Kevin Smith: Cop Outs, Sycophants, and Self-Destruction

For The Record: This initial essay was prepared in early 2010 and held back in favor of many other articles, but in lieu of Kevin Smith’s new horror film, and the effect my thoughts on Smith had on my writing career of late, I feel this is an apt sign off for 2010, and feel free to offer your own rebuttals.

2010 has been a pretty historic year for movie buffs.

No I’m not talking about the release of “Iron Man 2” or the surge of 3D films, no 2010 will stand as the year that Kevin Smith officially lost his mind and self-destructed before our very eyes. The man who built a legacy on his love for comic books and his ability to create some of the most beloved indie comedies of all time while building a massive fan base of supporters has managed to completely destroy everything he’s set for himself in a matter of literal months. And it was quite astonishing to follow if you were been up to date on Smith’s activities online. I’ve hated mostly everything the man has made but even I couldn’t turn away from the display that is worthy of a reality show on VH1.

I don’t know who Smith thinks he’s pandering to, but I think at this point in time even Smith’s most devoted fans have been scratching their heads and wondering what in the world is wrong with this man who coined the phrase “Askewniverse.” Smith’s latest press releases that purport to promote a charity even contain unusual sentences like calling journalists “rail-thin dicks.” This is apparently the deity many movie fans look up to and he’s lost his mind before Tim Burton. And this is a man who mocked Tim Burton repeatedly. It’s not entirely isolated for directors to lose their minds.

Francis Ford Coppola almost killed himself in the middle of the disastrous shoot for “Apocalypse Now,” and no one call tell me Quentin Tarantino is a stable human being. But the entire incident in early 2010 involving the release of “Cop Out” escalated to the point where even his most loyal fans were standing back and wondering where Smith was headed mentally. If his tweets and massive tirades have anything to do with his current state of mind, it’s clear that this could be the downfall of the man who penned cult hits like “Clerks” and “Dogma.” It’s not really entirely clear where this path of self-destruction began, but most people trace it back to the incident in February 2010 where Kevin Smith was kicked off of an airplane for being too fat. The aftermath of this episode seemed to take a real toll on Smith who voiced his anger at this event to his fans explaining that he always buys two tickets and he felt particularly humiliated.

But through it all he seemed to be trying to save face and put up a show for his fans. Nevertheless they cheered him on and supported the man. No one wanted to state the obvious. Smith was kicked off the plane for a reason. Was this little tiff embarrassing? Undoubtedly, but it also helped many of his supporter deny the obvious: Smith was really overweight and this was probably time for him to take the hint and begin a massive diet. But his enablers didn’t cop to offering this suggestion that would help in the long run. As if that wasn’t enough, Smith later went on to release the buddy cop comedy “Cop Out,” a movie that was met with much negativity from the outset. Right from the trailers everyone seemed down on this movie and in spite of Smith and his fans attempts to stick up for it, there was no denying “Cop Out” was guaranteed to be a lemon. And once critics decided after watching it that it was a genuinely horrible movie, Smith completely expended his energy on saving face and making excuses.

He just directed it. He was just a man for hire. He didn’t have any say over the script. He had only minor say on the script. He had no control over production. He attempted to make an action movie. He attempted to make a action comedy. No he was spoofing the cop comedies of the eighties! It’s supposed to be bad! But it’s also a good movie! On all fronts he not only mocked critics for deriding “Cop Out,” but also went on a campaign to insist that critics should pay for movie screenings as general audiences do. This is of course coming from a man who has a large following and is guaranteed money in the bank from his followers. The man who was once an alleged independent film director failed to realize with all of his hubris and absolutely ridiculous tirades that some film directors don’t exactly have the option of deciding if the press should or shouldn’t pay to see their movies because, unlike Smith, most independent directors are struggling to just get their movie seen and don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing who can see them. Some honest filmmakers are out there literally begging critics to see their films and hanging on their every word, but Smith the once alleged indie filmmaker apparently has lost sight of that in his efforts to pad his bank account.

As if that wasn’t enough, most of his sycophantic followers agreed with Smith’s declaration because, hey, Smith can afford to charge people to get in to press screenings, and when you’re hanging around celebrities and being able to make or break folks of your ilk, people love it when you whine and bitch pitching something that is absolutely idiotic. I also think Smith is prone to screening his movies for free for his friends and people who are guaranteed to boast about whatever he puts out, but that’s just a theory. One I’ll be willing to lean on, but still just a theory.

He never quite explains that perhaps directors should be charged to post on news websites, and for publicity because he’s a director, and they should be allowed special privileges, and I’m certain his loyal knuckle dragging followers will revolt at the notion of Smith denting his bank account to pay for coverage while asking for the press to pay for press screenings. Fair is fair right, Kevin?  He then went on to engage in an interview where he subtly blamed Judd Apatow for copying his storytelling style, admitted envy for his success in the box office, and even declared quite bitterly that he himself tried to copy Apatow’s formula for success in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” however humorous it was intended to be.

His twitter rants come off like a spoiled baby throwing a tantrum quite often, if you remember the fiasco of 2010. They make no sense, they’re elitist, they’re pointless and random and he posits his views like an immature teenager who’d been coddled as a child. And he had been coddled with the Weinsteins who allowed him almost carte blanche on all of his films, and now this shock to his system revealed to him that everything outside of the brothers was not as he’d originally predicted.

