Living in a Chucktatorship

By Julia Kline

If you attend the University, there’s a good chance you have encountered some of the Chuck Norris references that are rampant on campus. These facetious “facts” concerning the martial artist and TV star have been showing up on doors in Snyder Hall, on Facebook profiles under the favorite quotes section and in random conversation. So what is behind Chuck Norris’s sudden surge in popularity?

Excluding his advertisements for Total Gym, Chuck Norris has been less visible to the public eye since the final episodes of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” aired in 2001. However, he seems to be just as notorious these days.

In an unscientific survey done on campus, more University students recognized photos of Chuck Norris than fellow action stars Bruce Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal.

Web sites featuring “jokes” or “facts” about Chuck Norris seem to be partially responsible for the trend. Several Internet sites began circulating fabricated facts in 2005, documenting Chuck Norris’s supposed superhuman abilities and epic achievements. According to one Web site, the most popular Chuck Norris fact is: “Chuck Norris’s tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.”

Karl Rittmeyer, sophomore in Engineering, thought this explained the massive popularity of the Norris references.

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“I’ve seen Web sites with a few hundred Chuck Norris jokes,” Rittmeyer said. “They are all very amusing. I think that’s what spurred the trend on campus.”

Adding to Norris’s recent visibility, in 2004 NBC acquired the rights to the television show, “Walker, Texas Ranger.” Late night TV host Conan O’Brien immediately premiered a new segment to his show, known as the “Walker, Texas Ranger lever.” O’Brien had a lever installed near his desk that played some of the more outrageous clips from the television show.

John Stamm, freshman in Engineering, is a fan of the Norris lever.

“I love Conan and I think the lever is hilarious,” Stamm said. “The Walker clips are so over the top. They show Chuck Norris fighting six people at the same time.”

Although many students seem to find these Chuck Norris references amusing, some are perplexed as to why there are so many allusions to this one particular pop culture icon. Yolanda Urdiales, freshman in LAS, wondered why Norris was picked to be the subject of these jokes.

“The jokes make me laugh,” Urdiales said. “But I’m a little confused as to why, of all the people in the world, they chose Chuck Norris. I thought he was dead.”

Others students, however, found the incessant references to be grating or juvenile. Out of one hundred students polled, 23 said that the jokes were overplayed. Jennifer Marazas, freshman in LAS, was among the retractors.

“I don’t really see the point to them,” Marazas said. “I don’t think they’re funny. I guess my humor is different.”

Whether they think they are hilarious or insipid, it appears that the majority of University students have at least heard these Chuck Norris references. Twenty-five Facebook clubs reference the actor and Total Gym spokesman. Out of one hundred students surveyed on the Quad, only twenty-one replied that they had never heard the jokes.

It’s unclear whether the obsession with Chuck Norris will become a fixture in pop culture or will prove to be just a passing trend. So much buzz has been generated around the star that Norris himself showed up on the Conan O’Brien Show during one of the parodies of “Walker, Texas Ranger.” However, Michael Doane, freshman in ALS, thinks that something new will soon replace the Chuck Norris craze.

“I think the jokes will be out of style in a few months,” Doane said. “Someone will come up with a new celebrity to rip on.”