They say nice guys finish last, and in a post-feminist era, it’s more true than ever. They don’t know how to grow up-a problem defined viscerally in Fight Club, but also in the movies of Kevin Smith.

In last issue’s Arts section, Sarah Barmak condemns Smith for apparent themes of misogyny in his work. But, despite his juvenile sense of humour, Smith’s core themes are sexual and emotional maturity; not the enforcement of sexual taboos.

The punishment Alyssa suffers in Chasing Amy comes from female friends who criticise her for “selling out” when she refuses to be limited by any narrow definition of sexuality, even “lesbian.” She realizes love means more than who you sleep with. Her boyfriend isn’t as mature, so she dumps him in the end-and it’s clear that Holden’s insecurity, not Alyssa’s sexual history, is to blame for their problems.

In Clerks, Dante’s ex, Caitlin, is “slutty” because she treats him like a toy, not because she’s too sexual. The insecure Dante is disturbed to learn his caring girlfriend has given head to 37 men-but no one is punished. Caitlin gets herself in trouble with her own recklessness (even if it is greatly hyperbolized).

Smith plainly admires liberated yet mature women like Alyssa and Veronica. He goes further and makes God a woman in Dogma (how’s that for slavery to Catholic tradition?)

His morality is nothing more than “be mature, be nice, and be sensible.”

Don’t be insecure like Holden or Dante, don’t use people like Caitlin, and don’t sleep with just anyone.

Avoid “damaged goods” because in-your-face sexuality is more often a fearful attempt to regain control lost to abuse than it is a free exploration. Horrible as this is, victims often lash out at safe targets.

Kind, naive men are wise to avoid being emotional crutches or punching bags for troubled women, just as women are wise to avoid troubled men.

Characters like Jay are obviously intolerant, but that’s the point. Smith’s humour may aim at the gutter, but intolerance, immaturity, and insecurity are the hubris of his male characters-traits to overcome, not emulate.

Silent Bob is Smith’s true representative. He’s got many qualities women admire: he’s sensitive, kind, humble, thoughtful. But he lacks ambition and confidence. He’s a boy wanting to be a man, but unsure how-just like the lads in Smith’s core audience.

Many of them have been bullied all their lives. Barmak says a lot about Smith’s supposed misogyny, but only after a lengthy “misandrous” slam of his fans and characters; referring to them as social misfits; futureless schlubs; and infantile, pathetic, uncouth losers-just the sort of thing they spent their youths having drilled into their identities by every intolerant girl or more aggressive guy they encountered. Are they bullied because they’re losers, or are they losers because they’re bullied?

Many of these young men grow up without fathers in an age of divorce, deadbeat dads, and economic hardship. The only heroes (mature, balanced men) they have to look up to are in comic books and fantasy, because there sure as shit ain’t any in the mainstream. Whoring pro-athletes, pimpin’ hip-hop gangstas, pathetic sitcom dads, and pouty metrosexuals simply don’t cut it as healthy role models.

How are these boys supposed to be confident or mature when they get older? Where would they get realistic gender images in a society that says women should be respected unconditionally while men are to be scorned or pitied?

Men who buy into this double standard are never respected by women, who are totally unaccountable if they happen to be cruel.

The pendulum of gender equality has swung way too far the other way. Women can treat men like shit, and nice guys will blame themselves for it. If they protest, they are dismissed as desperate losers, “stalkers,” or misogynists.

Meanwhile, women complain about the insensitivity of their boyfriends.

Perhaps instead of pitying the boys trying to be men, women might offer respect and encouragement. Remember The Frog Prince? Give a willing boy something to be confident about and he’ll grow into the role.

Just a thought. We’ll be here when you figure it out, ladies.

In the meantime, Kevin, me, and all the other fanboys will enjoy our stupid jokes and hero quests.

We’ll eventually grow up, with or without you, but we no longer have any time or respect for anyone, man or woman, who does not respect us in return.

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