My long and unwavering love of Kevin Smith has been well documented by essentially everyone that I have come into contact with. I happened upon Mallrats in high school and decided that my life needed more of these Jay and Silent Bob characters. I immediately went out and bought a copy of Clerks, and from there, it was head first down the rabbit hole, finding and collecting anything to which Kevin Smith had attached his name.
As a freshman in college, I decided that studying for a Biology exam could go fuck itself, and drove a few hundred miles with my roommate to go see Smith do one of his infamously long Q&A sessions, making it home with time enough to take the exam and little else. I don’t remember (or care) what I got on my exam, but I still remember most of that Q&A.
Kevin Smith could fart into a paper bag, and I would stand in line to buy a copy of it, happily paying extra if it was signed. Now that I have properly contextualized my status as a fanboy, we are free to move on to the point of this particular post.
Only a few years ago, Smith was notorious for his habit of obsessively checking reviews and online chatter about his latest movies, and it wasn’t out of character for him to register and participate in the conversation. Predictably, this often devolved into bickering on the internet.
People on the internet will hate anything, and hate it with such a detached ferocity that the idea that people put anything on the internet at all is astounding. What most of us (hopefully) fail to realize is that the people generating the content that we recreationally eviscerate are real people who use the same internet that we do.
A good portion of these folks probably check up on their projects (or themselves) online and have the same emotional reactions that we would in similar circumstances. Most have these reactions privately, but Smith has never been afraid to publicly talk about how awful it felt to have a ton of people shit on his films and career.
Using the internet to validate and evaluate yourself, especially with regard to creative endeavors, is almost always a losing proposition. This knowledge has never been lost on Kevin Smith:
After years of subjecting himself to this, Smith decided that enough was enough and announced his retirement pending the completion of a handful of projects. I can’t say that I blame him – he could enjoy a comfortable life with the earnings from his podcasts and speaking appearances, allowing him to remain connected with his audience while staying safely away from those who don’t dig his work.
Fortunately (for me, at least) his retirement didn’t stick, but what happened? How did Kevin Smith go from being beaten into submission and retirement by assholes on the internet, to making films that are wildly outside of his comfort zone?
His recently discovered affinity for marijuana probably didn’t hurt. Hell, you can even head down to your local dispensary and treat yourself to some bud inspired by (and named after) Tusk. Pot may or may not have helped Kevin Smith overcome some feelings of anxiety and become more comfortable with himself as a person and/or filmmaker.
Many people would probably stop their line of thinking here, but I take pride in my mastery of driving a subject into absurdity, and then running it into the ground, so I soldier onward.
Kevin Smith finally figured out how to detach his worth from the opinions of others. The product of this has been more stable feelings of self-worth, generating increased creative freedom to explore things well out of his previous comfort zone.
The Kevin Smith that cared about what people other than his audience thought about his movies has vanished in a thick haze of weed smoke and internally generated validation. He is unencumbered by the negativity of others, and this is evident in his work. He is making movies because the love of his craft has been returned to him by his choice to evaluate himself instead of letting faceless people online dictate his worth.
He has recently been fond of saying that he failed into making Clerks 3, which is true, but he also failed into becoming a happier person by rejecting the idea that strangers get to tell him how he should feel about himself and his work.