With the recent death of Lisa Spoonauer, I unintentionally look back at Kevin Smith’s cultural icon
I blew the dust off of my DVD copy of Clerks yesterday. I have not watched this film in years. My decision was based on nothing in particular. My main quest was to see just how well it held up after all of these years. When I found out about Lisa Spoonauer’s (she played Caitlin, Dante’s ex-girlfriend) death, the rest was unintentional timing.
Clerks Official Trailer
I remember when the movie first came out in 1994; my birthday of that year to be exact. We had no idea who Kevin Smith was or what kind of impact he would have on our lives. There was an instant bond from a geek culture perspective that led to further dedication with Mallrats (the film that sealed the deal for me to become a long-lived Kevin Smith fan). This guy uber geeks out on Star Wars? This guy loves comic books? I actually visited Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in the late ‘90s. It was an indirect pilgrimage (more like a when in Rome scenario), but an impacting one just to see that these places actually existed. The shop, the Quick Stop, Red Banks, the culture.
Spoonauer’s death went largely unnoticed in social media circles, marred by the bombing in Manchester and Roger Moore’s death. At least headlines did not exploit her death to be “the actress who fucked a dead guy in the bathroom of a Quick Stop died on Saturday.”
Clerks was her main shot at acting. Her five seconds of fame. She played in another movie titled Bartender but that was it. The necrophilia scene was my take away of her involvement in the film. She seemed to be always overshadowed by the more animated character actors Jay and Silent Bob, as well as co-star Randall (the guy who works at the video store next to the Quick Stop).
Jay and Silent Bob’s intro in Clerks
All three of these guys were goofy and quirky but with a sense of deep philosophical intelligence in their own guise, even if it translated to “snootchie-bootchies.” Most importantly, they were free—free to create their own destiny. We could relate because we all knew someone with at least one of these personality traits. These characters were not shackled down by obligations. They were cool and witty, and they posed no danger (except for Randall to Dante when he sold that pack of cigarettes to the four year old and got his buddy fined $500).
I was in college when this film came out. I remember after its release, film snobs came out of the woodwork to unleash their critical theory like an English major dissecting sentences. They looked for symbolism within the confines of incessant Star Wars arguments. Which is better? Jedi or Empire? But for me, I took the film at face value. I was in awe over the script and intelligent banter that seemed necessarily over-the-top. Kevin Smith can drop an f-bomb as poetically as Quentin Tarantino can incorporate violence into a scene. There is a Twilight Zone quality to the pace of the film, a film that could go on forever. The characters are trapped under the dome that is Red Bank, New Jersey. We just get that day-in-the life snapshot in Clerks.
There is a scene in the film when Caitlin returns to see Dante. He locks up the store and takes her to the back of the video store to talk in private. Spoonauer’s finest moment as an actress is the long-winded conversation. The scene is a defining moment of the film. In an off kilter way, it puts everything into perspective, as well as showcasing Dante’s insecurities (“You prefer drastic measures to rational ones”) that never gets resolved no matter how much Dante tries to rationalize things. Do they have a Facebook quiz telling us which Kevin Smith character we are based off of the Briggs-Meyer personality type?
Seeing how well crafted and natural the two were during this long shot, their relationship diatribe was the glistening realization from which going back and re-watching the film defined worth. That moment becomes an incredible scene of witty back and forths forever ingrained into the psyche of film fanatics and Smith junkies.
Clerks – Juxtaposition
I can’t say Clerks influenced a film movement with its basic black-and-white filmography. The only thing it did was influence Smith to make Mallrats, further the Jay and Silent Bob image with comic books and apparel, and burn the reality of creating Clerks II. But when you think about Clerks as influential, it is on its own accord. That is all we really need.