He hit the mainstream and he failed gloriously and now the perpetual child couldn’t handle the criticism and realization that he probably wasn’t meant for bigger things. What we saw and what we’ve seen is a an artist coming to terms with the notion that he simply could not grow in the mainstream. Thus he revolted and came off like toddler wanting his bottle. The true Kevin Smith was revealed and it was not an attractive sight.

The man referred to “Cop Out” as a retarded child in the face of heckles as if to conform to the majority view and yet he still adamantly defended it as if it’s his most important artistic endeavor to date to his more loyal fans, catching hissyfits on Twitter and soaking in their praise as much as possible! And let’s face it, it was his most important film. Kevin was trying to prove to the mainstream that he’s capable of selling out, and he failed in delivering a remotely watchable mainstream cop comedy, so when that failed miserably, he retreated back to playing the misunderstood indie director looking to his indie community for a shoulder to cry on. And sadly, the indie community obliged a shoulder, and puckered up when he bent over.

This is a man who has been so intent on making a name for himself he’s sought to proclaim his comedies as something other than sex romps. He wanted them to be thought of as reflective and provoking works of art that cozied up to the mindset of the modern fan boy and asked them to think outside the box. Now this is a man who basically told his fan base to shut up, stop over analyzing “Cop Out,” and just accept it as a dumb rancid piece of filmmaking just because he made it. And they were more than happy to indulge him in his wishes. Did this man completely lose his mind or did he just completely give up and decide once and for all that he would not demand anything more from his films so he must influence his fans not to?

Can we really respect a director who is telling his fans not to think and enjoy films that he himself thinks very poorly of? Are we in such a need of a cinematic icon that we’re willing to accept this? Can we really look up to a man who has basically stated to his fan: “I’m not trying anymore, so you don’t have to either,” a man who declared “It’s called Cop Out, what do you expect?” in rebuttal to his scathing reviews? And to wit, is Hollywood right in their assumption that movie fans are nothing but sheep incapable of thinking for themselves? If my research on the average Kevin Smith fan is any indication, I’d say yes. His fans are definitely mindless sheep prone to lapping up whatever he feeds them whether they’re mediocre (“Zack and Miri”) or just plain awful (“Cop Out”).

“Cop Out” is definitely the swan song of Kevin Smith in the mainstream and he’s back to pandering to the cineaste’s with a political and religiously themed horror film that will offer up a key in to the horror kingdom with the help of his connections and army of sycophants. He’s milked the indie comedy, he’s milked his fanboy shtick, he crashed and burned with the mainstream, so horror is only the next logical step, and I expect many websites to begin proclaiming him the next horror master once “Red State” drags its foot in to theaters with a message about religion that promises to be as subtle as a gang rape. “Red State” of course has had a humongous campaign on the web for his fans trotting out posters and pretending this is the be all and end all of horror now that Smith is stomping in to the genre hoping for a warm embrace where he was greeted coldly with “Cop Out,” all for what may be just a preachy clumsy horror film relying on the good old device of religious fanatics for material.

With “Red State” he’s playing it close to the chest and letting the studios know he can follow their rules while still putting up a show for his fanboys. His posters have been enticing for his fans, but safe enough to avoid another “Zack and Miri” fiasco, and he’s been promoting the film under the guise of a charity to create the illusion he’s trying to change the world with this film, which we all know he won’t. Lo and behold, the indie darling is now thinking like a studio slug with double talk and misleading advertising. Way to go Kevin.

Maybe he’s delusional, maybe in his mind he’s justified in protesting everyone who is bashing “Cop Out,” because without a doubt he has a love for film. Or maybe his massive ego has gotten the best of him and he’s now just on a path to ruining any credibility he once held in the film community. Either way he doesn’t seem to want to stop this barrage of attacks and rebuttals any time soon and shamefully, his fans don’t want him to stop. The modern fan boy is in such a need for a hero they’re willing to root for whom ever they deem an idol regardless of their actions or sheer mind-numbing ignorance. How can you expect a child to stop throwing tantrums if their parents don’t discipline them?

Speaking as someone who is far from a fan, but has been more than open to his cinematic outputs, I think it’s right Smith have a sit down with an objective party and listen to them. It’s time for Smith to take a breather and assess his 2010 fiasco and free himself of the Yes men and women who pat him on the back for being an abhorred little toad. It’s not boding well for his reputation and his respectability, even though he’ll always have his legion of followers to fall back on for easy flattery. For the love of god Smith, end this mission and move on to something of more substance before you find yourself directing commercials at your local news station. Those people cheering you on and polishing your knob? They’ll do you more harm than good in the end. And Smith is incapable of fully grasping the fact that he may just be nothing more than a goofy indie filmmaker with a loyal fan base trying to elevate him in to a deity.

Kevin Smith got lucky with his career and since then has dwindled grotesquely in quality, charm, and genuine appeal to major audiences. And you know what? Kevin Smith will not charge critics for screenings because Kevin Smith needs the movie critics! Why? The bad press allows him to defy their criticisms turning him in to a god before his followers, and the good press moves him on to the next project where he can repeat his process all over again. Smith needs the movie critics, Smith needs the press, and he’s not going to charge anyone but the movie going public and his aimless followers who will swallow whatever he shoves in to their mouths.

2011 will be a masterful bout of back pedaling with Smith laughing off his petulance and hoping to pick up his shards of respectability and dignity with impending films that promise to bring more of Smith “the indie hero” (with the help of servile websites), and less Smith “the Hollywood never was.” I don’t kneel down at the alter of Smith, but I’m gladly going to watch him put up a show for his ever submissive troops.