Gen X then & later (Coming of Age week): Revisiting Clerks and Clerks 2 

(Coming of Age Week)

I love a good coming of age story. Who doesn’t? But as I get older, I look back and realize that most films in this particular genre only encompass that transition from late teens to early twenties, or that period of time right after college. While those stories spoke to me then, I’ve since gained ten years on both age groups.

That’s right, I’m getting old. Now I watch coming of age stories as if they’re a window into some distant past. I’ve had some of those experiences and I can still relate, but I am so far removed that the point in which they resonate is lacking.

So, when tasked to write about a coming of age story, I struggled. Partially because I’m losing my memory due to age and had to be reminded what a computer and the internet are, but mostly because it was difficult to think of something that somehow still speaks to me. Something that shows that even in your thirties, you’re still “coming of age.”

So, between complaining about the government and kids nowadays, I looked through my movie collection. I spent hours mulling over in my brain what to write about. Then it hit me, man, my life has not gone the way that I hoped or wanted. But, in that moment, I knew what to write about.

Now I was only ten when the first Clerks movie came out, and in my early twenties when the second one did. But, I gave them a watch this week. I found that they hit me in the heart feels in a way that other movies in this genre just can’t manage anymore. It has everything to do with the fact that its not just a one off. Both movies together cover the struggle of not just growing up and being an adult, but just getting older in general.

Clerks does a wonderful job of showing what its like to be in your twenties and have no direction. What its like when you’re not a college student and you’re teetering between teen and adulthood and the blatant immaturity and naivety that comes with thinking yourself an adult, but in reality, being a giant child. Through the course of one day we see the internal struggle of not knowing what direction you want to take in life made vocal. We see the struggle of unhealthy and misguided love and the struggle of friendships in such a tumultuous time.

The beauty of it is that there is no real resolution to that struggle. The movie leaves with a young adult feeling a bit better and more motivated, but having made no real step towards anything. Which is just like life. We constantly motivate and ultimately let ourselves down about doing something different with our lives. Though everyone speaks in monologue, which is as unrealistic as it gets, the emotional states that those monologues convey hit very close to reality. Let’s just be happy that the original ending didn’t stay in, because with that ending we would have never got Clerks II.

clerks-2

Clerks II opens up a decade or so later, and we realize that the characters we followed in the first, didn’t make any significant steps, which is all too realistic for so many of us in this world. They still have crap jobs and focus on the things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. It shows that they still aren’t content.

The movie shows the results of the apathy of youth and the problem with always thinking that you still have time. But that time gets shorter and shorter the older you get. Now in their thirties and still at dead end jobs, we see the sparks of change and how that change may be wrong or right and how those changes can strain even the most consistent of relationships.

We see someone making a move to better their life while seemingly leaving the people that have been there for him all these years behind. It’s a movie that shows that no matter how old you are, you’re always coming of age. Each year in a life offers new and difficult struggles. You never get away from that. We always want more for ourselves. Clerks II asks when is it time to actually make a move? What moves should we take? Do we take the guaranteed comfort of the easy choice, or do we take the path of most resistance, that if successful can give us everything we want?

The struggles present are still universal. Its hard to see everyone you went to high school with being successful while you see yourself as a failure. Love will never be simple and it never gets easier. Its hard to choose between your future and giving up the people and things of your past.

I realize that its hard to see these messages through the vulgarity. But, between fornicating with dead bodies and watching messed up donkey shows, Clerks and Clerks II teaches us one of the most important lessons you can be taught, and that’s the fact that we never stop growing. There is no one point in life where you finally figure it all out. We are always coming of age.

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