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19th Oct 2015

Happy 21st Birthday Clerks: 10 things that we learned from Kevin Smith’s classic

"I assure you we're open..."

Paul Moore

“I assure you we’re open…”

Every person has one film that they feel was made specifically for them and for me, Kevin Smith’s brilliant ’94 cult classic Clerks is that film.

Smith’s beloved debut captured the slacker cool culture of Generation X while simultaneously managing to depict the mind numbing monotony of having a dead end ‘McJob’ that was slowly eating away at your soul. What’s a burnout to do when your only escape can be found in endless discussions with your friends about sex, sports and Star Wars.

Smith’s era defining film may have entered the mainstream under the radar but it’s still making a huge impression with audiences, both old and new, 21 years later.

Here are ten life lessons that I learned from Clerks now that it celebrates its birthday.

Never go to work on your day off

We’ve all been young, broke and spineless in the face of being asked that dreaded favour by our boss but there’s a lot to be learned from Dante’s day.

Of course I’ve said yes when asked to cover for a mate but it has never fallen on the same day as some hilarious and perverse romantic problems, rooftop hockey matches or having to deal with some incredibly dumb customers.

All this before even mentioning Randal.

To quote Dante, “You know what the real tragedy about all this is? I’m not even supposed to be here today!”

A good vocabulary can take you a long way

I’m offering a fresh 10 cent coin to the first person that can instantly tell me the exact Oxford Dictionary definition of the following words; Vagary, Perspicacity and Paradigm.

Confused? Well, Clerks was incredibly clever because it loosely borrowed the structure, and forename, from The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri for its cinematic structure and inspiration.

Like Dante enduring the nine circles of hell, each chapter of the film also deals with a specific theme, character or story which the Quick Stop employee has to face.

This approach was very clever because it means that the film remains incredibly well paced, rounded and funny.

Only a Kevin Smith script can manage to include some fancy pants language like vilification, syntax and catharsis alongside more ‘interesting’ sayings like ass-worshipping-rim-jobbers, hermaphroditic porn and c#*k smoker.

Never ask about your ex’s dating history

Every couple gets to that point in their relationship when they feel comfortable asking the other about their dating history. Clerks has taught me that if this conversation ever pops up then I should just run away and hide.

Seriously, no good can come from this.

This exact scene is what convinced Miramax boss Harvey Weistein to purchase the rights to the film and the rest is history.

In a row?

Star Wars works on so many levels

I’m of the opinion that the original Star Wars trilogy absolutely kicks-ass but it was cool to see that an in-depth and meaningless discussion about Lucas’s original holy-trinity is just as important as anything else in this film.

Screw it, this scene is more important than anything that Citizen Kane ever mentioned.

Dante is right though, The Empire Strikes Back is definitely the best film.

Customers are idiots

The scary part of this scene is that, as people who have worked in retail will tell you, it’s incredibly true.

FYI, the milk-maid in this scene is Kevin Smith’s actual mother.

A calm head wins any argument

Yes, Clerks is absolutely brimming with foul language but I just love how calm, composed and smart arsed Randal stays throughout the entirety of this argument below. He doesn’t even curse but still manages to make this the film’s best scene.

You could be hanging on the edge of a cliff, needing a single f**k to survive, while at the same time Randal has an infinite supply of f**ks in his pocket.

Do you know what? He still wouldn’t give one.

This random bunch of important stuff

Aside from the obvious points, Clerks is brimming with some golden nuggets of information like…

There are usually a bunch of savages in most towns, it’s dangerous for men to try and fellate themselves, Pringles cans are death traps, title does not dictate behavior, jizz moppers make decent money, don’t knock over caskets at wakes, insubordination rules and never let strangers use the company bathroom.

Timeless stuff.

Try and help the customers as much as you can

This scene always left me asking just one question, why didn’t they already have Happy Scrappy Hero Pup in stock? It’s a classic.

This golden rule about women

When it comes to making a decision about the opposite sex just ask yourself, ‘What’s a good plate with nothing on it?’

Take control of your own life

Much like Kevin Smith’s initial brave decision to personally finance and make the film, everyone fears taking a risk but if you’re talented and confident in your own ability then don’t let anything or anybody hold you back.

Think about what you want to do and then go and do it. Take responsibility, give everything and regret nothing.

Don’t end up going Beserker.

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