Easter Bunny Blasphemy!

JAY: “You’re f*cking kidding me, the Easter Bunny did this?
BRODIE: “All I said was the Easter Bunny at the Menlo Park Mall was more 
convincing and he just jumped the railing and knocked me down”
JAY: “He’s f*ckin’ dead…”
BRODIE: “Oh, let it go he’s under a lot of pressure.”
T.S: “What the hell happened to him?”
JAY: “The guy in the Easter Bunny suit kicked his ass!”

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.

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.1

Referred to in the film Mallrats as “The Dirt Mall,” the defunct US1 Flea Market was a notorious local landmark. Why is footage of a plain old indoor Flea Market such a great pop culture moment? Well, if you’re from the central part of New Jersey you’ve probably shopped there many times. Jersey boy Kevin Smith proudly or perhaps not so proudly displayed this
flea market. Now, not only New Jersey nostalgia buffs but all moviegoers can see it. Thankfully, I’ll never forget how this place looked because the US1 Flea Market in New Brunswick, New Jersey will forever be emblazoned on DVD! Thanks Silent Bob, Snootchie Bootchies! (berzerker attack)

When I was a kid in the ’80s (gosh such a long time ago! lol) it was a big treat to come shopping at the US1 Flea Market because I knew I would most likely get some sort of collectible, or “way out there” addition to my collection. It was possible to go in there with the $10 allowance money I had saved up and leave with a bag of random stuff. I remember one time I came home with a Samantha Fox poster, and a 3-D G.I Joe comic book among other cool schwag. Not too bad for a kid about 7 years old. Bless my parents for having such a libidinous, well read boy…well at least in 3-D.

Maybe Smith was making a statement about the shift in consumerism? In contrast to the beautiful sparkling malls that began to emerge in the late ’80s and early ’90s, this old flea market seems almost archaic. Better or worse, indoor malls changed shopping for all of us! No longer was I able to pick up comic books, rock music pins for my jean jacket, and KISS t-shirts all for $10 bucks or less in the same building. Since then, malls in my area have always failed to impress me. Throughout the years it’s been an uphill battle to keep a comic store in business in our local malls. It always seemed like they weren’t able to pay the high rent. Immediately, children’s clothing stores and nail salons would snatch up the empty space. What other way were we supposed to buy vintage collectibles, toys, and posters of Susanna Hoffs? What if my Real Ghostbusters pencil with the Slimer pencil topper broke and I needed a new one? Malls by us didn’t always carry obscure stuff, so without the flea market we had to look out for a garage sale or an ad in a newspaper. That was too much work! Boy am I glad the Internet decided to weasel its way into our lives!

The site of the old US1 Flea Market is now an AMC 18-plex Movie Theater that I’ve gone to frequently since it opened. I actually worked there a few times too since it owned the Menlo Park Mall theater which I worked at for several years. It’s a nice place if you could get past the corpse buried in the parking lot.