It’s time I tell you about Kevin Smith. Some of you might be saying, “Who?” but let me assure you that you are probably familiar with at least a small portion of his body of work. I won’t go into all of it here, Wikipedia does a fantastic job of covering it, but I will highlight a few key things.
Kevin’s rise in Hollywood started with the low-budget film, Clerks, starring two characters Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (played by Smith). It was picked up by the Weinstein studio, Miramax, and thus began the View Askew franchise. Kevin would crank out a bunch more flicks with the Weinsteins over the years and that relationship solidified Kevin’s place in the movie-making world.
Kevin before anything else is a writer, and this is where his influence on me comes into play. This very blog and the beginning of my writing career owes it’s continued existence, in part, to Kevin Smith. I wrote about it back on November 14, 2010, in a post I titled “Brick Walls, New Beginnings” and it was absolutely the pivotal moment in my journey as a writer. I’d encourage you to go take a look at that post when you’re done with this one.
Aside from jump-starting my butt into gear writing-wise, that was also the beginning of the boost in viewership to my blog (it went from a few people reading it to a few dozen people reading it!) That may not seem like much, but when your blog is essentially only being read by your mom and a few friends and then you have literal random strangers reading it from all over the world, well, that’s a big thing.
Anyway, this is all just the long way of saying that I went from simply enjoying Kevin Smith’s work to being a big fan. Sure, we’ve had our bumps along the road, and I’ll fully admit that over the last few years my interest has waned. But, BUT, Kevin has this way of doing something that always pulls me back in.
At the top of that list is his love and respect for his daughter (and all women, for that matter) which, in my opinion, sets the gold standard, as well as his ability to interact positively with fans, and generally be a good human.
Example 1: Responding to an Instagram Troll Who Cyberbullied Harley
There’s a great articleon it from Greg Gilmanat The Wrap. I’ll summarize it as best I can:
A troll tries to take a bite out of Harley Quinn Smith.
Smith responds not with vitriol or a counterattack, which would not surprise anyone if he were not Kevin Smith, but he is, and he fired back with some sage advice.
You can view the whole message below, but here’s the ending:
“You want attention? Don’t make yourself mad, make something original and fun. Because if you’re not being useful in this world you’re being useless. Don’t be useless: go make stuff that makes people happy!”
Example 3: Donating His Residuals From Weinstein Movies to Women in Film
A short but good write-up from Joyce Chen at Rolling Stone can be summarized thusly: Smith feels ashamed of his association with Harvey Weinstein and is henceforth donating all the residuals from the movies he made with him to Women in Film, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of women working in the screen industries.
He financed the first 14 years of my career – and now I know while I was profiting, others were in terrible pain. It makes me feel ashamed. https://t.co/T0hInW7EqJ
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThose are just a few big, public examples of Kev doing the right thing. Countless other more subtle examples can be found by listening to one of his many podcasts or going to one of his patented An Evening With Kevin Smith Q&A sessions, or simply following him on Twitter. Hell, when he heard about the elder abuse happening with comic book legend Stan Lee his first instinct was to reach out and offer the 95-year-old Lee a place to liveand this was AFTER Kevin himself suffered a near-fatal heart attack just six weeks earlier!
So, for anyone who cares, I’m back on the Kevin Smith fanboy train (again) though I’m not sure I ever fully left. To this day I wonder if he ever hung the photo art I gave him.
In SMOD we trust.
Thank you, sir, for continuing to create, for continuing to inspire others to create, and for making it appear easy to always do the right thing.
I’m beginning to think that the internet, especially the social media aspect of it, is probably the most intricate and fascinating social experiment in the history of the world. There’s an old saying that goes, “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.” This is what the internet has become. Hundreds of millions of people with their own special opinion on EVERYTHING and a whole bunch of them chomping at the bit to point out what’s wrong with everyone else’s, especially yours.
I get it. I really do. It’s so hard to resist. You know you’re right. You are right! You must let all the people know you’re right. I’ve been there a thousand times. Hell, I’ve been there as recently as this weekend. Try as I might, I would not bite my tongue and had to chime in on something that, had I left well enough alone, would have left me in a perfectly calm state. As it was, I was left frustrated and disappointed and all I accomplished was completely wasting half an hour of an otherwise wonderful day.
That’s all fine and dandy when it’s average folk arguing with each other over average things. What really makes my head turn is when there’s a company + customer dust up. When I see this happen the first thing I try to do is determine which party is batshit crazy, then I typically root for the other one. If both parties involved are off their rockers then that’s even better. Without a horse in the race, I can just sit back and enjoy the show.
I am left wondering what the ever loving hell is there to be gained – on either side – by engaging in these shenanigans? In many cases, it’s the company that ends up looking the fool. The old adage, “The customer is always right,” seems to ring true, at least in the court of public opinion (even though it’s really bullshit). Occasionally, though, a company will come out on top and boy-oh-boy is that fun to watch. There is something thoroughly satisfying about watching an internet asshat get their just desserts.
