“On the Midwest’s Bombastic Musical Contributions to the Kevin Smith Movies”

As a Midwesterner who’s lived out west and is now back home, I find it interesting that Kevin Smith taps so largely into the great flatlands for his soundtracking. Of course, the “I guess I’m livin’ day to day” song (“Clerks” by Love among Freaks) gets its DNA from Jersey. Really, the only part of the country that isn’t represented here is the south, and that’s not necessarily to diss on the south, but point out that there is palpably a cloudy-day vibe about the whole thing: we’re freaks, we’re clerks, we’re underdogs.

But just to give you an idea of the place I live in, South Bend, Indiana, a blue-collar anti-college town (Univ. of Notre Dame) that’s the third largest municipality in the great Hoosier state, in an interview Kevin Smith states that “if there’s ever gonna be a Clerks III, it would be somewhere down the road in my 40s or 50s, when it might be interesting to check back in on Dante and Randal. But I don’t know about Jay and Bob so much, ’cause at 45, leaning on a wall in front of a convenience store might be a little sad.” [1] But to me, see, this would actually IMPROVE my town, because where I’m at the old people downtown are almost all homeless and misanthropic, refusing to even congeal in interpersonal cooperation. I haven’t spent much time in Jersey, but when I was there, to be honest, I didn’t see what the big deal was, why it was so bad, and I can say at least that Philadelphia has an infinitely preferable vibe to my town.

So there’s a couple bands that have come from Chicago, cut through the self-conscious “cool,” the daunting work schedules and the bad weather, to make some alternative rock that really holds up: Wilco, and the Smashing Pumpkins. The latter was used by Smith not only for Clerks II, but for a scene whose cinematic flavor actually convinced the main character to STAY in Jersey.

So along with the almost omnipresent Jesus Lizard (Chicago) and Soul Asylum (Minnesota) selections, why is it that Smith would geographically falter here, caving and lunging for a Midwestern song to supposedly define Jersey? Well, you might say the Midwest is like the China of the country, everything’s made here. There’s this book written by this ND prof entitled The Midwest: A Myth or Reality whose mission statement is somewhat ambiguous, but generally expounds on how the Midwest’s very identity is predicated upon producing things for the rest of the country to enjoy, whether it’s corn, grain, steel, sheet metal, or certainly music, Michael Jackson, Prince, Motown, Guided by Voices and The Breeders just being a few others, named. And again it’s a self-consciousness, we people hold ourselves to a high standard of social quality, you can’t be a loner, you can’t be “weird,” it’s a place where a minimal amount is given to you, but you have to still be understandable, you have to emit expressions, of some sort, if you’re to be heard, and accepted. And so we garner the role of leaders, whether we chose it or not.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerks#Clerks_III

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