This article is about Mallrats. And it isn’t.
“So Mallrats didn’t hold up… a little bit of my youth just died… still, I’ll always have Dogma!”
I received this Twitter DM last fall from an old school friend. Hello if you’re reading this by the way, mate. When we were younger, one of the things that made us friends was a mutual love of Kevin Smith movies, Mallrats probably more than any of the others. Many Saturdays were spent at either of our houses, drinks in hand, Mallrats playing away to itself in the background, as we chatted to and shouted the most memorable quotes at each other. Vibrant times.
So with that said, I’m not afraid to say that message broke my heart a little bit. I played it cool though, sending one back about how Clerks definitely still holds up.
This happened around the time I was thinking about doing this stuff: editorial-style opinion pieces about pop culture and other things that interest me. After I got that message, I remember making a mental note to thank my friend, because he’d just given me what I thought was a great idea for an article: watching Mallrats, a beloved movie from my youth, and giving an honest assessment as to whether or not it still really works for me as a 31-year-old man.
I’m capable of that kind of objectivity. Fight Club used to be my favorite movie of all time. I watched it for the first time when I was 19, and it blew me away. I still watch it at least once a year, and I still love and admire it, but it’s now my second favorite film of all time, because it just doesn’t speak to me like it used to. For better or for worse, hopefully better, I’m just not the angry young man I used to be.
Ghostbusters is now my favorite film of all time, by the way. But I’ve got a feeling I’ll have more opportunity to get into that another time.
Anyway, so I had my Mallrats article idea. I had what I thought was a decent opening to it, which you’ve just read, now all I had to do was actually sit down and watch Mallrats again. Not a hardship, because as has already been established, I love that movie. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I love it.
By the next comma, I’m nearly 400 words into this article, and I still have not watched Mallrats. And I don’t think I have any intention to for a good long while.
At first, the excuses were easy to make. I searched Netflix. It wasn’t there. Almost every other Kevin Smith movie is, but Mallrats isn’t. Not a problem. I own it on DVD. I’ve gotten into a bizarre habit of almost never dipping into my DVD collection unless I can’t find the movie I want to watch anywhere else first, which is either one of the greatest examples of 21st Century laziness, or down to the fact that my DVDs used to be stored in a way only I understood, but has over the years started to mutate into its own beast, seemingly reordering itself for fun.
I looked for Mallrats. I couldn’t find Mallrats. I looked in every section it would make sense for it to be in: “Teen Comedies”, “Stoner Movies”, “Running Anal Sex Gags”—incidentally, that last category has more films in it than you’d think—and came up empty. Sighing to myself, I remembered another friend, one that lives literally a thirty-second walk from my place, and told myself I’d call him tomorrow, asking him if I could borrow it for a couple of days.
That was about four months ago.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here. Even I caught on eventually. I was looking for any excuse not to watch this movie, and I found it. Telling myself every day that I’d just call and ask him about it tomorrow became easier and easier, until I stopped even pretending.
I remember buying Mallrats the first time. I was in some airport, I think it might have been London Gatwick. I wasn’t flying anywhere; sometimes, my family would just visit airports to watch the planes take off, grab something to eat, and watch other people excitedly hurry around. This was around the time when DVDs were just becoming a thing, so shops were starting to get rid of their VHS stock for low, low prices. I had a tenner in my pocket, and found both that and Clerks for five pounds each in some tiny hole in the wall HMV. I’d read about both in Empire magazine, and about Kevin Smith, and his story.
When I finished watching Clerks, I wanted to watch all of Smith’s movies. When I finished watching Mallrats, I wanted to make my own movies. This was, no exaggeration, one of the most important moments in my life.
I can’t taint that. I can’t even run the risk. It wouldn’t just be a part of my youth I’d be killing, it would be a part of me. Now Me. And I’m not ready to do that. I’ve lost bits of myself naturally over the years—it’s just what happens, given enough time—but I’m not gonna start loosening the bricks myself.
I will watch Mallrats again, I know I will, but not until I can watch it without any sort of agenda. Not until it’s just a movie again. Even if I’m not sure it ever was to begin with.
So mate, if you are reading this, thank you for sending that message. It inspired approximately a thousand words that made Mallrats sound like more than a collection of dick jokes, Jay and Silent Bob prattling about, and comments about sex in the back of Volkswagens. You should be proud of yourself. That’s quite a feat.
Also, Clerks definitely still holds up.