I’m at a point in my life (fresh out of college, working a “real job”, about to get married) where I’ve been granted a new perspective on things. I think about money not as something to be earned, but as something to be saved (For the most part. I’m working on it, honestly). I think of the future in realistic terms, sacrificing the wide-eyed idealism of youth for the hopeful truth of adulthood. I wouldn’t consider myself to be an adult per se (I might be close; I’m not sure yet.), but I wouldn’t consider myself a kid either. The term “young adult” is slung around at mere children, so I’m certainly not one of those. What am I? I really have no idea, which is why Clerks 2 was so appealing to me.
I’m going to refrain from the plot recap hooey found in most reviews and cut to the chase. Why did I like this film? Because it was a reminder of my own existence; it presented damn-near every apprehension I had about growing up in glorious Technicolor.
Let’s face the facts: growing up is total bullshit. You can’t mooch off of parents (or future in-laws) forever. There is a point where the comfortable existence you’ve established over your entire life is completely upended, and you are faced with the fundamental question posed to every moving being in the animal kingdom: Are you going to evolve or die?
The characters in Clerks 2 seemingly have chosen the latter, leaving themselves to rot in a shitty job that pays even shittier money. From what we can tell, flipping burgers is their highest form of social interaction, short of the car ride from their co-worker’s house to work. But have they really chosen to relinquish themselves to the fate of the failed American dream, or are they just off to a slow start?
I’d like to think that they are taking things slow. Extremely slow. It’s been ten years since the first film, and they don’t seem to have grown up at all. They’re still bitching about their jobs, bitching about their girlfriends (or lack thereof) and they’re still bitching about the one thing that everyone on the planet likes to bitch about: life. Has life dealt them an awful hand? Nope, they’re just lazy fucks.
This is where I come in. I’m currently working a job that I don’t particularly care that much for. I, much like Shaquille O’Neal, am in it for the money. But unlike Shaquille O’Neal, I don’t make much of it. I make enough to not sink into poverty but not nearly enough to comfortably distance myself from it. I’m not doing what I would like to be doing, and wouldn’t you know it? I don’t know what I want to do.
Like Dante and Randall I’ve sacrificed personal fulfillment for security, which is a sacrifice I’m definitely not the first person to make. I grew up with the idea that going to college would get me a job and pay me good money. Guess what. I went to college. I got a job. Compared with not working, I’d even say it’s a good one. I make okay money, but I’m not even touching the salary I was all but promised when I signed up for college.
Dante, Randall, I, and almost everyone I know are part of a group of individuals that was fundamentally duped into believing that education means something. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go to college. If you want to be a doctor, please go to college. If you want to be a lawyer, please go to college. But if you want to be a graphic designer (like I presently am), why the fuck do you have to spend $40,000 on a degree to prove to someone that you know how to add a lense-flare to a photo using the magic that is Photoshop? It’s a job that virtually anyone can do if given a small amount of training. By “small” I mean: “Here’s the mouse, click around until you make something.” Schools like the one I went to (The Illinois Institute of Art) churn out utterly worthless graduates who get jobs because they work for cheap and don’t know any better, and because no one knows what good graphic design looks like and no one cares.
So what does this predicament have to do with Clerks 2? Well, it all boils down to disillusionment, to the fact that the magic show you thought you had waiting at the end of your high school or college career is really just a douchebag hiding a rabbit in his pants. It’s like when the trailer for a movie is better than the movie itself, except this movie is life, and the trailer is all the bullshit that your parents, peers and teachers force-fed you in high school: “Go to college, get a job, make good money.” College was boring and useless. The job where I can use my talents effectively does not exist, and everything is so expensive that, unless I plan on suing someone, winning the lottery or marrying then killing some old broad for the insurance money, I’m not going to be rolling in the dough any time soon.
But it’s not like there isn’t hope. I’m young, and I still have a lot ahead of me. I’m going to get married, eventually buy my own home and have kids. Who knows? I may eventually get a job that I absolutely love.
In Clerks 2 Dante and Randall finally have the heart-to-heart that the fans of the original film secretly wanted them to have. After the events of the first film, Dante and Randall went to college, they eventually just stopped going after wasting their time for years, perhaps something a lot of us would have liked to do. Randall sums up his feelings on education, and in turn my feelings on education, “One semester we took criminology for God's sake! Criminology! Who the fuck are we studying to be, Batman?” You go to school for years with every intent of doing professionally what you’re doing in school. What Randall is saying is, if you have no idea what you want to be, why waste your time (and money) pretending to be something?
The movie ends gloriously with a slight “fuck you!” to the establishment. Isn’t the daydream of everyone who works in a humdrum office the idea that if they ran the place, things would be different? Well, let’s just say Dante and Randall finally take the shit on the pot that they’ve been sitting on for over a decade.