“It was me and Ben against the world.”
Documentaries about underdogs are great. It’s always uplifting to see the little guy overcome adversity and stick it to the man. Documentaries about tragedy grab me in a different way. Maybe they make me feel better about my own life and the fact that I’ve never had to go through that kind of shit. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a documentary that gives me both in a way that works so perfectly, as All This Mayhem.
In the 80s, two self confessed bogan kids, Tas and Ben Pappas, muscled their way onto a skateboard ramps in Melbourne’s snooty suburb of Prahran. A few years later, they were both high school dropouts, but they were also the ranked number one and two greatest skateboarders in the world, living it up on the X-Games circuit in America. Deep into drugs and hard, fast living, the Pappas brothers were the kinds of dudes who’s head strong, take on anyone and anything attitude lead to their biggest successes, and ultimately, their dual downfalls.
Making a strong case of the nature side in the whole nature versus nurture debate, All This Mayhem is a pretty heartbreaking story, told amazingly frankly by Tas Pappas. The Pappas brothers were tough kids from the wrong side of the tracks who took on the world and won. But the entire story, spanning a solid two decades, makes it clear from the beginning that the glory would be fleeting and that tragedy was pretty much inevitable.
I can’t believe I had never heard of Tas and Ben Pappas before now. I was never a massive fan of skateboarding and its stars, but I thought I was at least aware of the really big names. And Australia loves nothing more than celebrating little battling Aussies who become world beaters. So how did I miss the coverage (including an appearance on Hey Hey It’s Saturday) when the Pappas brothers took out the top two spots in the skating world? Even more surprising, how did I miss the controversy that leads to the gut punch second half of this documentary?
I don’t know how I missed all of this stuff at the time, but I’m kind of glad I went into All This Mayhem so oblivious to its subjects. I feel bad that I was entertained by what is ultimately the terrible lives that these dudes endured, but it’s such a compelling story, and so well told, that maybe engrossed is a better word than entertained.