As Nasty As Kevin Smith Wants To Be

By: E · February 5, 2009

Cross posted here.

My first experience with Kevin Smith was when I tricked my mother into letting me rent the VHS copy of Clerks that our local Blockbuster had. This resulted in me, a young and impressionable fifteen year old, playing the tape in the living room while the dialogue of the movie began moving steadily towards sucking dicks when my mother was passing by. Well, she didn’t like that too much, did she? She took the tape away and thought she hid it well enough from me, but I just took it back and finished it the next day when I had the house to myself. And thus, a legend was born.

Which isn’t to say that my life was really changed by Clerks (though I did learn what “snowballing” someone was), but it was nice to see a movie take a naturalistic, raunchy approach to dialogue and craft some semblance of an emotional resonance inside of it. Up to that point, young teenagers like myself didn’t have anywhere to turn if we wanted anything resembling emotional impact in a comedy. You either had to just kinda let go and immerse yourself in the cliched cheese of those awesomey bad comedies that cluttered up the 80’s, or you had to forsake the “oh my god” laughs for mild chuckles while watching one of the many romantic dramedies that were floating around the early 90’s. You feel bad for Dante, there’s a point where you genuinely cheer for him to get the girl of his dreams, kinda hate him for fucking things up so bad with the girl that’s right for him, and want to kill Randall even though you know, as much of a dick as he is, he’s kinda right. These were the true slackers of the 90’s, people trapped in useless jobs, wanting to get out but just lacking the energy or direction to do so. Not everything was burn out, pothead ennui the way that other movies would try to have you believe. And in that listlessness, Smith found empathy from a whole bunch of young people who felt similarly, or at the very least convinced themselves they felt similarly.

Which is why it’s ironic that Zack and Miri Make A Porno (released on DVD Tuesday) is kind of the antithesis of that. You’d think it’s along the same lines, even with the word “Porno” in the title, that the characters in it were the same kind of listless, raunchy slackers that Smith crafted almost 15 years ago. But really, where Clerks had listlessness and a tinge of anger, Zack and Miri has a big, soft heart at the center of it. Where Clerks was set up largely as a canvas for the dirty jokes, Zack and Miri uses the dirty joke to get to the love story underneath. And where Clerks gave you a sense of empathy, that these characters on screen were kinda the same as you, Zack and Miri make you only realize how much of a fictional world the View Askewniverse has become. And in a lot of ways, Zack and Miri is so refreshing to watch because it’s so different from what you expected it to be, even if it’s not necessarily as good as you want it to be.

Maybe we should’ve seen this progression, that movies like Chasing Amy and Jersey Girl, and even Clerks 2 were what Smith wanted to make all along, and movies like Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Mallrats, and Dogma were just him taking the piss out of the audience for the sake of an idea. But it’s interesting that the emotional resonance of Zack and Miri comes largely from having to just accept the cheese that the story tries to prop up as legitimate emotion for it to have any effect, the same way that those cheesy, one-trick pony rom-coms used to do back in the 80’s and early 90’s. He’s a slob who’s now rich and falls in love with a socialite! Now, he’s a guy who’s making a porno and falls in love with the girl he’s supposed to fuck! Oh the deliciously cheesified irony of it all.

I’m a huge Smith apologist, and find that the story I opened this entry with is probably the reason why. Because back then, we were both looking for something that would horrify our mothers, yet at the same time make us feel connected, affect us in the way that movies can. And getting older, I guess we’re both less angry, less looking for the shock jock value that comedies can bring, and more willing to just kind of objectively accept that a movie is just a movie, and one that we have to be willing to curl up inside and lose ourselves in.

And that no matter how old we get, we’ll probably never, ever pass up the opportunity to deliver on a good poop joke.

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One Response to “As Nasty As Kevin Smith Wants To Be”
  1. Grimbil says:

    If it helps, I’m horrified by your mother too. ZING!

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