On Freaks and Fallen Angels: O’Connorian Ethics in Kevin Smith’s Dogma

The more that I think about it, the more Dogma (2000) does seem to have elements of O’Connor in it, not just in its discussion of the Watchers and their fall from heaven and attempts to overthrow the power of heaven, but also in the presentation of freaks, or individuals who possess characteristics that leave them somewhat alienated from mainstream society.

Catholicism Wow, then, as parodic as it may seem within the course of the movie, remains, at its core, the attempts of mainstream religion to reach the outsiders, to become more accessible and less “hokey.” This is, in a sense, Vatican III, and it allows not only lapsed Catholics (much like Hazel Motes’ first disciple) to return to their faith and belief in Christ, but it also offers salvation to those who are believed eternally damned.

This becomes a problem, then, within the course of Dogma, as the papacy’s desire to be more available has created a loophole in dogmatic law that would allow the world to be destroyed; the flaw lies not in a cosmic fallacy, but in the church’s desire to redeem even those beyond salvation.

The church’s desire to overwrite God’s law becomes their mistake, as even the Watchers are offered forgiveness, when they were judged as being beyond mercy. Dogma, like Wise Blood, ends in a second judgement of the Watchers, and this time, God is merciful (this is, I’m sure, due to the contrast in ideology of the New and Old Testament), and allows an end to the torment of select immortals (Bartleby and Loki in Dogma and Haze Motes in Wise Blood).

These Watchers are fundamental to the spiritual growth of the characters around them; without Hazel Motes, Mrs. Flood would be without the appropriate example to lead her towards and understanding of God, and without Bartleby and Loki in Dogma, a vast majority of the other characters present (Bethany, Jay, Bob) would not have the same opportunities at grace. While the Watchers, Biblically, are responsible for the presence of evil on the earth, within American literature and film they seem to be given a new role – that of catalyst, one who inspires mankind to rise above his station to aspire to the heavens (but not in that bad Tower of Babel way, more like the good Moses kind of way).

Dogma’s Azrael has the thorough Watcher mentality, for he believes himself betrayed by God, and such is his life devoid of God’s presence that he would prefer to destroy all of humankind and the known world in order to release himself from damnation. He has little interest in and no respect for the last scion, for instead of seeking forgiveness, he has accepted (or perhaps even just assumed) that this is not available to him, and seeks not a pure immortal life in the service of God, but rather continues his Watcher role by further corrupting and destroying mankind. It doesn’tIt bothers me, however, that he’s called Azrael and not Azazel, which I keep wanting to call him, but that brings in a slew of other Apocolyptic films (and what is it with all the apocolyptic films lately, anyhow?).

Both Dogma and Wise Blood, in addition to demonstrating the presence of evil as a very physical force in the world, also show the presence of good; in Wise Blood, we see Enoch as a messenger of God and the patrolman as the archangel Uriel, carefully hidden behind random events of the everyday world, but in Dogma, we see much the same thing, though not at all concealed. Dogma introduces Rufus, the apostle left out of the Bible because he was black, Metatron (and who better as the voice of God than Alan Rickman?), muses, and a pair of prophets.

Wise Blood, however, seems to look at the idea of the Holy Trinity from the point of view that one can believe in God (or at least the old testament ideology) without accepting the redemption offered by Jesus), while Dogma seems to hold to the ideology that the two are one entity, such that by preventing God from acting (by putting his human incarnation on life support), there is no higher power capable of acting. The heavens are not without warriors, surely, but they lack the presence of God (and heaven without the presence of God would surely begin to look a lot like hell).

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