You know what would be Kevin Smith’s biggest power move yet? He’s made a lot in his life and career. Like, a lot. But the biggest wouldn’t be going from a no-budget, no-big-name, no-studio-support indie movie to a huge, multimillion dollar franchise studded with more stars than a smog-free night sky (but wow, what a journey). Nor would it be successfully bringing the controversial and lovingly subversive Dogma into the world, despite the Catholic League’s furious protests (though gosh, that really just makes the whole thing even better). Not even surviving the near-lethal heart attack dubbed the Widowmaker, totally transforming his life, body and, from the sounds of it, emotional heart as well as physical (but that’s still such a good thing to see).
Nah. The ultimate Kevin Smith power move would be for the upcoming Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, a film he wrote to be (but probably/hopefully won’t be) the climactic, final movie of his decades-long career, to demonstrate that the titular “hetero life-mates” aren’t actually all that hetero. Either with their characteristic in-your-face enthusiasm, or simply and casually. Like it’s no big deal. Because it isn’t, really (except that it is).
And let’s be real… he kind of already has.
Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) are pretty queer right now. In fact, they’re so loud and blatant that it’s kind of amazing nobody seems to genuinely pick up on it. Sure, at first glance they seem like pure straight-dude culture, even if some of the films in which they appear, like 1998’s Chasing Amy, have more insightful nuance on sexuality and toxic masculinity than most present-day films on the subject. I’ve always found their jokes fond and ‘laughing-with’ instead of mean-spirited or ‘laughing-at.’ And here’s the thing: I’m starting to think they weren’t actually jokes at all.
So, I’m not saying they—Jay and Bob—are gay. Exactly. There are as many different ways to be queer as there are queer people themselves (and there are a lot of us). The term “life-mate” makes me think about asexual and aromantic bonds, which are often dismissed as secondary to romantic or sexual relationships, if they’re even acknowledged at all. Do you know how happy I would be, as an a-spec nerd, for Jay and Silent Bob to be confirmed as queerplatonic? Something I’d say even most queer folks don’t know exists? I’d be backflipping over the freaking moon. But I honestly don’t think that’s the case here.
First of all, this isn’t a case of queerbaiting, the cruel but sadly usual practice of (straight) creators of a movie or TV show dangling queer representation over an audience’s heads but being too wimpy to actually confirm it and risk losing a straight audience’s dollars. Perpetrators of that know exactly what they’re doing, and this definitely isn’t that.
Because Jay, at least, is actually factually bi. Kevin Smith, who’s described himself more than once as a “bi-curious bear”—has gone on record in the July 2000 issue of The Advocate saying that he’s playing a kind of bait-and-switch game: rope in an audience with dick jokes and funny escapades, then hit them with an emotional gut-punch that forces them to face something real and raw.
“Periodically, I’ll hear from a fan who says ‘Hey, man, why’d you make Jay queer all of a sudden?” laughs the irreverent Smith, 29. “I’ll just say, ‘Dude, calm down.’ Jay–who’s always talking about women–is a character a lot of young hetero guys identify with. But I think Jay’s really ambisexual [sic]. So it’s nice to throw them a curveball to open up their perspective a bit. If I can lead a few cats into being a bit more tolerant, I feel pretty good.”
For twenty-five years, Jay’s been a Trojan Horse: the outside comprised of yelled vulgarity and naked dances (like the infamous Goodbye Horses dance from Silence of the Lambs, which raises some gender questions as well as sexuality, honestly), but with a trove of “queer people are everywhere, and you probably already know and love several, or might actually be one” on the inside.
But Jay has not just been Word-of-God-ded with “Rowling” style representation claimed after the fact for brownie points, with little to back it up. In his first actual scene in Clerks, Jay calls Bob cute as hell and says he’d love to not just suck him off, but “line up two other guys and make like a circus seal” complete with some head-bobbing blowjob motions. In Dogma, we learn from a reliable source that he masturbates more than anyone else on the entire planet—and when he does it, he’s thinking about guys (which Bob seems to find pretty interesting). And in every movie they’re in together, they’re all over each other, hugging and grinding and sleeping on each other and generally interacting in a way that straight guys just do not do with their straight guy friends, at least in public (and especially not in the 90s-early 2000s).
Jay also yells a lot about screwing guys, shortly followed by an unconvincing “I HATE GUYS—I LOVE WOMEN!!!”. Maybe his now-ubiquitous “Snoogans!” (which we’re told in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back means “kidding!”, like a variation on Wayne’s World’s immortalized “NOT!”) is a way for Jay to safely express his sexuality and true desires, while quickly negating them, even to himself, in a silly, ‘just joking’ way.
All of this is a prime example of the repeated Kevin Smith movie pattern: the ever-present emphasis on intimate dude relationships, both with the main duos (Dante/Randal in Clerks, Brodie/TS in Mallrats, Bartleby/Loki in Dogma) and these two Rozencrantz and Gildestern-esque jokers, Jay and Bob, whose interactions stop just short (usually, hi Banky and Hooper) of inarguably-confirmed-on-screen-queerness.
