Kevin Smith Is Proof Positive That Fan Service Currently Dominates The Usually Money Driven Entertainment Industry
Filmmaker and pop culture icon Kevin Smith released the first trailer for his newest movie at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. A sequel to 2001’s Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, the film is hilariously titled Jay And Silent Bob Reboot. The story sees the titular characters travel (once again) to Hollywood. Also, once again, they want to stop a fictional movie, based on comic book characters they inspired, featured in another Smith classic film Chasing Amy. Yeah, it gets really meta.
The Jay And Silent Bob Reboot trailer showcases typical Smith humor. Also we see surprising appearances by many big-time Hollywood stars, all of whom Smith can proudly call friends. Smith’s continued goodwill in Hollywood, despite a hit and miss commercial track record, is impressive.
How can someone like Kevin Smith, a professional fan turned storyteller, can maintain his career? Given the industry’s emphasis on commercial success, the failure of the film Jersey Girl alone should have doomed him.
Who the Heck is Kevin Smith?
Kevin Smith shot to fame with the incredibly low budget indie darling Clerks in 1994. The film earned accolades at both the Sundance Film Festival as well as the Cannes International Film Festival that year. What sets Smith apart from others is his style of writing and humor. He deconstructs filmmaking in a relatable manner, without pretentious Hollywood-vibes.
Some of his films, such as Dogma and Chasing Amy, earned him high praise. Much of his output met with harsh criticism from fans and critics alike. While he will always be a filmmaker, Kevin Smith’s cultural credibility comes from elsewhere. He speaks fans’ language fluently, which helps those of us who love this stuff trust his opinion. Never one to trash a project because it’s popular, he usually finds something to love in even the “worst” of these films.
Kevin Smith Is a Fan First, If Nothing Else
Despite Smith’s career within the industry itself, the man is a complete geek. Smith constantly credits his life’s work to the influence of comic books and their creators such as Stan Lee and filmmakers such as Richard Linklater. Smith’s open love for niche elements of geek culture (now popular in the mainstream) helped propel him through the tough times.
Kevin Smith proudly championed geek-culture before the dominance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Before the multiple shows that make up the combined might of The CW’s shared DC TV universe. And before almost every film and tv show dominating the box office and ratings were based on previously successful properties in comics, novels or fantasy lore. He’s actually the first person to put Stan Lee in a movie, giving him a significant roll in his sophomore film Mallrats.
How Smith Turned His Love of Telling Stories Into a Non-Film Related Career
Smith constantly shares his successes, failures, interests and hours of anecdotes about his personal experiences in Hollywood as an every day guy. Smith’s reluctance to become ‘Hollywood’, and his experiences make ‘stardom’ and an industry very much out of touch for most people, seem accessible and relatable. Smith’s humility at accepting and even mocking his, sometimes larger than life failures, (Yoga Hosers) constantly endears him to all kinds of audiences.
Despite starting as a filmmaker, Smith has now built, what can only be described as an empire, in various mediums that are based on him just simply, talking. Smith’s Podcast Network, Smodcast, was one of the first of its kind and boasts of a plethora of various podcasts, mostly with his friends and peers.
It began with his live shows. An Evening With Kevin Smith is one of the best live stage shows ever. The show blends part stand-up, part insider gossip about the industry, told in the inimitable Kevin Smith manner. His stories about the industry and its inner workings provided access to fans before an era of stark documentaries, insider gossip media outlets or even the internet. He tells a story, which you can view below, about the time Warner Bros. asked him to reinvent their Superman franchise. This story reflects what makes Smith endure. He cares about this stuff. It’s not just goofy stories for children about people in tights. These characters are important, not just to him but to all of us.
Talking Remains a Huge Part of Smith’s Professional Life
Smith continues this tradition with his various Podcasts and live shows to this day. Hollywood Babble-On, his almost decade long podcast co-hosted with Ralph Garmin, features the two engaging the live audiences directly, at times even marrying people on stage. Smith and Garmin also share their opinions on the latest Hollywood news, while doing many impressions at the expense of Hollywood celebrities.
Fatman Beyond began as a show where Smith would interview high-profile comic book industry insiders. Since then, the show transformed into a geek show that curates news and reviews. Co-hosted by comic book and TV writer Marc Bernardin they run down the latest happenings in geek culture and conduct interviews with the people who make these new classics.
Smith also shared many times how his love for The CW shows of The Flash and Supergirl helped him transition into television directing jobs. Smith became part of the regular stable of directors for The CW. Ever humble, Smith frequently downplays his contributions. Instead, he gives credit to the cast and crew on these series for anything that’s good on the shows he directs. He wants to share the spotlight, never hog it.
