Totally 90s: “Clerks”

Welcome the final installment of my year-long look back at a decade defined by its extremes. Rap versus grunge; mullets versus pixies; Saved by the Bell versus NYPD Blue – the 1990s had it all, and then some. This year I reminisced about many facets of the 1990s, and I drowned in some ill-forgotten nostalgia despite my best efforts otherwise. Serving as inspiration was an utterly ridiculous but nonetheless intriguing list created by Huffington Post — 1990 Things from the 90s to End the Nostalgia Once and for All – and I used a random number generator to pick each week’s “topic.” So don’t have a cow, man, if I asked you to talk to the hand while taking this sweet ride through the 90s. Word to your mother.


Week 25: HuffPost list #588 – “Clerks”

I’m not sure what it says about either the HuffPost list or the random number generator here, since I’ve wrapped up this series with a string of 90s TV shows or movies, but here we are, with, of any and all 1990s entertainment features…Clerks.

So, I like Kevin Smith. I know that lots of people don’t like him for one reason or another, but I think he’s alright. He seems like a decent person generally, and he’s a damn fine storyteller. Too good, almost. Like, too good in the sense that he’s quite the garrulous fellow. If you’ve ever seen or listened to one of his podcasts/shows or eve seen him interviewed, you know what I mean. The dude doesn’t shut up.  Which is fine, because, frankly, he’s very good at filling dead air.  True that he doesn’t have much of a filter, so all that air filling can be wrought with odd and uncomfortable moments, but still. It’s cool. He’s cool and we’re all friends here.

As with many things that have ended up this this listing, some things have screamed 1990s!! louder than others. For me, Clerks falls on the quieter end of that scale, because while you could successfully argue that Clerks contributed greatly to the 1990s indie movie scene, and a fine independent feature it is, my mind doesn’t equivocate it to the Clinton Era, Vanilla Ice, and the Star Wars re-dos. I suppose that as the final Totally 90s item, that point is moot. All I’m saying is that when I watch Clerks, I’m not magically transported back to a “simpler” time or filled with nostalgic high school memories. And that probably says something good for it. Much like with some grander movies of the decade, like Pulp Fiction, there’s a timelessness to Clerks. It could take place anywhere, any time. The fact that it’s in black and white helps sustain that feeling, too.

While I like Clerks every time I see it – of the handful of Smith’s films I’ve seen, it’s the one I’ve seen the most – nothing about it ever stays with me. It’s like the movie equivalent of the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld. Like, it’s easy to remember overarching themes or running gags from Seinfeld – the Chinese restaurant, Kramer’s entrances, “yada yada yada,” and so on – but it’s hard to recall the meaningful and individual conversations that took places in between. I like Seinfeld well enough when I watch it, but there’s no meaty hook there pulling me into the show despite all else. Same with Clerks. It’s perfectly enjoyable and catchy when it’s on the TV in front of me, and I easily fall back in love with Dante’s plight, the girl with the nails, and Jay and Silent Bob’s antics. But once it’s done, it’s gone from my mind. It’s story’s been told, and there’s nothing more to think about.

For this reason, Clerks fall squarely in last place of Kevin Smith movies I’ve seen.

  1. Dogma (Alan Rickman FTW)
  2. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (What the fuck is the Internet?)
  3. Chasing Amy (Go home, Holden.)
  4. Mallrats (that damn sailboat)
  5. Clerks (um…?)

With movies 1-4, all of them…oh shit…wait… Tusk! Goddammit, I’ve seen Tusk! Ohmyfuckinglord, I’ve seen Tusk. Okay, that movie is, without a single shade of doubt, last fucking place if ever there was a last fucking place. And don’t you even think about saying otherwise. I’ve read articles supporting this garbage nightmare of a “film,” and just shut up. There are better Troma films, even including pure, schlocky terribleness like Killer Condom, which I would rather watch a thousand times over before Tusk.

Movies about good actors in horrific walrus suits aside, Clerks is still my number 5 here. With movies 1-4, all of them left me a little something to chew on as the credits were rolling, even if that something was wanting to punch Ben Affleck. (Doesn’t everybody after Mallrats, at least?) But with Clerks, I got nothing’. It’s a fine movie, it’s a good movie, and I guess it’s a 90s movie. And to be fair, it does pretty much set up most of Smith’s later movies, so it’s almost required viewing, that is if you’ve never seen any of his movies before. Almost. It’s keen on in-the-moment storytelling, and if that’s what you’re after with your film viewing ventures, then Clerks might be just the ticket.

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