The Metatron: I am to charge you with a holy crusade. Kevin Smith
Bethany Sloane: For the record, I work in an abortion clinic.
The Metatron: Noah was a drunk, and look what he accomplished—and no one's asking you to build an ark!
decided to take The View Askewniverse
into the realm of religion with Dogma
. May God have mercy on our souls.
Late one night, abortion clinic employee Bethany receives a visit from The Metatron
, the angel who acts as the voice of God
("Any documented occasion when some yahoo claims God has spoken to them, they're speaking to me")note
. The Metatron tasks Bethany with a holy mission
: she must visit a Catholic church in New Jersey on a specific day to prevent disgraced angels Bartleby
from taking advantage of a special absolution ceremony being held there. The ceremony would grant forgiveness to anyone
sin, and because the Bible says God must hold true in Heaven what holds true on Earth, this ceremony would allow the angels to return to Heaven.
The angels' potential absolution presents a big problem: God had specifically barred them from ever
returning to Heaven, so their dogmatic absolution would disprove God's infallibility—and bring an end to all existence
. Since God cannot directly interfere with the angels' plan, Bethany must do the job herself.
Jay and Silent Bob turn up as "prophets" sent to guide Bethany, and the trio later finds allies in disgruntled apostle Rufus
and muse-turned-stripper Serendipity
—but even with God's blessing on their side, the group's mission grows more difficult thanks to someone working behind the scenes to ensure the absolution of Bartleby and Loki...
Around the time of the film's release, Kevin Smith heard of a group of people
planning to picket Dogma
at a theater near his hometown, so he decided to go and help picket his own film
. When he arrived, less than two dozen people had actually showed up for the "protest", including the reporter and camera crew for a local TV station who recognized him
Dogma gives holy blessings to the following tropes:
- Big Good: John Doe Jersey, it was told that after his Skeeball game, he likes to give the prize tickets to the local kids.
- Black Comedy: The boardroom scene, especially the ending.
- After the angels' massacre at the cathedral, the huge Catholicism Wow! banner has been torn so that it reads Catholicism- Ow!
- Celestial Bureaucracy: The whole premise revolves around a loophole in Catholic Dogma.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The inability of humans to withstand hearing God's voice is revealed early on in the plot. It turns out to be how God dispatches Bartleby at the film's climax.
- Also, the blessed golf clubs.
- The most important Gun in the film are the facts that God is missing, God loves skee ball, and there's an anonymous old man in a coma who got beaten up in the very first scene and happens to be in a hospital down the street from the church...
- The Chessmaster: Metatron. Azrael is also one, despite being an Omnicidal Maniac.
- Christianity Is Catholic: Catholic law is the main reason why the universe is in peril.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Cardinal Glick is "the kind of idiot who would bless his own clubs for a better golf game." Azrael found that out the hard way.
- Continuity Nod:
- Jay & Silent Bob have the tickets to Illinois in their pocket during their scene in Chasing Amy.
- When Bethany tells Jay and Silent Bob that she didn't take them out for sex, Jay says he's okay with head.
- When talking to "Larry" and "Barry", Jay talks about trying to wreck the Dating Game stage in Mallrats. Another reference to that film is one of the news vans at the church has "KREL 6 News" on it; they were the station that produced Truth or Date (or at least broadcast it).
- In the end, Jay says they should go to the Quick Stop.
- Crapsack World: Quite a few of the characters believe this to be the case.
- Creator Cameo: Besides the obvious (Smith as Bob), producer Scott Mosier is the adulterer on the bus.
- Crossover Cosmology: Loki is the name of the Norse god of mischief and muses come from Greek mythology.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Jay and Bob make their entrance by beating up three demons, for crying out loud. Badass Normal indeed.
- Divine Race Lift: God as a woman, Jesus (and Rufus) being black. Since it's God in disguise, that's pretty much adding more to the niceness.
- Dramatic Irony: The scene on the train where our heroes and the angels meet, yet don't realize who the other group is until well into the scene.
- Another example is the (presumably) Christian folk protesting pulling the plug on the John Doe who turns out to be God Herself. If only someone had told them that pulling that particular plug would save reality as we know it...
- Drives Like Crazy: Jay burns out the transmission on the heroes' car going around 100mph.
