Slashfilm.com‘s editor, Peter Sciretta, recently asked a question that’s answer deserves a little exploration. He asks why all of film geekdom (that is, geek kingdom) has turned on Kevin Smith. It’s a fair question, as it does seem like Smith gets more hate than he deserves these days. Like Sciretta, I attended Smith’s Vulgarthon film festivals (All of them. And if you purchased a 9/11 fundraiser name badge/button in 2002, that was made by me). I can actually list my Kevin Smith geek love/obsession credentials all day long, but I digress. I discovered Smith as I entered my awkward teenage years, finding in him someone to identify with. The fact that he was interested in conversing directly with his fans through his website’s message board made him even more appealing.
I don’t blame Smith for getting discouraged over the response to Jersey Girl and the films that followed. When Red State came around, I liked the fact Smith raised the money to produce the film himself after studios had all passed, but after I finally watched it, I saw it was a film a studio probably wouldn’t want to release because it wasn’t quite “there yet.” It felt like it might’ve been a draft or two away from being a good movie, but I imagine Smith didn’t want to hear that, either. He’s always appeared as a deeply sensitive person who deeply cares how others perceive him and his work. Perhaps the backlash became too much, but he suddenly stopped being an underdog and became more of a sore loser, one with the mentality of, “if you don’t like me, that’s your problem.” And while he never spared his opinions of others, a new period of shit-talking began. He had plenty to say about the film critics, but also appeared to have no problem burning bridges with colleagues and friends alike. He couldn’t wait to work with Bruce Willis on Cop Out, but then trashed the guy. And when asked about his once-frequent collaborator Ben Affleck, Smith basically blamed the actor’s wife Jennifer Garner for the fact they’re no longer friends. He later clarified he was joking, but it wasn’t the first time he called out Garner. Doing that to a guy’s wife isn’t the best way to fix an estranged relationship.
While I may be more open-minded and understanding of certain things, I can see why some contingents of his fans can’t be. His loyal fandom was built on a perceived emotional connection between him and his legion of followers, each of whom devoted a great deal of their time and energy supporting him. It’s impossible not to feel spurned when that connection changes. Smith doesn’t owe his to fans anything and they can’t expect him to be anyone but who he now is. Sometimes a break-up is unavoidable. And like all other relationships, maybe you’ll get back together, or maybe you’ll just never speak again.