The territorial aspect of Kevin Smith’s films can’t be fully appreciated unless you are from New Jersey. If you’re from Pittsburgh, PA or Peoria, IL, the effect is not exactly the same. It’s like the way that people from Dallas felt a part of the long running prime time soap based on the Texas city, and it’s also no different than the way people in Philly connect with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. If you’re an outsider you probably didn’t know that the people who suit up as Easter Bunnies at malls in Central New Jersey have a bad chip on their shoulder, so don’t f*ck with them!
This doesn’t mean that if you are a non-Jerseyan you like Mallrats less than us, it’s just in a different way. Much like Clerks, it was a thrill when I first saw Mallrats in the theater since there were so many references to the local area. The mall scenes in Mallrats were not filmed in Jersey, but Brodie mentions Menlo Park Mall in Edison, New Jersey. Menlo Park Mall was quite an institution. It was one of those places where my family and everyone we knew would be at constantly. I have fond memories of it, especially before it’s revamp in the early ’90s.
Along with the above Easter Bunny scene, Mallrats also has an exterior shot of the old U.S #1 Flea Market. It was a legendary emporium that I also used to frequent a lot as a kid with my family. The flea market closed years ago to make way for a Loews Cineplex, which has since been taken over by AMC Theaters.
Back in 1995, even though it was merely through a couple of quick references, Smith provided a completely fresh take on Jersey in Mallrats. He put Jersey on a pedestal, years before it was considered trendy. When Kevin Smith was originally embracing his home state there were no reality shows, and especially none that took place in Jersey. At that time Jersey wasn’t getting a lot of play in movies either, and when it did, it was usually the butt of a joke.
Smith also pioneered the fact that it was cool to be a geek. I can’t claim that trend to have originated in New Jersey but I can tell you that since then Seth Cohen from the O.C and the guys on Big Bang Theory as well as many others have been proud of their geeky lifestyle. They can thank Kevin Smith for making Brodie one of the coolest S.O.B’s in the history of movies. He’s literally a fanboy icon. I used to think that if a guy who liked comic books and video games as much as Brodie did could be that cool, it just reassured me that there were others like me out there. Although I doubt I’d ever choose a game of NHL Hockey on Genesis over a roll in the hay with a bitter, post 90210 Shannen Doherty, but that’s another story.
Smith’s films have helped geeks become proud of their fixations and he’s created films that have upped New Jersey’s coolness factor. For example, after Mallrats came out, people in Tonganoxie, Kansas thought we slackers in Jersey were pretty f’n rad, and meticulous with our comic book collections. I have news for you, we still are.