Bethany: What gear are you in?
(cut to hood open, smoke pouring out)
Jay: Well, what do I know about shifting?
- Dumbass Has a Point: It is Jay who recommends the idea of trying to get Glick to close the church. Even the Metatron is surprised. No one seems to notice that it's Silent Bob's idea.
Metatron: Good lord, the little stoner has a point.
- Dynamic Entry: spoiler:Jay and Silent Bob during their Big Damn Heroes moment.
- The End of the World as We Know It: The total cessation of existence that would occur if Bartelby and Loki complete their plan.
- Enfant Terrible: The Stygian Triplets. In the original script, Rufus explained that they're three teenagers who, while alive, beat a toddler to death. The actors who played them were only fifteen or sixteen at the time the film was made.
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: In-universe example—Loki explains to a nun at the beginning that the Walrus and the Carpenter scene from Through the Looking Glass is a scathing attack on Christianity, which she finds so compelling that she abandons the cloth. Subverted, though, when it turns out that Loki doesn't really believe his little explanation. He's just screwing with her for kicks. He also says it's a scathing attack on Buddhism and Hinduism, and by relation, the very concept of religion.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Implied by Azrael that Lucifer doesn't like the loophole plan, because it makes him look bad.
- Exposition of Immortality: Various conversations between characters evoke this. Bartleby and Loki idly discussing the tiring nature of raining fire and brimstone at Sodom and Gomorrah whilst purchasing handguns and their later argument about Bartleby reminding Loki of Lucifer.
- Face Palm: Bethany's reaction to Rufus trying and completely failing to terrify Cardinal Glick into acquiescing to his request to close the church.
- Famous Last Words
Azrael: But... I'm a fucking demon...
- Faux Symbolism: Invoked and Played for Laughs, the angels' see religious parallels throughout popular culture, but it's at least partially them just screwing with humanity. Take Loki's "interpretation" of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" from Through the Looking-Glass:
Nun: Let me get this straight: you don't believe in God because of Alice in Wonderland?
Loki: No, "Through the Looking-Glass". That poem, "The Walrus and the Carpenter," that's an indictment of organized religion. The walrus, with his girth and his good nature, he obviously represents either Buddha, or, or with his tusks, the Hindu elephant god, Lord Ganesha. That takes care of your Eastern religions. Now the carpenter, which is an obvious reference to Jesus Christ, who was raised a carpenter's son, he represents the Western religions. Now in the poem, what do they do? What do they do? They, they dupe all these oysters into following them and then proceed to shuck and devour the helpless creatures en masse. I don't know what that says to you, but to me it says that following these faiths based on mythological figures ensures the destruction of one's inner being. Organized religion destroys who we are by inhibiting our actions, by inhibiting our decisions out of, out of fear of some, some intangible parent figure who, who shakes a finger at us from thousands of years ago and says, and says, "Do it... do it and I'll fuckin' spank you."
- Fate Worse Than Death: Bartleby and Loki were forced to stay on Earth (Wisconsin, to be more precise) until the Rapture—and then, they have to stay outside Heaven for all eternity. This was fully explained in a deleted scene where it was revealed that Hell was originally "just" the absence of God; because humans believe that God would never forgive them for their sins and (subconsciously) beg to be punished, Hell gradually transformed into a "suffering pit" where horrible things happen—things so horrible, even the fallen angels can't stand the howling of the damned.
Azrael: Have you ever been to Hell, human? I'd rather not exist than go back there.
- Five-Man Band:
- Flat Earth Atheist: Parodied.
Bartleby: Here's what I don't get. You know for a fact that there is a God. You have stood in His presence, He has spoken to you personally—and yet I just heard you claim to be an atheist.
Loki: I just love fucking with the clergy, man. I love it, I love it. Gotta keep those fuckers on their toes.
- Flipping the Bird: The jaywalking bit of Loki's resignation as the Angel of Death.
- Foreshadowing: In the airport at the beginning of the film, Loki and Bartleby are introduced with their subtitled names on screen; later on, the demon Azrael gets the same intro. The only other character who gets a subtitle intro is Bethany, who seems to be an ordinary human, but turns out to be the Last Scion; another supernatural being.
