‘Cruel Summer’: The 1990s Was The Perfect Spot For Harley Quinn Smith’s ‘Clerks’ Reference

Cruel Summer is the breakout show of the, well, almost summer. It takes place in the ‘90s, which is one of the most popular nostalgic eras at the moment because so many millennials lived through it. It also has great music, which the show uses in great ways. And in the Freeform show’s fifth episode, there was a fun reference to a popular Kevin Smith movie which, of course, is a big connection to one of the leads, Harley Quinn Smith. [Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead for Cruel Summer, through episode 8]. 

Harley Quinn Smith’s character, Mallory, referenced her dad’s most famous film

'CRUEL SUMMER' "As The Carny Gods Intended" Episode 5, Harley Quinn Smith as Mallory and Olivia Holt as Kate Wallis in 1995 at the carnival
‘CRUEL SUMMER’ “As The Carny Gods Intended” Episode 5, Harley Quinn Smith as Mallory and Olivia Holt as Kate Wallis in 1995 at the carnival | Bill Matlock/Freeform via Getty Images

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The show takes place in Texas and focuses on Jeanette Turner, at first, in three different, consecutive years. Her life becomes intertwined with Kate Wallis’ when Kate goes missing, comes back, and accuses Jeanette of knowing Kate’s whereabouts the entire time without telling anyone. 

As the season progresses, the audience realizes that maybe Jeanette did know more than she let on, but Kate’s story isn’t as solid as she initially said either. It’s all full of twists and mystery, and it’s all very compelling. In the mix of it all, Jeanette lost her best friend Mallory.

Mallory is also pretty uncool, like Jeanette, in 1993, but she’s the bossy one of their group. But she actually ends up befriending Kate later in 1994 when Kate returns and shuns her old life. 

Episode 5 revolves around an annual carnival in all 3 years, and in 1995, Mallory makes a comment to Kate about going home to watch Clerks again. Clerks, is of course Kevin Smith’s biggest movie, and Harley Quinn Smith is his daughter. 

Showrunner Tia Napolitano was warned that Smith might not like it, but it ended up being a hit

Kevin Smith has done a ton of other stuff since Clerks, which came out in 1994. But setting the scene in the ‘90s, with these two grungy teens was the perfect moment to bring up Clerks. And nearly genius to have Smith deliver the line in a nice Easter egg for fans of her father’s. But it almost didn’t happen. 

While speaking with CinemaBlend in May, Cruel Summer executive producer and showrunner Tia Napolitano said that they didn’t if Harley Quinn Smith was going to be down to say the line or not. 

The Clerks joke!… The Clerks joke was my idea,” she said. “And I was warned, ‘Oh, Harley’s not going to want to say that.’ And she loved it. You know, it’s a big episode for their house! Her boyfriend’s in it, and there’s a Clerk‘s reference. It was really fun. She was totally game and is just a delight.”

Napolitano revealed that they watched episode 5 with Smith and Smith’s boyfriend Austin Zajur who has a small role in that episode as Gideon, Jeanette’s blind date to the carnival in 1993. 

“The Clerks joke landed and the crowd just erupted,” she said.  

And, of course, Kevin Smith adored the line

What did Kevin Smith have to think about it himself? He, of course, loved it. If you follow Smith on social media, you’ll 1) Realize that he posts a ton. And 2) Know that he can’t share enough about how proud he is about his daughter and all that she does. So of course, he had to talk about when his two worlds collided. 

“The buzzy @freeform show that @harleyquinnsmith is part of, the time-hopping mystery series @cruelsummer, takes place in the mid-90’s. So while I’m sure my Kid was simply mortified to have to deliver this pop-culturally-accurate line of dialogue, I was obviously tickled by it!” Smith wrote about the Clerks line. “Back in the actual 90’s, I never imagined while we were making my flick fulla pop cultural references that it might become somebody else’s pop cultural reference!”

He then wrote that it was “Just another reason I’m grateful to have made it out of that heart attack alive.” This is in reference to the nearly fatal heart attack he had in February 2018.

“Otherwise I’d have missed super sweet shit like this!” he wrote. “I do have one question for @olivia_holt though: How long are you gonna put off watching #Clerks? #prouddad #90s.”

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