Jay spouts jokes about gay people. women and any minority group that enter his sheltered pot-filled world
Ben Affleck, Jason Mews and Kevin Smith download their latest hate mail (above)
24 THE LIST 29 Nov—13 Dec 2001
evin Smith got over 10,000 pieces of hate mail for his last movie. Dogma. Not bad going for a filmmaker who says he‘s never pursued controversial subject matter. Though when controversy comes. he always has his own take on it. like the time P’()])le magazine reviewed Clerks and singled out the character Jay. played by Jason Mewes. ‘They said. “You want to find the rock he crawled out from under and make sure there are no others like him under it.” says Smith. ‘And Jason asked me. “Is that good?". I was like. "Reads well to me. seems like praise.” Smith's response is typical of a man who makes
films satirising today‘s culture. although plenty of
people just don‘t get the joke. From C lerks through to the new film Jay Ami Silent Bob Strike Back. Jay speaks with a mouth you really wouldn‘t want your mother to hear. But surely a few F-words aren't enough to provoke outrage“? Perhaps not. but Jay also spouts dumb jokes and cliches about gay people. women and any minority group that enter his sheltered pot-filled world. Tragically. in that irony-free zone they call the USA. all manner of conservative types have been up in arms about Smith. accusing him of being a homophobe. a woman-hater. all the usual bad-guy stuff.
But as the director points out. and anyone with half
a brain can see. he‘s not endorsing Jay's behaviour: ‘He lacks a moral barometer. therefore his incredibly
misogynistic statements don‘t come from a place of
malice but a lack of understanding of what is acceptable and not acceptable in society.‘ To further
hammer home the point. there‘s Smith‘s own performance as the other half of Jay‘s double act. Silent Bob. His raised eyebrows and shrugs mirror the audience‘s understanding that Jay. while highly amusing. is a complete knob.
Nevertheless. Smith's darkest hour came after Dogma was released. The comic fantasy featuring Alanis Morrisette as God (whom Jay attempts to bone) and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as fallen angels was always going to ruffle a few feathers. But the filmmaker wasn’t prepared for the wrath of the Catholic League which launched a full-scale protest against Walt Disney‘s Miramax subsidiary which produced the film. Cue Dogma being sold off to another company and Smith needing bodyguards to accompany him to the Cannes Film Festival.
A Catholic himself. Smith refutes all claims that the film was anti-Catholic. Similarly. as a response to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation‘s claims that his latest film made stereotypical jokes at the expense of homosexuals. Smith donated £1().()()() to a foundation which educates against homophobia.
Despite the placards and the poison-pen letters. controversy certainly hasn't harmed Smith‘s profile: as the saying goes. any publicity is good publicity. He didn't have any problems raising the cash or finding a distributor for his new movie and Hollywood's finest keep lining up for bit parts (Aflleck and Damon. Wes Craven and Gus van Sant appear in the new film). For all that the old folk keep gnashing their falsers. Smith has a direct line to the hearts and Rizla—ftlled pockets of a legion of fans. You can take the boy out of New Jersey. but you‘ll never take the New Jersey out of the boy. (Louisa Pearson)