- Funny Background Event: While Loki and Bartleby are on the moving sidewalk in the airport, the nun from Loki's earlier conversation is apparently drunk and running away with a big mug of beer.
- Go-Karting with Bowser: Bethany and Bartleby have a heart to heart talk on religion, while Loki and Jay bond over smoking joints on the train; each unaware that the other is one of the people they're trying to track down.
- God in Human Form: How God indulges his Skiball obsession.
- God Is Inept: Played With. The plot is based on a contradiction between God's actual laws of Creation and what the Catholic Church say the laws are.
- Godly Sidestep: After the heroes save God, the day, and the universe, the main character asks to be told the meaning of life. God simply giggles and runs away.
- However, her actions seem to imply that the reason may simply be because It Amused Me.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: While God, Angels, and Demons apparently exist independently of humans, they're definitely affected by the way humans believe in them.
- Gratuitous German: Ben Affleck apparently decided that German was the language of angels. When Bob is throwing him from the train, he yells "I'll get you, Schülernote Bob!", apparently assuming it meant "Silent." Or possibly because they sound somewhat alike and he thought Bartleby would have misheard Silent Bob's name or something.
- Guns Do Not Work That Way: Loki's single-action Desert Eagle somehow manages to fire without having the hammer cocked. (Explanation: The gun is a non-functioning prop. The shooting all happens offscreen, so it never has to actually work.)
- Have You Seen My God?: The main plot driver (aside from the cardinal's driver).
- Heel Face Door Slam: At the climax of the film, Loki has a change of heart and tries to stop Bartleby. Bartleby promptly and unrepentantly murders him. Before this, Bartleby lampshades Loki's change of heart by explaining since his wings were cut off and he became human, he now has a conscience.
- Heroic BSOD: Bethany eventually cracks under the sheer burden she's been put under, though is persuaded to resume her mission.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Invoked and lampshaded: "I'm Jay, and this is my hetero lifemate, Silent Bob." Bartleby and Loki would count, except that neither of them have dicks, making them asexual life partners.
- Hollywood Atheist: Bethany, but she slowly regains her faith during the movie.
- Also Liz, her friend from the abortion clinic.
- "I Am" Song: The end credits song "Still" by Alanis Morrisette is about God seeing Herself manifest in all human virtues and vices.
- Ironic Echo: After Silent Bob offs Azrael with Cardinal Glick's stolen (blessed) driver:
Serendipity (using his voice): He said it himself; he's "a fucking demon."
- Insistent Terminology: Rufus corrects Bethany's characterization of him as "undead" by saying "not the undead, the dead."
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Metatron. When he first talks to Bethany, he's rather rude and snarky, and refuses to give her questions any straightforward answers. Later, though, it's revealed that he has nothing but sympathy for her. Jay and Silent Bob are more obvious examples.
- Jesus: The Early Years: The Metatron told Jesus who He was at the age of 12; the gap is the result of one enormous Heroic BSOD as He tries to come to terms with that fact.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Even if He does owe Rufus twelve bucks.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Bartleby absolutely flips after he finds out about what will happen if his quest for absolution is complete.
The humans have besmirched everything bestowed on them. They were given Paradise, they threw it away. They were given this planet, they destroyed it. They were favored best among all His endeavors, and some of them don't even believe He exists. And in spite of it all, He's shown them infinite fucking patience at every turn. What about us? I asked you, once, to lay down the sword because I felt sorry for them. What was the result? Our expulsion from Paradise. Where was His infinite fucking patience then? It's not right! It's not fair! We've paid our debt! Don't you think it's time? Don't you think it's time we went home? And to do that, I think we have to dispatch our would-be dispatchers. (...) Don't let your sympathies get the best of you. They did me, once. Scion or not, she's still just a human, and by passing through that arch, our sins are forgiven. No harm, no foul.
- Just Between You and Me: Defied and lampshaded, when the Big Bad begins talking about his plan, he only reveals the details of what they already know about, he pointedly doesn't give them any hints about what he did to incapacitate God.
Azrael: Oh no. I've seen way too many Bond movies to know that you never reveal all the details of your plan, no matter how close you may think you are to winning.
- Kick the Dog: Bartleby massacring dozens of innocents at the church to draw the police, followed by telling Bethany that, unlike him, she doesn't know the man that abandoned her is perfectly happy without her—and by the way, he is.
