Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In Defense of Kevin Smith


Kevin Smith has gotten a bum rap here lately. It’s become a thing for geeks to hate on the guy to the extent that a fairly popular nerd-centric blog recently ran a list, “10 TV Geeks That Give Geeks a Bad Name”, and planted Kevin Smith firmly in the number one spot. I read that and remember thinking, "Jesus, are you serious?" Kevin Smith ranks higher than Sheldon Cooper or any of the other geek minstrels on The Big Bang Theory? I mean, shit...

You know what? Let’s go back to the The Dark Time. You remember the Dark Time. It wasn’t that long ago. It was during The Dark Time that talking openly about your love of Star Wars was a huge social no-no. It was during The Dark Time that only the nerdiest of nerds and geekiest of geeks openly admitted to reading comic books and it was during The Dark Time that TV shows like Saved by the Bell painted a picture of people like you and me as socially awkward misfits worthy only of scorn and open derision. It was during The Dark Time that it was okay to like the Tim Burton’s Batman movie, but woe be unto those over the age of 10 who read Batman comics.

The Dark Times were horrible times to be a geek.

Then in 1994, there came a little movie called Clerks. It was a black and white darling of the indy circuit, making list after list in all the mainstream publications as a must see of the year. It was hailed as a game changer, right there alongside with Pulp Fiction. Clerks was all anyone could talk about, and featured two regular dudes, doing regular dude things. They were funny, they were witty. One of them had a real, cute girlfriend and the other was just cool as hell.

And they loved the shit out Star Wars. In 1995, when 16-year-old Chris was watching Clerks on VHS for the first time, seeing the main characters of a popular movie talk about the shit he could only talk about behind closed doors right there on a movie screen, changed everything. If geeks who wanted to function in polite society were living in a closet, Kevin Smith was at the door, prying that mother fucker open with a crow bar.

Then Mallrats dropped. Now, the geek stuff wasn’t just relegated to the occasional bit of dialogue. Oh, no. In Mallrats, the main character was a dyed-in-the-wool comic book geek who not only wore his passion openly, he wore it with pride. Not only that, but Brodie Bruce was, wait for it, really popular. Everyone liked Brodie. The stoners liked him, the smart kids liked him. And in another turn on cinematic conventional wisdom, this geek was no man’s sidekick. No, this geek had his own sidekick and it was one of the popular kids. Eat shit, Pretty in Pink! In one movie, Kevin Smith not only made it okay to be a geek, he made it okay for a geek to be the charming, awesome and cool lead in a movie.

Then came Chasing Amy wherein Ben fucking Affleck portrayed a working comic book professional. A working independent comic book professional. Chasing Amy was huge. Not only was it a step forward in Kevin Smith’s filmmaking career, but it was deemed an important movie. People paid attention to Chasing Amy and in paying attention, they once again got to see geeks functioning just like the normies.

Then the Dogma shitstorm hit. Remember how controversial that movie was? Remember the protests, the calls for boycott, the torches and pitch forks? Yeah, me too. I also remember Kevin Smith’s face everywhere, assuring the viewing public that Dogma wasn’t going to tear down the moral fabric of America. He was all over the place, on talk shows, news shows, any shows that would have him. He was all over the place, and he was clearly a geek. But he was personable as hell. He was funny, he was charming, he was witty, and he was insightful. The more you saw Kevin Smith in public, the more you saw he wore his geekiness like a badge of honor. He was hanging out with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, turning up at big time movie premiers. He started writing comics and talking them up in mainstream publications. He was everywhere. Finally geek culture had an ambassador we could rally behind and be proud of. We had a successful filmmaker with hot wife, a child and he could articulate a point to perfection.

After that, a series of events saw Kevin Smith start to slowly withdraw from filmmaking. We saw the first signs of backlash towards Smith, and Smith’s reaction seemed to be giving Hollywood the deuces (which is unfortunate considering how amazing Red State was). But the man didn’t stop creating.

Over the last few years, Kevin Smith has carved a pretty sizable empire in the world of podcasting. He has an entire network of shows operating under the SMODCO umbrella, most of which consistently rank in the listings of top downloaded shows. And on many of those shows, he’s still out there pimping geek culture to the listening masses as his audiences continue to grow.

In the almost 20 years Kevin Smith has been putting himself (and by default geek culture) out there, I’ve never felt ashamed to have the man associated with the things I love. I’ve never felt like we had the wrong ambassador out there showing the world who and what we really were. Even when he’s making money off the gig, I’ve never felt taken advantage of. I just look at a guy just like me who was able to parlay his passions into a paid gig.

You wanna hate Kevin Smith? Can’t stop you from doing that, but don’t try to pollute the waters with unfounded hate and bile. Say you don’t like his sense of humor, or that as a filmmaker he doesn’t speak to you. Criticize, but back that shit up. Because otherwise it just sounds like the sourest of sour grapes, and that’s just embarrassing. 

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