Kevin Smith Talks His Way Into Highly Sought After Jobs
Having so many platforms to proclaim his geek love continues to land him even more high profile jobs. Most recently Smith hosted the launch of the DC Universe streaming app in 2018 for Warner Bros. Smith currently even has a job with IMDb as a host for the outlet during Film Festivals and other entertainment industry events.
Not Just a Fan, Smith Is An Expert In All Things Nerdy
But this is nothing new for Kevin Smith. His influence on pop culture is undeniable. He was doing what we all do now, professionally, before us ‘normies’ had any source or platform to do so. Smiths’ success as an indie filmmaker, and then comic writer, allowed him mediums in which to share his die-hard love of nerd culture. This love for the culture and his frankness about when it fails often reach the ears of the people responsible for the pop culture juggernaut.
While every cinephile has a Blog, Letterboxd account, or YouTube movie review channel now, it’s old hat for Smith. His status as a professional nerd, found mainstream entertainment news outlets seeking his ‘expert’ opinion. They knew his credibility with other fans only helps their coverage gain authenticity it lacks otherwise.
Kevin Smith Was Responsible for Thor: Ragnarok
One of the most recent and biggest contributions of Kevin Smith’s into the zeitgeist has been with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’ (MCU) revamping of the character of Thor.
During a recording of Smith’s Fatman Beyond Podcast, (then Fatman On Batman) Smith mentioned his apathy towards the MCU’s Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth. Smith went on to describe (see: complain) how the character never resonated with him, and how he just didn’t care.
Somewhere up in Asgard, Thor himself was paying attention. Actor Chris Hemsworth took Smith’s comments and ideas to the head of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, who seemed to agree. Together, they decided to shake up the idea of Thor as a character in the MCU, which led to Taika Waititi’s incredibly drastic reinvention of the character in Thor: Ragnarok.
The Kevin Smith and Super Friends Show
While Kevin Smith is by no means a highly sought-after filmmaker, the respect and esteem that he holds among his friends is unparalleled in the industry. If the measure of a man is in the company he keeps, then Smith is quite the man.
Smith can proudly call some of Hollywood biggest A-listers among the company of his social circle. The trailer for the Jay And Silent Bob Reboot further showcases only some of the talent that have appeared in the film, solely due to their personal relationship with the director. And I’m not talking about Z-list celebs, but rather the likes of Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris Hemsworth, Rosario Dawson, Melissa Benoit, Joe Manganiello and much more.
It’s a testament to Smith’s incredibly transparent personality that seemingly is unable to hold in any secrets. He makes his life accessible to anyone and everyone, despite rubbing shoulders with the who’s who of Hollywood. His refusal to be treated as or adhere to ay aspects of being a celebrity makes him incredibly humbling to fans.
Hollywood Surprisingly Rewards Smith’s Fanboy Behavior
But none of this matters if it wasn’t reciprocated by the industry itself. And time and time again, Kevin Smith’s fanboy status, has won him the friendship, company and professional opportunities that seems unlikely in an industry that is seemingly determined by monetary success.
Smith’s current career looks different than many director’s. He moderates panels at fan conventions all over the country. He maintained a profound friendship with comic icon Stan Lee. Smith hosts a Hall H panel at Comic-Con every year. He speaks to stars on the biggest projects with IMDB at the event, too. The gleeful excitement of an almost 50-year fanboy stoner (his words, not mine) can help a career last.
Stars and content creators come and go. Their fate usually tied to box office grosses or viewer ratings. Kevin Smith seems impervious to all of this. He has been in the industry for over 25 years. And it’s not like he hasn’t had his share of failings and controversy. He publicly aired his dissatisfaction working with Bruce Willis on Cop Out. Besmirching a Hollywood icon like Bruce Willis can end a career. Not only did Smith survive this, but he’s told stories recently about how Willis continues to reach out to him. Even the rare celebrity he trashes in public can’t stay mad at Kevin Smith.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot
Smith’s new film is a testament to the fact that his love storytelling cuts through any perceived cynicism of the industry. The measure of his relevancy and success can be directly attributed to his genuine passion for comics, movies, and entertainment as a whole. In an era where fan-service and content is king, it’s the Kevin Smiths that truly prevail. In a version of Hollywood where the biggest filmmakers and storytellers were all, once upon a time, fans of something, Kevin Smith is the epitome of that ideal.
Jay And Silent Bob Reboot releases October 15. Kevin Smiths’ podcasts and live appearances can be seen on his YouTube channel.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.