The Metatron: I am to charge you with a holy crusade. 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!
Kevin Smith 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 Or he's talking to himself. 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 and Loki from taking advantage of a special absolution ceremony being held there. The ceremony would grant forgiveness to anyone for any 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 stationwho recognized him.
Dogma gives holy blessings to the following tropes:
God for example turns out to be One of Us; He's a fan of skiball.
The Bible is interpreted in a decidedly un-Catholic way. (Specifically, no, indulgences do not work the way the movie says they do, but the Protestant interpretation of Matthew 6:19-21 explains how Dogma's indulgences work. This is lampshaded in the airport scene.)
Of Hell, instead of being a place of damnation for horrible people, it is for people with huge Heroic Self-Deprecation that God can never forgive them so they opted to take eternal suffering for their guilt.
Asshole Victim: Definitely the executives of the corporation, except for one woman. The adulterer on the bus also seemed to be a Jerkass.
A-Team Firing: "COUNT THE SHELLS, SUCK-A-DUCK!" Granted, Jay actually did hit the target, but exclusively the parts of Bartleby's body that weren't detrimental to Jay's plan and beneficial to Bartleby.
Babies Ever After: At the end, God conceives a child within Bethany in order to continue the Scion's line.
Badass Normal: Silent Bob holds his own against demons, renegade angels and poopmonsters.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: When he first appears to Bethany she thinks the Metatron is a rapist that broke into her apartment. He responds by dropping his trousers and showing her that angels have no genitals. Rickman even lampshades it, saying he "has the anatomy of a Ken doll." Unfortunately, this bit was censored in many versions of the film, cutting out the part with Rickman in a flesh-colored codpiece.
Batman Gambit: Serendipity pretty much relies on Azrael giving Silent Bob a free shot.
When Bethany takes Jay and Silent Bob to a diner to ask their help, Jay propositions her in response. Bethany turns him down, but Jay persists: "What if there's a bomb about to go off or something and we're all gonna die? Would you fuck me then?" Mostly to shut him up, she agrees. Flash forward all the way to the end of the movie, when Bartleby is close to un-making reality, and Jay drags Bethany behind some overturned equipment to make good on the deal.
Early in the movie, Rufus rants about the Bible being edited to say that Jesus was white, when he was, in fact, black. Then much later in the movie, Rufus reveals that Bethany is the great-great-great-etc.-grand niece of Jesus. Then, stoned out of his mind, Jay responds "Wait, does that make Bethany part black?"
And again at the end of the credits in the DVD. Jay: "So, Bethany... part black?"
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...
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.
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 Godherself. 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."
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 Buddism 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.
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.
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 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, he 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 "student" 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.)
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.
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.)
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 Gibsagain, making him spit-polish it off with Her dress for a moment, before realising what he's done.
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.
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-Jerk Ass 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.
Loki: I've heard a rant like this before. Bartleby: What did you say? Loki: I've heard a rant like this before. Bartleby: Don't you fuckin' do that to me. Loki: You sound like The Morning Star. Bartleby: You shut your fucking mouth!!! Loki: You do! You sound like Lucifer, man! You've fuckin' lost it!... You're not talking about going home, Bartleby, you're talking about fucking war on God! ... Well, fuck that! I have seen what happens to the proud when they take on the Throne! *Bartleby just stares at him with a quiet glare*I'm goin' back to Wisconsin. Bartleby:(grabs Loki and pushes him to a wall)WE'RE GOING HOME, LOKI. And no one, not you, not EVEN THE ALMIGHTY HIMSELF... is going to make that otherwise!!
Bethany has a much quieter and more subdued one that borders on Tear Jerker territory:
"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."
Raised Catholic: At the beginning of the film, Bethany doesn't believe in God anymore and works at an abortion clinic but still goes to Mass on every Sunday. In a deleted scene she's the only one who pays attention to the clergy while everyone in Mass are either uninterested, indifferent, or apathetic. This follows Serendipity's discussion of how people treat religion as a burden.
Hinted at for Bartleby, who breaks down in tears and tells God he's sorry before he dies.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Well, that's a bit of a stretch using the term, but while Loki starts off as Red and Bartleby as Blue, their roles end up being reversed once they realize the implications of their quest.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Loki: "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: "Kill people." [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.
You Need to Get Laid: People on both sides tell this to each other. When Bartleby goes really nuts at the end, Loki notes that it's just eons of repression being purged. "If only they'd let us jerk off..."
Metatron: Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God's true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode inside your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that one out.
On the DVD Commentary, Kevin Smith jokingly says that God was meant to answer Bethany's question "Why are we here?" by answering "Well...." and then everyone's heads explode.