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Silent Bob Strikes Back: Kevin Smith & The Perils of Twitter

I like Kevin Smith. I appreciate he’s been through a lot. He is a legend for taking a huge paycut to get Cop Out made the way that it should have been made, regardless of what you think of the result. That’s dedication to his art, no matter how you cut it and there’s not enough of that these days. He was also perfectly right in his recent airplane trouble and I can appreciate that Hollywood has repeatedly (and thoroughly) screwed him over time and again. He’s never had the mainstream success that his breakout talent deserved, and I’m fairly certain that most of that isn’t in any way his own fault. But he really needs to learn when to disengage.

Just keep those mikes pointed AWAY from Smith and it'll be okay...

Kevin Smith is perhaps the most accessible film maker on the planet. He tweets regularly. His An Evening With Kevin Smith DVDs are required geek viewing. He has even written several candid autobiographies. That engagement is absolutely fantastic in theory. It’s great that Smith, a champion of the independent and amatuer circuit now making huge movies, hasn’t lost touch with his roots.

Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a dark side to his embrace of this new instant communication culture. One gets the sense from reading his tweets that there is no gap between his brain and his mouth – it’s almost as though his Twitter account is wired directly into his brainstem. There’s no ‘stop’ reflex. He’s angry about the dull reaction Cop Out received. He has every right to feel that way – God knows I would as well, particularly had I sacrificed so much to please absolutely everyone. But that does not excuse his rant against reviewers and critics of his work:

This is his rant, pieced together 140 characters at a time by Rope of Silicon:

Sir sometimes, it’s important to turn off the chatter. Film fandom’s become a nasty bloodsport where cartoonishly rooting for failure gets the hit count up on the ol’ brand-new blog. And if a schmuck like me pays you some attention, score! MORE EYES, MEANS MORE ADVERT $. But when you pull your eye away from the microscope, you can see that shit you’re studying so closely is, in reality, tiny as fuck. You wanna enjoy movies again? Stop reading about them and just go to the movies. It’s improved film/movie appreciation immensely for me.

Seriously: so many critics lined-up to pull a sad and embarrassing train on Cop Out like it was Jennifer Jason Leigh in Last Exit to Brooklyn. Watching them beat the shit out of it was sad. Like, it’s called Cop Out ; that sound like a very ambitious title to you? You REALLY wanna shit in the mouth of a flick that so OBVIOUSLY strived for nothing more than laughs. Was it called Schindler’s Cop Out?

Writing a nasty review for Cop Out is akin to bullying a retarded kid who was getting a couple chuckles from the normies by singing AFTERNOON DELIGHT. Suddenly, bully-dudes are doing the bad impression of him, using the “retart” voice. The crowd shifts uncomfortably. And you may impress a couple of low IQ-ers who’re like “Yeah, man! Way to destroy that singing retart!” But, really? All you’ve done is make fun of something that wasn’t doing you any harm and wanted only to give some cats a some fun laughs (Yes, I compared my flick to a retarded kid). It was just ridiculous to watch. That was it for me. Realized whole system’s upside down: so we let a bunch of people see it for free and they shit all over it? Meanwhile, people who’d REALLY like to see the flick for free are made to pay? Bullshit.

From now on, any flick I’m ever involved with, I conduct critics screenings thusly: you wanna see it early to review it? Fine: pay like you would if you saw it next week. Like, why am I giving an arbitrary 500 people power over what I do at all, let alone for free? Next flick, I’d rather pick 500 randoms from Twitter feed and let THEM see it for free in advance, then post THEIR opinions, good AND bad. Same difference. Why’s their opinion more valid? It’s a backwards system. People are free to talk shit about ANY of my flicks, so long as they paid to see it. Fuck this Animal Farm bullshit.

Okay, I’m not exactly cool with his type of analogy, and I’m not the most politically correct cat around.

And he does raise some valid points. Maybe critics are out of touch, and maybe they aren’t connected to the popular consciousness. On the other hand, your own twitter feed might not be the best place to find objective critics. But, look, let’s actually have this discussion. Seriously, it’s a good one. Cool off, take a shower, have a beer. Write a magazine article. Read it back to yourself the next day. Publish it. Engage with the system if you think something’s wrong. But don’t publish it live from your brainstem.

We’ve all been as upset as Smith is above. And we’ve all calmed down, given time. I’m not going to pretend to suggest Smith regrets his tirade – we all reinforce foolish decisions we’ve made in a heated moment, as backing down is harder to do once you’ve shown your hand.

I’ll probably write some more on what Smith actually said when he wasn’t constructing haphazard and offensive analogies. But I’ll do it next week. For now, this is what I’m reacting to.

It’s fun to pick on critics. History has shown they’ve been wrong. The Shining wasn’t well-received on opening and Blade Runner was a critical flop. And yet the directors of those films mostly maintained a quiet dignity. I don’t honestly believe critics will ever be found to be so wrong about Cop Out, and I doubt Smith does too, but that’s beside the point.

In this rare case, it’s the medium not the message that’s the problem: it seems Smith just drunk-dialled the world (okay, rage-tweeted doesn’t have the same ring to it).

Maybe he should have taken a cue from Silent Bob.

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