Filmmaker Kevin Smith has apologized to a blogger who he inadvertently made the subject of Twitter abuse by his followers after a half-joking tweet responding to her criticism of one of his films–and lashed out at some readers who he says are clearly misreading the intent of his films.
Earlier today, ComicBook.com reported that Kevin Smith’s 2001 comedy Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back was among the titles whose Netflix licenses will expire on January 1 and will not, at least for now, be renewed. The Death & Taxes Mag article we linked to at the time, which was sourced from a Reddit thread, included the phrase “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back is included in the purge, but absolutely no one will miss that one.”
And, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, that became quite a contentious statement. After a handful of fans tweeted the dig at Smith, he commented on the article, tongue-in-cheek, thanking the writer–D&T‘s Maggie Serota–for the free publicity.
The story, though, had been picked up by Mashable and reprinted, apparently in its entirety, and Smith took the opportunity to go on Twitter and redirect people complaining at Mashable to the source article. Apparently not realizing that he was putting a bull’s eye on her, he tagged Serota in the tweet, asking “Why the jab?”
Almost immediately, a number of Smith’s Twitter followers swarmed the blogger’s Twitter feed, deluging her with nasty comments that she turned around on Smith with an accusatory “You must be proud to have this guy as a fan” for one example. She has continued to retweet abusive remarks from Smith’s supporters since.
Smith tried to defuse the situation, apologizing first for the fan’s language and then, after being challenged, for the misogyny she was facing. Still, it got increasingly heated between Smith, Serota and commenters unhappy that he was taking her side over theirs.
There’s a fuller account at Smith’s blog, where he said, in part, “If you like me or my stuff at all, then NEVER express yourself to ANYONE – woman or man – in misogynistic terms. This is important to me. Even before I was married and had a daughter, this was important to me. The Jay character aside, I’ve always tried to imbue the characters in my flicks with nothing but respect for women. If my movies have made you feel it’s okay to reduce another human being by labeling them a ‘b—h’ or a ‘c–t,’ then I was an even worse filmmaker than I thought.”
Throughout his career, Smith’s critics have struggled with the nature of his audience and his characters. As part of the crop of indie filmmakers who were seen as revolutionizing the industry in the early-to-mid-’90s, a sizable chunk of his audience has always arguably taken his movies more seriously than they really called for–but since he’s always had a fair amount of fratboy and stoner humor, that has predictably drawn the attention and admiration of fratboys and stoners–not known for their judgment.
Smith has been criticized over the years for his depiction of women before: his earliest films featured male characters who were lovable losers and uptight, difficult women. That archetype came back in Dogma (also written early in his career), where the central character was also arguably never the captain of her own destiny and was a pawn of fate and God throughout. Over the years, though, his characters seem to have normalized–the women in his more recent films are still more mature than the men, but that’s generally seen as a positive thing rather than negative and the “lovable loser” archetype has been forced to grow up a bit, too, and realize that perhaps that’s not the world’s most desirable default setting.
He’s also had trouble with audiences failing to understand some of his characters. Both Jay and recurring character Banky Edwards, who first appeared in Chasing Amy, are clown characters and most of what they say is not meant to be taken seriously. Both the fratboy audience mentioned above and even some critics have consistently taken their lines at face value–meaning that people can either love or late the absurd exaggerations in those characters based on words and actions that were always meant to seem absurd and offensive.
In any event, it seems to have settled down; while Serota initially blamed Smith for throwing her under the bus, she seems at least relatively satisfied now, agreeing with a fan who tweeted to her that Smith’s post “seemed pretty fair.” Death and Taxes also tweeted the article with a caption thanking Smith “for setting the record straight with this post,” which Serota retweeted.