But some patterns, like rules, are made to be broken, and I think now is the time. It’s been a long time since Clerks 2; where they might not have gotten away with the biggest Askewniverse stars being canonically ‘a thing’, they definitely could now.
Plus, look out a window. Everything’s on fire, with the queer community somewhere very close to the middle of the blaze. We could really use a couple tall glasses of water right about now.
I know, some of you are going to say “Really? This vulgar, loud, walking hypersexualized stereotype? That’s who you want to ‘make queer?’ (Referring to Jay, of course. Silent Bob’s always been a pretty reasonable, chill dude.) Well, like I said, Jay’s been bisexual for decades – but you know, you raise a good point. Jay is not a wholesome, unproblematic queer, which the internet seems to have a problem with. We have endless arguments about whether something is good representation or not, with queer and trans characters being held to a much higher standard of moral, and often physical, purity. Jay isn’t that, and it’s kind of refreshing. I, in a fit of pre-coffee Twitter brilliance, once described him as a “veritable Hindenberg of bisexuality”, which remains both the best and most accurate thing I have ever tweeted. Jay is absolutely not the ‘pure cinnamon roll’ queer rep we by now expect, but he’s the messy, earnest, defiantly unashamed, true-to-life beautiful disaster we deserve.
So yeah, we already have a Word of God confirmation and that’s incredible, and something I wish more people acknowledged, but I’ll do you – and all of us – one better.
I want it on the screen.
More than it already has been. As we’ve seen, some of the stuff they’ve done and said is pretty freaking inarguable, but the vast majority of the (hetero) audience is not going to ”see it” without some serious flashing neon signs – and that is what I want: the removal of ambiguity and doubt, so obvious that even the straightest of dudebros would be unable to deny its presence.
The supplemental comic Chasing Dogma is a pretty clear step in the right direction, to begin with.
But I want a kiss. More direct and prominent than the ones they’ve had before, like Jay kissing Bob’s cheek in Mallrats—“where do you get those wonderful toys?”—and if we’re being generous, him mashing his face right against Bob’s to talk to him in Strike Back would probably count. I’m talking lip-lock. Full frontal mouth to mouth. It’s what they deserve, it’s what we deserve, and it just seems like the natural progression in their weed-scented journey through life.
Listen, I’m not (always) a fool. This dystopian hellscape of a timeline has trained me not to hope. But this time, I’m going to dare to step beyond the defensive layers of extremely online irony and nihilistic self-deprecating sarcasm and admit from the bottom of my tired, battered Millennial heart, that a for-realsies Jay/Bob relationship confirmation is something I want very much.
And heck, I want them – Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, whose unabashed and frequently-expressed, often heteronormativity-defying, fervent love for one another is a wonderful bright spot in a shit-stained world – to feel secure enough to do that and know that they’re loved and respected enough that any leaps of faith they take would be rewarded. Especially now, in these Godforsaken times, I want queer audiences, especially young ones who might be discovering these guys for the first time in the Reboot, to feel like they’re not reading too much into it or making up what they want to see, that they are real and okay and accepted, and they get to have ridiculous, fun, awesome adventures too.
If a magic genie one day descended unto me and offered me three wishes – right after world peace and leaders who actually pay attention to the fact that we’re basically microwaving our planet – I would ask that they did end up together in Reboot and that should any bigoted backlash occur, Kevin Smith would say something like this:
“Yeah, they’re queer. They’re together. And if you’re surprised by this, if you think it comes out of nowhere, you haven’t really been watching these movies. Nothing‘s CHANGED. They’re still the same as they’ve ever been, because, the iconic stoner duo that straight white Gen-X dudes have idolized for decades, household-name entities of dick-joke chaos? They’ve always been queer. All that’s been removed is the bogus assumption of the hetero-norm. All the intimacy and loyalty and enduring, not-quite-hetero life-mate affection they’ve shown over the years, while making us laugh? Those weren’t jokes, but here’s the punchline: they’re here, they’re queer. Get used to it.”
Yeah, everything is still on fire, from the Amazon to the tenants of basic human rights. But laughter is important too. God, we need to be reminded that it’s okay to laugh and live instead of just survive, now more than ever, and when laughter and authentic truth collide, they can encourage and heal and affirm life. We need this. We need people like them.
They’re here. They’re queer. They’re very used to it, actually, they’re life-mates already, and now it’s our turn to get there. They’re Jay and Silent Bob, they’ve always been together; it’s a universal constant. All it would take to let them be themselves is dropping one word. But even if nothing comes of any of these hopes, and the movie we get is another round of not-quite-centered but still pretty queer fun, they’ll always belong together, in every way. And I’ll always be glad they’re here.