- King of All Cosmos: God is best expressed as a wide-eyed, giggling, beautiful young woman, played by Alanis Morissette. (Alternately, as a cheerful, fat old man who likes playing skee ball.)
- Knight Templar: Bartleby and Loki's original plan, which has Gone Horribly Wrong.
- Kubrick Stare: This seems to be the default expression for the long-haired Stygian triplet.
- Large Ham: Glick, Azrael and special mention to Metatron, whose entrance is the very epitome of this trope, but the rest of Rickman's performance is surprisingly un-hamlike.
- Loki is an in-universe example during the Mooby boardroom, Bartleby tries to dial him back.
- Lampshaded by the commentary during the climax when Smith comments that Affleck's deliver of the line "Soon a cadre of police will arrive..." is quite Shatner-like.
- At some points, the Stygian triplets actually manage this, despite the fact they never speak. The fact they don't speak might actually be the reason why - it leaves them with nothing but facial expressions and body language. The fact that one of them seems to be almost constantly sporting a Kubrick Stare doesn't help.
- Like an Old Married Couple: Jay and Silent Bob, Bartleby and Loki.
- There is a bizarre subtext between God and Metatron that implies this, despite Her being The Voiceless. Particularly the look that crosses God's face when Metatron complains about Her voice causing him to be covered in Ludicrous Gibs again, making him spit-polish it off with Her dress for a moment, before realising what he's done.
- Molotov Cocktail: Serendipity starts to make one when they are being attacked by the Golgothan.
- Moral Guardians: Catholics protested this movie. Kevin Smith actually joined them.
- Must Make Amends: Loki leading to his Redemption Equals Death moment.
- N-Word Privileges: Rufus referring to Christ. Ironic, considering Christ is nothing like Rufus' actor, Chris Rock's, definition of the term... that we know of.
Bethany: Christ? You knew Christ.
Rufus: Knew Him? Shit, the nigga owes me twelve bucks!
- Naked on Arrival: Rufus' entrance (Guys like us just don't fall out of the fucking sky, you know.)
- Leading to Jay's Funny Moment.
(to the sky) Beautiful, naked, big-titted women just don't fall out of the sky, you know! *Beat
* *Shrug Take
- Nay-Theist: Bethany, who by now has seen the Metatron and thus is pretty sure God exists:
Bethany: When some quiet little infection destroyed my uterus - where was God? When my husband decided he couldn't be with a wife that couldn't bear his children - where was God? ... To Hell with Him.
- Neck Snap: The unlucky security guard who gets his head torqued 180 degrees by Bartleby.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Also when Jay shoots off Bartleby's wings; by destroying them, he had become human, and by crossing the arch as a human, he can be absolved from his sins, thereby bypassing God's judgment. He doesn't get to actually do it, though.
- No Biological Sex: God. Most characters say "He" (including Bartleby and Loki's Jumping Off the Slippery Slope argument), but Serendipity insists on "She", and Bethany follows suit. At the climax, God chooses to look like Alanis Morissette.
- No More for Me: Toyed with. The characters, including Jay and Silent Bob get teleported by an angel from the middle of the woods to a fancy restaurant. Jay looks at the joint he had been smoking and says, "Damn, I think this shit just kicked in!" and continues puffing away.
- Noodle Incident: Whatever deeds the CEO of the corporation did; Bartleby claims "I cannot even mention them aloud".
Loki: You're his father, you sick fuck!
- In case anyone wanted to know... Ben Affleck says that the Mooby guy had sex with his son.
- Not So Invincible After All: Azrael's talk of being "a fucking demon" meant nothing when Silent Bob smashed his chest (literally) with a blessed golf club.
- Office Golf: The cardinal in New Jersey does this.
- Oh, Crap: Two of them. Azrael and Bartleby both discover their plans have Gone Horribly Wrong in the worst way.
- Loki has the biggest one in the movie when he realizes that Bartleby hasn't just decided to say Screw Destiny, but has actually become a Fallen Angel and is planning on declaring war on God.
- Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: Pretty much the opening minute of the film.
- Outside-the-Box Tactic: "Air freshener defeats Golgothan" fits the pattern quite nicely.
- Pals with Jesus:
- Rufus, in the most literal sense, as he was the 13th Apostle.
