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Dogma is a blasphemous 1999 film by Kevin Smith. You know it's blasphemous because:
- Chris Rock plays Jesus's thirteenth disciple (who was cut out of the Bible because he was black), and
- Alanis Morissette plays God, which is doubly blasphemous because she is a woman and a Canadian.[note 1]
And that's before you look at the blasphemous theology that having ideas is better than having beliefs or the fact that it features George Carlin (yes, that George Carlin) as a self-serving Roman Catholic bishop who starts a "Catholicism Wow!" (one of the best known parodies of religions trying to act cool in order to get "bums on seats").
Like any film or production dealing with religious sensibilities, Dogma has attracted some controversy and criticism. And, like any film or production dealing with religious sensibilities, this criticism seems to have come from people who never watched it in the first place. William Donohue, current president of the Catholic League, publicly protested the film for months and was one of the most vocal opponents attempting to organise protests against the film. His representatives called View Askew (Kevin Smith's production company) offices and requested a special screening so that Donahue could finally watch the film. Kevin Smith's apparent response was: "So what has he been doing the past six months?"
Smith also satirised such sentiment against the film by appearing at one of the Catholic League protests and carrying his own signs saying "Dogma is Dogshit." After being spotted by a TV news crew he denied being Kevin Smith (although said he was sometimes mistaken for the man) and gave his name as Bryan Johnson, his long-term collaborator. When interviewed, Smith stated that he hadn't seen the film but had just been told it was "not good."
While Smith does use the film to promote some of his own religious ideas (he's still a practicing Christian) he does misrepresent some Catholic theology as part of the plot and has been criticised for it. The central plot point of the film, the repercussions of Plenary Indulgence, is problematic as this part of Catholic doctrine isn't actually a total forgiveness of sin as the movie describes. Indulgence in Catholic dogma is the removal or reduction of temporal punishment, such as punishment on Earth or time spent in purgatory, not eternal forgiveness. As a result, Loki and Bartleby would not have been given the clean, sin-free slate that would be required to overrule God's decree that they should be cast out of heaven. But hey, even Cardinal Glick didn't spot that one.
The "Buddy Christ" motif used in the film has been reproduced as dashboard figurines and bobble-head dolls, as well as t-shirt illustrations with the legend "Got Christ?". It has also been used on other Kevin Smith films as a cinematic inside joke. The actual statue shown in Dogma is on display at Jay and Silent Bob Secret Stash, a comic book store in Red Bank, NJ co-owned by Kevin Smith.
- But then again, God would be a Canadian