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‘Clerks’: A Look Back Years Later

‘Clerks’: A Look Back Years Later

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A lot of movies that are ingrained in pop culture are often films made by major studios, especially in Hollywood. That said, there have been cases where some indie films have had huge success in the mainstream media. One of these films is Clerks (1994). Written and Directed by Kevin Smith in his directorial debut, the movie follows Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) who is struggling to get his life together while working in a dead-end job, which is in a convenience store known as the Quick Stop. Clerks become a massive success, earning $3.3 million against a budget of $27,000, according to Box Office Mojo. In honor of the 30th anniversary, it is time to look back on this cultural milestone. 

The Characters Are Written and Portrayed Like Real People

One of the biggest strengths of Clerks is the characters and how real they feel, from Dante lamenting about how much he hates his job to his ex-girlfriend, Caitlin (Lisa Spooneaur) talking about her working hard in college to Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) chastising Dante for not taking responsibility for his actions. Smith’s writing, on top of the cast’s performances, makes this all come across very naturally, something that some major Hollywood films struggle to achieve. There is a great scene of Dante and Randal talking about the original Star Wars trilogy that is written like real conversations fans would have about those movies and not an obnoxious pop cultural reference. Even the low-budget look of this movie almost gives it a documentary feel to it, capturing what people were like in the ‘90s. 

Part of what helps the characters come across like ordinary people is that they deal with ordinary problems. Dante goes on about how much he hates his job and has to deal with annoying customers, something many people have dealt with, especially when working in any sort of retail job. There are also moments of him feeling insecure about his relationship with his girlfriend Veronica (Marlyin Ghigliotti), which a lot of people deal with in the real world.

‘Clerks’: A Look Back Years Later
Jason Mewes as Jay and Kevin Smith as Silent Bob in Clerks in Clerks | Miramax Films

Some of the Jokes Still Hold Up 

Another aspect of Clerks that helps make this film so iconic is its jokes. There are some great gags about the kinds of customers Dante and Randal get, from the “Milk Maids” to video rental customers asking for a film by giving extremely vague descriptions. These kinds of jokes continue to make these characters come across as more real. There are also some funny jokes involving physical comedy, including Dante losing a game of hockey on the roof of the Quick Stop and later getting into a fight with Randal inside the store, resulting in the two making a huge mess. 

Now, not every joke lands. There is an unfortunate bit with Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) where Jay makes stereotypical gay “jokes,” complete with him dropping a homophobic slur. There isn’t too much else to say there except that not everything about this film has aged well.  

How This Small Film Launched A Cinematic Universe

After the success of Clerks, Kevin Smith followed this up with his next film, Mallrats (1995). This would turn out to be in the same universe as Clerks when the titular Jay and Silent Bob appeared in the movie. This would lead to more films featuring the two, including Chasing Amy (1997), Dogma (1999), and the Jay & Silent Bob films, which bring back many of the characters from all these movies. Smith would later name this universe the View Askewniverse, named after his production company, View Askew Productions. In an era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe, it is interesting to see a cinematic universe predating them that is mostly just silly comedies that have a stoner duo as the main recurring characters. What’s even more funny about that is that Kevin Smith managed to get Marvel legend Stan Lee to make a cameo appearance in Mallrats well before he decided to make this an ongoing thing in the Marvels films. This cameo would become so popular that Marvel would reference it in Captain Marvel (2019) by having Lee read the script for Mallrats. It is quite incredible how a low-budget comedy managed to spawn a cinematic universe that would resonate with so many. 

The Legacy of Clerks

Clerks is still considered by many to be Kevin Smith’s best movie. It would eventually be selected to be preserved in the Nation Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress. The film also spawned two sequels and a short-lived animated series, all of which brought back O’Halloran and Anderson as Dante and Randal, respectively. For some people, this film was an inspiration for independent filmmakers. It proved with such a small budget and simple premise that anyone could make a movie so long as they had the right resources and a good story to work off of. At the end of the day, Clerks is one of a kind. 

Clerks can be found on MGM+, Paramount+, and Amazon Prime Video.

‘Clerks’: A Look Back Years Later
Lisa Spooneuar as Caitlin Bree, Brian O’Halloran as Dante Hicks, and Jeff Anderson as Randal Graves in Clerks | Miramax Films

Clerks (1994) Official Miramax Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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I am from Michigan. I am a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University majoring in Film Production with a minor in Media Production.
Cailen Fienemann is a current student at Le Moyne College pursuing her BA in English and Communications with a film studies minor and a creative writing concentration.  Though uncertain about her career end-goals, any job that allows her to write is a cherished one indeed.