Let me set the stage for you. At a young age, sometime in the late 1990s, my father sat my sisters and me down and popped in his copy of Clerks. It was at that moment my life-long love of Kevin Smith kicked off. I would spend the next twenty-some years binging any content he had a hand in. Movies, television, comics, podcasts – if his name was on it, I was about it. But my love for him stems farther than simply loving what he creates. The impact that Smith has had on my life continues to have lasting impressions that only grow stronger with time.

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Family Ties Thanks to Kevin Smith

Randal and Dante sitting on the ice cream box in the Quick Stop.

The first big impact stems back so many years ago. You know, when my dad thought it was cool for a bunch of kids to watch Clerks. And hey, it totally was. Then we went on to enjoy Mallrats, Chasing AmyDogmaJay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and so many other films within Smith’s universe. While the films had us laughing so hard, tears streamed down our faces; their impact went beyond laughter. The films bound my family together.

While our interests and beliefs vary from one sibling or parent to the other, we could always count on Smith’s films to bring us together. They are something we could laugh over and endlessly quote back and forth. It created a common ground that we have used to help us get through the hard times in life. A sister on the verge of tears? A well-placed “37” or fictional characters joke will have them laughing in no time. And those connections between us continue to this day.  We have all moved out on our own and live separate lives, but there will always be room for a quote.

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And beyond Kevin Smith’s impact on my family as a whole, his films have had a major influence on my relationship with my dad, who I lovingly refer to as “The Legend.” We got to watch movies together that we both loved. We even attended one of Kevin Smith’s Q&As in Red Bank, New Jersey, where he talked for hours before meeting everyone at the Secret Stash for autographs and pictures. That night is a standout favorite memory I have with my dad.

Julia Roth and Kevin Smith standing together at the Secret Stash.

Near Death and New Directions

In September of 2012, I nearly died. And not a shock to the system-dear lord that almost killed me. But a true knocking on death’s door experience. And in the wake of spending an entire week in the hospital and two months stuck at home, I wasn’t in the best place mentally. I had (and still do) a lot of questions about who I was and where I was going with my life. Was I happy in my current work situation? Was I really following my dreams? In all my soul searching, I held onto the quote, “I like to think that I am a master of my own destiny,” spoken by Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) in Clerks.

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This thought propelled me and gave me the confidence to leave the field I was currently working in. It gave me the confidence to go back to school in 2017 and pursue a career in something I never thought possible. It was during this time that Kevin Smith’s podcasts found their way into my life and were my constant companion through my bachelor’s program and my introduction to the podcast community in general.

But, it was Smith’s 2018 nearly fatal heart attack that really drove me to action. And not because nearly losing Smith was terrifying to someone who had idolized him her whole life, but the way he talked about it. Kevin Smith never hid from the ugly truth of his heart attack and openly discussed how he was changing his life and doing the things he wanted because life is guaranteed. I’ve heard that before, but something in the way Smith shared it really stuck. It pushed me to go beyond a bachelor’s degree. I got my master’s and entered the entertainment journalism field.

What the Future Holds

The Quick Stop in Leonardo, New Jersey.

I make the joke that Kevin Smith has had more impact on my career choice than any counselor I had in school, and it’s not a lie. Not because they weren’t great at their job, they were. But Smith’s journey from fellow New Jersey native filming a movie overnight in a local Quick Stop to a household name and a prolific director means something to this New Jersey native. When I think about what I want to achieve through my writing, I remind myself that the sky isn’t even the limit. If I want to do something, I put myself out there and start working towards it. 

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Smith reiterated that advice to me during a press junket for Masters of the Universe: Revelation in 2021, where he talked about what it was like to make a dream of his come true. It was something he never expected to be a part of, and it brought him so much joy. It was that subtle reminder that we can make our dreams come true just by going out there and doing it.

I carry this advice with me when I’m working. When I am heading into an interview or preparing to work on a big piece (this one, for example), it comes to mind. This small reminder that if Smith could do it, I can too. And not because I am better than him, but because he taught me that I have it in myself to do it. That I just need to have faith in my abilities and work hard. It’s cheesy and totally belongs on an inspirational poster, and maybe someday I will make that happen. But really, it’s all 100% true. There are tons of people to thank for assisting me in life, and 37% of the gratitude goes to Kevin Smith.

So, thank you, Mr. Smith, from one New Jersey native to another.

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