For an example of this, we need to look no further than The White Moose Café in Ireland. Café owner/manager, Paul Stenson, took exception one day to some vegans who frequented his café and slagged him in a review. For the record, Paul had no problem with vegans frequenting his restaurant but expected a little heads up beforehand. Instead, their expectation was that he would be able to cater to their very specific dietary needs on a whim. What Paul did next was nothing short of genius.
He fought back and he fought back hard.
Have you ever heard of the joke “The Aristocrats”? It’s a go-to amongst comedians, often told in the company of other comedians. The whole point of it is to take it as far as you can in terms of obscenity and offensiveness. Gilbert Gottfried is renowned for using this joke to turn around a crowd of comedians that were gathered for a roast of Hugh Hefner shortly after 9/11. Gilbert told an offside joke that could be easily categorized as being “too soon”. He got boos. He got heads shaking. He got finger wags of shame. Then he busted into The Aristocrats. By the time he was done all was (mostly) right with the room again. More people were laughing compared to the moments before he took the mic so it’s safe to say he pulled off one of the greatest comedic recoveries ever.
Well, our friend Paul, the owner/manager of The White Moose Café in Ireland, after getting his crappy review from the angry vegans, he launched into his very own rendition of The Aristocrats. He went full-blown five-alarm batshit crazy with his responses at one point [sarcastically] posting, “Any vegans attempting to enter our café will be shot dead at point blank range.” Buzzfeed chronicles the whole sordid affair and it is pure gold.
The end result? The White Moose Café is now one the busiest establishments in Ireland, likely giving the Blarney Stone a run for its money. If I ever go to Ireland I’m stopping by to give Paul some business. I just hope I can get a table and don’t have to step over too many dead vegans while standing in line.
Used with permission from The White Moose Café
On the other side of the coin, we have M. R. (Michael Robb) Mathias and the website Fantasy Faction. It should be a really simple relationship. The writer writes and publishes (in this case self-publishes) and the readers read, review, and discuss the writer’s work (utilizing the comments section on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as the handy dandy Fantasy Faction forum).
Now, I once had the good fortune of meeting Chuck Wendig at a writer’s workshop and the writer/reader relationship was briefly discussed. In a nutshell, once that book leaves the writer’s hands, it’s no longer about them. Reviews are for readers, not writers. At no point should a writer inject themselves into a conversation about their work – at least not in a public forum like a review site or forum and certainly not unless they were invited. Full stop.
It would appear that Michael wasn’t in attendance that day because he took his own “Aristocrats” approach and it failed miserably. Michael posts some self-promoting thing to a forum. Forum moderators move it to the self-published and small press section. Michael takes exception to this and, in the public forum, unleashes an egotistic rant that will go down in infamy as “Mathias’s Meltdown”.
You can read a summary of the meltdown here, or you can take a gander at the original forum discussion or peruse what twitter was saying in real time. I have read them all end-to-end and all I can say is, wow! Of course, to a certain extent “any press is good press” applies here (I’m sure he got a few sales out of the whole exchange) but when forum posters (not just the mods) are calling you out for being a twatwaffle, the right play here is not to double down on being a twatwaffle. There were at least half a dozen ways Michael could have navigated those waters and not drowned. As it is, he has the distinction of out batshit crazying Anne Rice.
Image released to the public domain by Anne Rice
All things considered, if Google search results are any indication and you have an online presence as a company (or brand or content creator etc…) you are more than likely going to end up like M.R. Mathias and not Paul Stenson from the White Moose Café.
In summary, be careful out there. Online engagements are a lot like peeing into the wind. It may provide you with some measure of relief but all you really do is end up smelling foul and having to explain to everyone why you’re such an idiot.
Nothing brings out the goodwill and joy like suggesting people keep their Christmas lights off until December 1st. If you want to enrage the neighbours all you have to do is go into the Facebook group someone set up for your neighbourhood and put up a post about it. Granted, I was a bit smarmy, but I have perfectly good and reasonable reasons. None of that matters because apparently I’m a Scrooge McGrinch Level 100 troll who has no right to tell people what to do.
The first response to my post was, “Why?” Well, I didn’t want to get all in-your-face and ranty about it, so I gave a watered-down response. There was already enough, especially when you factor in the extreme over-commercialization of the holiday that’s happened over the last couple decades. So why not give everyone a break? A bit of a reprieve, if you will.
That just made things worse.
FOR THE RECORD: I’m a fan of the December joy, I really am. For the month of December, I always strive to be the jolliest asshole this side of the nuthouse(1). I love the snow and the lights and the whole general idea of giving more and not being a total ass to one another. I think it sets a good tone for the rest of the year.
But seriously, it’s getting a bit out of hand.
After Back to School and then Canadian Thanksgiving and then Halloween (stores are even putting up Christmas stuff before Halloween!) and then Remembrance Day (Canada) / Veterans Day (U.S.) and then U.S. Thanksgiving AND THEN December proper and 26 days of Christmas madness we take a (quick) breath and go straight back for more with New Year’s and just when you think you’re done the Orthodox folks jump in with their Christmas celebration on January 7. Oh, and let’s not forget there’s a bunch of other non-Christian holidays in there trying to get air time as well (more on that later).
