On Kevin Smith…Posted: September 26, 2007
A few weeks ago I noticed that Kevin Smith had written a new book. This had completely flown under my radar and I was bemused to discover that it would be, essentially, a print version of his blog. I wasn’t sure if we’d be allowed to stock the book at my wonderful employers, so yesterday I spent a few hours the the-local-massive-corporation-that-is-destroying-the-local-bookstore-market-with-their-excellent-selection and read the book. In the few hours I spent there I managed to plow through about 1/3 to 2/3s of Smith’s nearly 500 page tome.
It was an bizarre experince, let me tell you.
Before I really get started here a few disclosures are necessary, me thinks.
- There was a time in life (as much as I would like to think sometimes, high school truly wasn’t that long ago for me) where I was what you could call a Kevin Smith fanatic. Perhaps fanatic isn’t a strong enough of a word; I was a fundamentalist Kevin Smith worshiper who continued to poor over my sacred texts (Smith’s films) to relive the fundamental truths they spoke. I wanted to be Smith when ‘I grew up’. Watching Chasing Amy, at 14 (?) changed my life. While my passion for the character that Kevin Smith lives his life as has died off, I still enjoy his films a great deal. How can one not love Clerks II?
- I did not read the entire book. I did not have the time to finish it (it’s a long goddamn book) nor do I have the money to slap down the 15.95 for the entire volume. I did read a good portion of the book but not the entire thing. If this makes my opinions invalid in some eyes, then so be it.
Smith’s book, and his blog, are the ultimate embodiment of a post-internet phenomena that I’ve noted before; that is to say people (from comic book creators like Scott Kurtz to media celebs like Kevin Smith) who live their personal andprofessional lives on the internet. This phenomena expresses itself differently in embodiment of it, but basically it blurs (and its extremes vanishes) the line before fan and creator. Essentially people like Smith invited their fans not only into their creative space (their work) but also their private space (their personal lives).
This is a bizarre thing.
Let’s bring this back to Smith’s book. A goody portion is taken up by mostly innocent (and often funny) things ; Smith’s opinions on pop-culture, some tales of his Hollywood experience and his famous friends (paging Ben & Jen… paging Ben & Jen…). One can not help but be touched and moved when Smith relates his experiences helping Jason Mewes (the Jay of Jay & Silent Bob) beat his various addictions. It is a deeply affecting story of friendship.
But throughout this Smith also gives us more than we paid for. This includes little asides about how while his mother-in-law was watching his kid Smith and his wife took the time to “fuck like rabbits”. He regales the reader with his opinions on heterosexual anal sex (only do it if your lady friend asks in a moment of passion, my friends). He explains what the morning after is a threesome is like (needless to say, awkward).
This is not just limited to the book, Smith does this on his blog too, as this bit from his September 17th entry:
She’d [Smith’s mother-in-law] fed Harley and sent her to Byron and Gail, leaving us some down time to pack and get ready for the airport. Instead, Schwalbach [Smith’s wife] and I wind up boning.
The question his why does he do this? More importantly, why do (or should) one care about Smith’s sex life?
These two questions are intimately tied together. Smith is essentially a fanboy who’s “done good”. He lives the sort of life that many a fanboy dreams of. This is why he discusses masturbating to nude photos of his wife or the threesomes he’s had. He is saying to the world, expressly to the world of the fanboy, that he’s living the fucking dream. Smith invites his fans into his private space to give them that taste of their dreams and this is why people care. Few, if any, fanboys will make it like Smith did but, by fucking god, they can taste it by reading Smith’s book or his blog or buying an Evening With Kevin Smith.
But this symbiotic relationship is bad for both Smith and his fans. It prevents Smith from really moving on as a creator (see: Jersey Girl) and keeps his fans in the trapped in the limited geek sex culture. Smith needs his fans to keep thinking he’s living the dream life so that he can keep making money and Smith’s fans need Smith to keep up his act in order to have that window into their dream lives.
Thus we see the downside to the phenomena of creators inviting fans into both their public and private spaces. It’s limiting for both the fans and creators themselves.