, but stay in touch…

  88. JOAnzi said

    “he chose to feel instead of to think.”


    Does that make Bush a liberal?

  89. IBeatTheSystem said

    Your mind just isn’t deep enough to comprehend why. You’re jealous and bitter.

  90. kathat0 said

    I watched the movie today and was not thinking he was made to look heroic at all. I.M.O. he was angry and suffering from his upbringing and sometimes this this takes the from of rejecting everything your parents (abusers) hold dear.
    What I particularly took offense to was your hate attitude towards lefties and such. You are obviously a self centered hater and anyone who would take a second look at your opinions is another one. We can’t make this world work right unless we are willing to give and take and accept those different from ourselves. You obviously haven’t learned that. Maybe you should take a journey on your own- one where you would be forced to rely on the kindness of strangers and other ‘weird’ people to you. There is good in lefties and good in righties- but someone like you who is so stuck in hatred as the answer will probably never figure that out. You lose.

  91. Меня впечатлила история о Крисе . Это новый опыт для меня ,оценить жизнь с такой позиции. Любви Бога Вам !

  92. Joseph said

    Kathat0, I always find it amusing when people of the “left”, and “right” both take offense to anything that is slightly critical of their ideology and mindset. Then in the typical diatribe, you resort to personal attacks to sooth your ego, and to reinforce your ideology. Yet those critical of liberal ideologies are “self-centered hater”? Apparently you’re not even intelligent or intellectual enough to notice the hypocrisy you preach. Ah, now my attacks come shining though, albeit after your “self-centered hatred”, came into the picture. Wrong? Maybe. Justified? Most certainly. Hypocrisy? You bet, but hypocrisy without man, would be self serving.

    Liberals always have this weird ideology that life is suppose to be fair, and that it is their job, their crusade, to make life fair for everyone, even at the cost of freedom and liberties that every man should have a birth right too.

    The conservatives feel that it is their moral duty to force people into their corrupt capitalistic beliefs, and political opinions by way of force, thus once again denying man the birth right to make up his own mind and live his life in his own fashion.

    You’re right, there is good people on both sides, but woe unto mankind that follow those that seek to place a yoke around the neck of his fellow man in the name of nobility, “fairness”, and morality.

    Tyrants and Zealots alike are born by such beliefs, actions, and ideologies.

    The anger in your post marks you for the Liberal Zealot that you are. The irony is, that you naively have the belief that this world under your ideology could “work right”,(see you think it’s your responsibility to make life fair, this proves it) but someone like you who is so stuck in hatred for those that don’t agree with you, will probably never figure out that this world will never work right under human intervention.

    Why? Because there is too many differences in mankind that divide us all, and where there is indifference there is strife. Furthermore to celebrate and encourage those differences as the left are so wont to do, only further drives this wedge between mankind. Just as the conservative policy of ignoring the differences in mankind and his ideologies, stagnates intelligent conversation and growth.

    To simply put, I scoff at your weak ideology, just as I scoff at conservatives. I am my own man, with my own thoughts, ambitions and ideologies. In that respect I am self-centered, but better to be a free thinking individual that is self-centered, than one who laps up any rhetoric simply because it’s the “feel-good” of the moment.


    If you think Supertramp ran from society simply because of his upbringing, then you are twice as daft then I originally thought. Here’s an idea: How about read something about the man, than relying off a Hollywood hyped up movie!

  93. JT said

    I love nature and spend as much time participating in it as time allows me. I also love simplicity and often loathe the systems and society that force me to compromise. Would I carry a .22 rifle and a 10lb bag of rice into wild of Alaska just to prove it to my self or anyone else? Never. Nor do I consider myself superior in any way to Christopher McCandless because of this.

    Chris McCandless saw what was expected of him by his privileged upper-middle class upbringing and he rejected it. Did he choose a nobler path? That depends largely on your upbringing and your political stripe. This is made embarrassingly evident by the comments of many on this page. That there now seems to exist, at least in the majority of what is written here, only two boxes into which the uniquely American life of McCandless can be rudely shoved into is frankly disappointing if not disturbing. It is this blind devotion to the choice of two ugly extremes that divides us and causes us to be incapable of empathy. It is the growing poisonous blue glow of self-righteous idiocy and fear driven hatred that looms just beyond America’s horizon.

    Movies and books conveniently aside, can we at least give the young man credit for having survived roughly two years of a fairly risky lifestyle? A lifestyle he conscientiously and intentionally chose. The mere fact that he signed his life savings away to charity is honorable for a young man. He did some bold stuff and lived to actualize his dream of reaching the Alaskan wilderness. (And had the presence of mind to document it as best he knew how). I respect that. Although he was tragically incompetent to survive there for more than a few months, I certainly do not think the man was an idiot. I believe he must have been extraordinarily resourceful despite his privileged upbringing. Say what you will about the proximity of resources at the time and location of his death. There are, unfortunately, thousands upon thousands of young people across the nation who are, by comparison, helpless infants with dirty diapers and a wallet full of tax dollars. Those who aspire only to by cool and eagerly and obediently lay down their hardly-earned money for fast food, pop culture, and the latest handheld devices that pull them further and further into their make believe realities while the nation’s infrastructure steadily crumbles around them. Is there no longer anything to be said for a boldness of spirit and the courage to live out one’s ideals? Or have we grown so weak we now prefer to be herded like sheep into one of two chutes – a left one or a right one?