- All of the other deuteragonists to a lesser degree, due to Bethany's divine heritage.
- Pass the Popcorn: When Loki talks a nun into becoming an Atheist (using an analysis of Alice in Wonderland, of all things) Bartleby watches with box of popcorn in hand, very obviously amused.
- Pet the Dog:
- Metatron comforts Bethany when she breaks down over what's being asked of her, that Christ reacted the very same way when Metatron told him of His own destiny and that He'd one day have to die to save the world. Metatron then softly tells her that he's never told anyone, but even he questioned God's decision, feeling it wasn't fair to deliver this cruel news to a poor, scared child, and admitting that he regrets not being able to take away Christ's destiny and give him a normal life.
- Bartleby's sole non-jerkass moment in the film is stopping Loki from gunning down the woman in the boardroom whose only fault was not saying "God bless you" after Loki sneezed.
- Rule of Symbolism: Mooby's mascot is a mix between the Golden Calf and Mickey Mouse.
- The hoodies the angels wear under their suit jackets represent their halos.
- Sanity Slippage: For most of the movie, Bartleby is Loki's reasonable, levelheaded straight man, often shaking his head in exasperation at his more impulsive and violent partner's detrimental antics. Once Bartleby snaps, his change in attitude terrifies Loki into quiet submission.
- Screaming Warrior: "SNOOTCH TO THE MOTHERFUCKIN' NOOOOOOOTCH!"
- Doubles as Continuity Nod, as Jay complains to Holden in Chasing Amy that their Bluntman and Chronic alter egos use "baby talk" like "snootchie bootchies!"
- Self-Inflicted Hell: A deleted scene had Azrael describe that Hell was originally just Nothingness, with its inhabitants completely removed from God's gaze – "punishment enough" for anyone who'd actually been in His presence. Humans made it worse by believing that they deserved to be punished for the smallest sins, which then turned Hell into an infernal suffering pit filled with the screams of the damned.
Azrael I'd rather not exist than go back to that.
- The common View Askewniverse shout outs to John Hughes films, here made simple and explicit by just talking about a John Hughes film.
- The origins of the Mooby franchise, as related by Loki, include allusions to Mickey Mouse (the bi-coastal theme parks), McDonald's (the fast food restaurants), and various doll lines for little girls like Barbie and My Little Pony (whose creators are mostly known only to fans of the respective franchises).
- A fairly obscure one: The Golgothan's first line — "Not born, shit into existence." — is taken verbatim from Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. It pertains to a very disgusting-looking Clayface in that, if you're wondering. The next line — "No man of woman born" — is an odd shout out to Macbeth.
- Silent Bob throws the angels off the train, then points and says "No ticket!".
- Bartleby gives a shout out to the Incredible Hulk before he kills a police officer.
Bartleby: Mister McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.
- Immediately after Rufus falls to Earth, Jay speaks up standing over the body.
: You think someone threw him out of a plane with a message written on him like in Con Air
? Did you ever see that flick?
- After God revives Bethany at the end:
- Shown Their Work: That throwaway line about the five Adams is a legitimate piece of Kabbalistic lore.
- Sibling Rivalry: Azrael and Serendipity, technically. Serendipity berates him for refusing to pick a side in the war between God and Lucifer, believes Azrael deserved his banishment to Hell, and hates his "life isn't fair" speech.
- The Silent Bob: Three guesses, no prizes.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Bethany, when she finds out she's a descendant of Jesus.
- Uncomfortable Elevator Moment
Our last four days on Earth; if I had a dick, I'd go get laid. But we can do the next best thing. Bartleby:
What's that? Loki:
[cue Spit Take
from lady in between them) Loki:
Oh, not you
- The Voiceless: Silent Bob (subverted, of course) and God (who speaks through the Metatron because her own voice is fatal to humans).
- Wag the Director: Kevin Smith has said he wished that he had cast a different actress as Bethany because some days on set Linda Fiorentino refused to speak to him, which is understandably frustrating.
- Winged Humanoid: The angels have the traditional white, feathered wings...which they have to rip off in order to become human.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Azrael, who would rather not exist (and take the universe down with him) than stay in Hell any longer. Later, Bartleby becomes one as well, because of the unfairness of God loving humans more than angels.