*extends hand in the general vicinity of Smith’s nose* Friend. Friend.
Heeyyy, buddy. Rough couple weeks. Were there a non-condescending way to pat one’s head and say “there, there,” I’d do it.
In the past few weeks, there’s been a cultural shift in the way blogs speak of you. Deadline, in a post seemingly by the dad from the Twisted Sister videos, was deeply offended and irritated by your lack of commitment to the Sparkle Motion of Sundance etiquette. EW pondered, “To put it in one of Smith’s beloved geek-friendly Star Wars metaphors, is he defying the Darth Vader of studios — or simply joining them to help rule the indie movie galaxy?”
First, allow me to dry off from the enormous splash of geek condescension washed upon me. You’re better than that, EW.
Second, I think it’s fairly clear you are not attempting to take over the film world through sheer chutzpah and a side of crazy sauce. As you say yourself, you’re simply returning to your roots of 1993 — when you were a proper indie filmmaker.
In the indie film era of the early ’90s, indie could still be independent. “Indie” didn’t mean at least one Hollywood star needed to get the thing bought and paid for; “indie” didn’t mean the inevitable purchase from a major studio, thereby eliminating the “indie” influence all together from the moment “cut” is called and the actors cash their $2,000 checks to give way to the millions for the studios.
Ultimately, those writing about you, those bashing you, those who don’t get it, they just don’t fucking get it. Now, this of course does not include the online community and blogosphere as a whole. There are those who get it, they just don’t like it or you. But the newer predominant attitude in online journalism appears to be one of utter confusion. As one pervasive example, every article makes mention of the term “profanity-laden” with a grandiose pearl clutch as though they didn’t expect that of you.
They also call you fat a lot. You have in many ways caused this by being so vocal about your zaftig-ness, but it’s not like they constantly refer to “the large-foreheaded Quentin Tarantino” or “the increasingly orange David Fincher.”
For your entire career, you’ve been loved and lauded as the man who didn’t play the game. When you did play the game and attempted to make a sweet PG-13 flick about a man and his daughter, they didn’t want it. When you played the game and made a buddy cop film, they hated it. Now, you’re doing it yourself, by your own rules, and they don’t get it.
It would seem the mythical “they” would really appreciate if you were to change the very thing they celebrated back when it was okay to do so, and when that didn’t work, be it on Jersey Girl, be it on Cop Out, be it on the financial failure of Zack and Miri, they can’t understand how you would want to try a different way. More accurately, how it could be this way: the way that doesn’t make them lots of money (the studios), or the way they feel you’re supposed to want to make money (the journalists).
Again, they don’t get it. They don’t get you. Luckily, you are able to explain and defend yourself better than your highest praisers.
For the record, as someone whose day job is as a dreaded marketing and PR person, I happen to think it’s awesome. This is real marketing. This isn’t phony shillery.
There is, however, one area I didn’t understand as I’ve watched this unfold.
Once upon a SModcast, you said something very telling. You referred to yourself as “the boy who made Clerks” then caught yourself, saying you’re no longer a boy, what with the fact, at this point, you were approaching 40. And I think that solved it for me.
For many, fame causes a form of arrested development, wherein the person in question will stagnate in some aspect from the moment they achieved their personal greatness. In many ways, despite marriage, a child, and professional growth along the way, you are still the same person you were in 1994. And that’s long been part of your charm.
You have fans who love you, who would lay down in traffic for you, who would take a slapshot to the goddamn sack for you, and there are those who can’t understand why that would be enough. Sometimes, in the darkest hours, it seems like it isn’t. You have always been the fat funny guy from Jersey, the one who managed to stay fairly normal through all the wealth, accolades and Bennifer. But perhaps the George Lucas Condition — the inability to hear “no” or anything negative, or possibly the complete lack of people in your world to do so — is inescapable, and, at best, hopefully temporary.
I don’t think you’ve snapped — not even a little. I think when one is loved like you’re loved, hate is harder. I’ve long railed against the ramifications of fame in this little soapbox I call a column (when I’m not talking about Snooki), and I feel no one, not even you, is impervious. To me, maybe you noticed it. Maybe you caught yourself. And maybe that’s why, not unlike Randal with “porch monkey,” you’re taking it back.
I hope this four-walling approach restores you to the comfort of the beforetimes, before critics were the enemy. Embrace the critics. Ignore the inane, try not to be disheartened by the bad, and love the good. Do this mostly because I would give my left tit to read Armond White’s Red State review. For your harsher critics, you’ve done their work: you call yourself fat once a minute, you sing your small cock electric, and — I would imagine somewhat disingenuously — you have on many occasions called yourself a bad filmmaker. And you’re not. Your writing has just always been the star. I am to understand Red State shows more. And I, for one, will be there when it rolls into the Harris Theater.
While at times confusing in an “I don’t understand what you are saying” / “what is kiss?” way, it’s pretty goddamn cool you’re trying something different, something honest, something real. And you probably don’t need my reassurance — you’ve gotten every ounce of the advertising you wanted already, and that probably beats the mildly hurtful words of bloggers and journalists whose dollar you weren’t getting anyway. So, with that, *pats head* there, there. Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke — specifically yours.