  94. Barbara said

    I am amazed, that of all the sites I’ve visited regarding Sean Penn, not ONE can come up with his educational background. Did the agnostic misfit finish high school? What did they (teachers, students) think of him in school? I believe Mr Penn has gone through a GREAT deal of time, trouble and money to keep his background a SECRET!!! WHY???

  95. Mary said

    Well said JT. I saw the movie a few weeks ago and then read the book – liked them both a lot.

    I think Chris was someone who wasn’t content sitting around and letting life pass him by. He did exactly what he wanted to do – discover America and it’s natural beauty on as few material things as possible.

    I honor what he did, but I also feel sad for what his parents went through. Regardless of how anyone feels about him, you must admit that he’s somewhat of a legend because almost two decades after his death, we’re still talking about him.

  96. dave_s said

    I know its an old post. But im rather bothered by the people that say he should have at least brought a map. He chose not to. That was the whole point to challenge himself to survive without the map. Why do we ride motorcycles? to get to places? wouldn’t cars be safer? Yes, but we choose to do things that sometimes are dangerous for the excitement and the challenge they bring. Skydiving, cave diving, motocross, downhill mountain biking, mountaineering, rock climbing are all pointless activities. none are necessary, but we do them anyway, its part of the human spirit. If he would have brought the map, he wouldnt have done it at all.

  97. B_Z said

    I know this is an old post, but there is a good deal of misinfo about Mr. McCandless. Firstly, he had a map. This map clearly indicated that there was a road in walking distance. Further, there were perfectly crossable parts of the river 1/4 of a mile north of his path, and a few miles south of his path. Had he explored the river (a claim implied by his ‘make trails’ bit in the movie, but which there is little evidence he ever did) even slightly – as anyone planning to spend a prolonged period in the wilderness would do – he would be possible alive today.

    Second, there is every reason to believe that McCandless was mentally ill. His journals are disturbing in the manner in which he refers to himself in the third person, and has different narrative syles when he is referring to himself as Alexander Supertramp vs. McCandless. He did go by the name McCandless during his more lucid periods, such as when he was working for money.

    Let’s talk money. There is also no evidence for the whole burning money thing. McCandless was found with a good deal of cash and IDs on his person when he was found in the bus.

    I will conclude this missive that will likely go unread with two points. First, real lovers of nature and the world respect it and man’s place in it. Failure to do so is an act of disrespect. That is my opinion. Second, any person with a mental illness can have a narrative written about him that looks like someone that ‘danced to the beat of a different drummer’, but ultimately this is a romanticization and a predation upon the mentally ill to satisfy our own need for voyeuristic satisfaction and a romantic escape from lives many of us believe are fulfilling but lack the courage to change. Plenty of people that are healthy have improved their lives and ‘danced to their own beat’. Let’s me sure to learn from these people who demonstrate wit, wisdom, and skill rather than those who tout madness, incompetence, and disrespect for nature and their loved ones. there is a Fine line between stupid and clever… unfortunately for him McCandless was well over that line.

  98. Cate said

    This is an old post but it really doesn’t matter.
    I do not agree with you saying that he “basically committed suicide.” He wasn’t trying to get himself killed. he(in most theories) accidentally ate the wrong plant which is what killed him. He was not ignorant, he was a genius (education wise), and he was trying to live life more simply than we do. He wasn’t trying to be a “hero.” He may not have known what exactly he was getting into, but you know what? The wild is unexpected. You don’t just walk in and say “Oh, I’m going to go get killed by this bear.”

  99. Andrew B. said

    Fuck you. Your fucking stupid and know little to nothing about this situation. You provide zero insight into the mind of this brilliant genius and don’t even tap the surface of this complex issue.

  100. Anonymous said

    Some people look at life and judge. Like Alex. Some people look at it and just perceive it. For those who are always judging life; is it not somewhat of a balancing of the mind to perceive life? It must of been very painful for someone who is always judging to have two parents who were always judging. There is no balance there. It is no wonder that he perceived in such a big way. With all those thoughts people had of his life, and with all those feelings directed toward his life. I believe the world grabbed hold of his sole and did what it could to balance it. Maybe the more balanced that he became, the more he was driven from this unbalanced society. Where else would one go for as much space as what Alaska offers. Unfortunately he was to far out. I believe that we owe him a great thanks for his insights. I think he must have died feeling very successful knowing that his story had been written down. God probably knew his story wouldn’t have got as much attention if he had of survived. So he embraced him into his kingdom instead. I believe for some life does not have to be long to be fulfilling. Although it is a gift that we should be eternally grateful for. Alex did try to save himself. This is why I believe he now sits comfortably in heaven.

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  109. Anonymous said

    in the two years he was gone, he probably had more experiences and led a better life than any of you haters will. im willing to bet he didnt plan on dying, he just left on a journey and wanted to document it. im sure he intended to come back someday. he didnt PLAN on dying im sure.

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