Kevin Smith, A Tribute

I don’t want my life to end but if it ends, I can’t complain. It was such a gift. #KevinSmith

It was themed-90s, back when video rental stores still existed. There was one store in Northeastern Pennsylvania that I most liked to frequent because I had a crush on one of the women that worked there. As painfully shy as I was, she was one woman I could talk through via our shared love of movies. She would often recommend movies to me and vice versa. As smitten as I was, she could have recommended the complete works of Uwe Boll and I would have taken a look.

“Have you ever heard of Clerks?” she asked me one day. I did but didn’t see it in theaters. I didn’t think  it was out on VHS yet. “It’s not,” she replied, grabbing a screener from behind the counter, “but we have a screener. You must see this,” she said, pressing the promotional tape into my hands.

To be honest, I don’t remember her name. I probably wouldn’t recognize her if I ran into her on the street. But she always will have a special place in my heart, because she was the one who first introduced Kevin Smith to me and changed my life forever.

I was trying to do a killer standup special this evening but I might’ve gone too far. After the first show, I felt kinda…

Posted by Kevin Smith on Monday, February 26, 2018

Kevin Smith suffered a massive heart attack in between his 6pm and 9pm comedy shows in Glendale, California on February 25, 2018. As you can read above, his LAD artery was 100% blocked and if he didn’t cancel the second show to seek medical attention, he would have died. He is only 47. Luckily, it appears he received medical attention in time. A stent was put into his artery and he was well enough to put that post you see above on Facebook.

Smith’s near death experience his me hard. So I felt compelled to write this tribute. See, legends often have tributes written about them after they die. Kevin Smith came back from the edge of death, but he still deserves a tribute. Now we have the chance to give it to him while he is still above ground to read it.

Kevin Smith, Voice of His Generation

People just old enough to watch Clerks now weren’t alive back when it was made, so they might look back on it as a raw, amateurish film with a bunch of unknowns in it and wonder what the big deal was. But if you were of the same age the year it came out, then the film spoke to you.

It captured the Slacker Generation in such detail that it could almost act as a historical document. Conventional wisdom said slackers were people who were lazy or unmotivated. Smith showed the truth. That they weren’t necessarily people who lacked ambition, but people who knew ambition was a lot of work that could lead to nothing. Accept what you can get and maybe, hopefully, something better will walk in and sit on your lap.

The irony, of course, was that Kevin Smith was anything but a slacker in getting his film made. The story behind how he got the funds to make Clerks is now legend. Filmmakers nowadays don’t have to sell their comic book collections or max out their credit cards like Smith did to get a film made. Technology has advanced and gotten cheaper that people do not have to hustle all that hard today. But Smith’s film about slackers was an example to all aspiring writers and directors that dreams are attainable with a lot of hard work and more than a little good luck. He deserves a spot up on the pantheon of that era’s filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Steven Soderbergh in that regard.

And of course Smith was the voice of his generation in another way, by giving his generation a voice in his scripts. He showed that, yes, people can go from discussing the ethical implications of attacking an under construction Death Star to whether or not you should go ass to mouth, often in the same conversation. Being a person whose conversations with friends bounced from geeky to ribald in the span of a dinner, Smith showed me that I was not alone in that quality.

Kevin Smith as an Artist

People who write Smith off simply as a purveyor of dick and fart jokes obviously haven’t seen Chasing Amy. That’s a surprisingly sensitive love story between a lesbian and a straight man where the straight man is far and away the more screwed up of the two.

Then there is Dogma. A film so reviled by people who did not see it that they though Smith was throwing rocks at the Catholic Church from the outside. What he really was doing was shining a light on the cracks in the church from the inside.

And, of course, these people have never seen Red State either. That was Kevin Smith’s break from comedy into politically-tinged horror. As a fan, I thought that film was exciting. It was someone who everyone thought was a singles hitter blasts a home run out of the park. That film was Smith’s entry into the club of serious filmmaking. If it was his first film, studios would be lining up to book him for their next tent pole. Instead, Kevin Smith went off the grid, if you will.

Kevin Smith, The Iconoclast

Red State came after Cop Out, and if you want write your own narrative about Smith, you could say that the tumultuous production in the  latter film instilled a “Don’t Give a Fuck” attitude in Smith. Red State was the first off cheaply made, uncharacteristic-for-him films made after that Bruce Willis vehicle.

After Red State was Tusk, based on a fake post on a Craiglist-type site offering free room and board to anyone willing to dress up as a walrus, turning it into a body horror film. Then, Yoga Hosers, about two teen girls who band together to fight an ancient evil. These films show the latter period Smith–making low-budget films based on whims where he appears to be writing and directing for his own pleasure and not for good reviews or box office gold. He also sprinkles in directing jobs on the CW’s Arrowverse shows and promises a return to the View Askew Universe in as well. It’s brave and refreshing to see a creative mind finding a way to follow his creative muse wherever it leads.

 Kevin Smith, My Own Personal Buddy Christ

This is the part where I come off as a Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female. Like Smith, I grew up in the Northeast in a Catholic household. There was a history of heart disease in my family too. We’re both overweight bearded men with bad eyesight who love comic books, Star Wars and movies. We’re practically the same age, with Smith being a little over a year older than me and we both married above our station. The major difference is that I never had to courage to risk everything I had to make my dreams come true like Smith, and I admire Smith for that. But his journey into filmmaking did inspire me to pursue my dream of writing in my own way, and I’d probably not be writing for this site or anywhere if it wasn’t for him.

I am a huge fan. I followed Smith as he became a brand. I bought his Mooby T-Shirts, I made the pilgrimage to his comic shop, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, New Jersey, I bought his books and spoken word DVD’s. I even dressed up as Silent Bob one year at Halloween.

But buying all the Kevin Smith ephemera is a small means to pay back the man who has helped improve my life in so many ways. He has help create decades-long friendships for me, all of us united through our love of his films, all of us adding his dialogue into are personal lexicons. He also helped me survive the deaths of my parents in 1998 and 2001, his films offering a couple hours of laughter when I needed it most to ease the weeks of sadness those events brought on. He taught me that being a comic book-reading, Star Wars-loving fat man was okay. And now, he will teach me that I need to take better care of myself so I can stick around for my wife and daughter.

I’ve never met Kevin Smith. I don’t know if I ever will. But in case I don’t get a chance to thank him in person in the future, allow me to thank him now. Thank you, Kevin Smith. Thank you for not only all the joy and happiness you have brought into my life, but also into the lives of all the FilmBuff’s around the world. And thank you for surviving the “widowmaker” so you can continue to spread that joy and happiness for years to come.

About William Gatevackes 1923 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.

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