Did you know that there are governments and military prisons that have used the persistent playing of music as a deterrent as well as torture? Well, welcome to certain radio stations and virtually every store in every mall in North America in December. Listen as they crank out Christmas music until you want to stuff an elf backwards into jolly old Santa’s milk and cookie piehole.
Starting November 25th!
Here’s a pro tip: There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to be bombarded with Christmas 24/7/365. I am not a Scrooge or Grinch or Troll for having a lower tolerance for all things mistletoe. There’s the song 12 Days of Christmas and turning on the lights December 1st more than doubles the recommended serving of joy. That’s pretty good, no?
I think I brought the craziness to a close on that Facebook thread (at least I haven’s seen many comments since) with the following:
“Wow. I never said I wanted to make it a law. Amazing how quickly cheer turns into hate. Want to see people’s true colours? Challenge them on the internet.”
Someone on my side (or at least not against me) replied to that with something about not messing with a woman and her Christmas decorations, and I replied with, “WAR ON CHRISTMAS!” It was a joke meant to play on the usage of the phrase, particularly with Tea Party Republicans in the U.S.
I shouldn’t have used the phrase because it’s not a war. It’s not a battle. It’s not a confrontation. It’s not even a heated argument. Hell, it barely meets the definition of a disagreement. Barely. So, to call it a war would be incredibly disrespectful to those who fight in actual wars. Which brings me to another thing: the November 12th People (N12P).
Now, I don’t know what veterans and service people think of the N12P, but I imagine members of the N12P taking in the Veterans Day parade waiting for the float with the replica of the tomb of the unknown soldier pass so they can push a button and have their Christmas lights turn on. That might be an extreme case and I’m certain that’s not what goes down for the majority of the N12P, but the simple fact that they wait until the 12th instead of, say, the 15th or 25th or the 2nd Sunday in November does give me the impression that they’re just waiting to get November 11 out of the way so they can get on with celebrating. Anyhow, that’s just an aside. I’ll let you think about it.
One argument I hear in favour of an early lighting is, “My kids get so excited!” Sure, Christmas is a wonderful time for kids. You know what, though? My kids used to get excited about having dessert after dinner. Now, for whatever reason they have it every night, and I couldn’t tell you the last time they were over-the-moon excited about 25g of sugar and chocolate.
I’ll tell you one thing, if you want to get someone really excited about something, tell them how awesome it is, and then tell them can’t have it until a certain date. I’m not suggesting we treat the turning on of the Christmas lights like the new Star Wars movie, but there is something to be said for absence making the heart grow fonder. I say make the kids wait as long as you possibly can and then watch as their heads explode with joy when they finally get to experience it.
(Hmm, I think the 40-year-old virgin may have been onto something.)
As an after December 1st argument, I’d also like to bring up cultural insensitivity. Maybe that’s not the right phrase. Cultural Christmaswashing? Think cultural whitewashing but with red and green candy canes and nativity scenes. I don’t know what you’d call it, but hasn’t the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture machine saturated the West enough over the last few hundred years? Do we really need to be standing on the rooftops for months at a time screaming, “CHRISTMAS! LOOK AT ME, I CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS! WOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO! CHRISTMAS MOTHER*****ERS!”
I’m no social justice warrior but I have to wonder what all this feels like to the new immigrant or someone trying to celebrate their own holiday – or no holiday at all for that matter. I’d love to see some Diwali lights displayed in my neighbourhood but it’s awfully hard to pick them out over all the Christmas stuff. Then again, maybe it just looks like a party’s about to break out at any minute and everyone thinks it’s just fantastic (judging by the number of “likes” on my comment and the number of other people who are in line with my post-November light turny onie decision I’m guessing not).
Also on my new favourite Facebook thread was the comment that I can’t tell people what to do. To be precise:
“You can close your eyes you have no right to tell people when then can and can not [sic] decorate”.
First, I don’t recall telling anyone to do anything. I posted a smarmy, “How about…? Mkay, thanks.”
But it did get me thinking… What about an individual’s rights? I have every right to question your judgement if you put up your Christmas stuff in the middle of August just as you have every right to put it up whenever the hell you want. But unwritten agreements exist all the time and work just fine without being formalised into law. I simply want people to come to an arrangement. A reasonable compromise that takes everything I’ve just written about into account.
I can imagine the person from the above quote sitting on the porch in their rocking chair with an armful of flashing LEDs, or walking around WalMart with a giant battery in a backpack powering Christmas lights strung all around their shopping cart. When approached and asked about why they’re doing what they’re doing they reply with:
“The 87th amendment to the Constitution clearly states that ‘A well regulated Neighbourhood Community being necessary to the celebration of Christmas, the right of the people to keep and display Christmas lights shall not be infringed’,” and then every argument from then on that even remotely appears to contradict the 87th amendment is met with, “CHRISTMAS MOTHER****ER!”
So there you have it. Do with this information what you will. I’ll be lighting my house and Christmas tree up like a Christmas tree on December 1st and shutting the lights off when I go to bed on December 31st, happy as a clam the whole time and trying not to be an ass to people the other eleven months of the year after that.
As for peace on earth, goodwill to men? All I have to say to that is it’s not gonna happen so long as there is an Internet – and a comments section.