Not-Your-Average Role Model
Bethany Sloane, played by Linda Fiorentino
When I think "female ass-kicker," Bethany Sloane is not the first person who comes to mind. She's not physically as strong as Buffy Summers or River Tam. She's not intellectually as strong as Temperence Brennan or Hermione Granger. She's just a normal, lapsed Catholic who works at an abortion clinic.
In fact, the only thing that makes Bethany Sloane even the least bit extraordinary is the fact that she is the last blood relative of Jesus Christ.
That, in itself, shouldn't qualify her for membership in the "strong women" club. A person's lineage and situation doesn't make them a hero-- it's their actions that do that. Harry Potter may be famous because he survived the Dark Lord-- but he wasn't a hero until he destroyed Voldemort for good.
Bethany is the protagonist in Kevin Smith's hit movie Dogma
, a movie that both parodies and emboldens the Christian and Catholic faith. While the movie itself is controversial, and Christian and Catholic reactions to it have been both link
, the positive messages of the movie are undeniable.
The movie itself
does, in my opinion, send an overall positive message, even if it's surrounded by crude jokes, coarse language, and the tiniest bit of blasphemy, not to mention Kevin Smith's trademark comedy duo, Jay and Silent Bob. But the overall message it sends-- a message of diversity, analyzing the white male bias of the Christian Bible, losing faith, finding faith, and remembering what matters most is humanity's capacity for compassion and forgiveness-- is a really fascinating one. And Bethany is the perfect character to embody this message.
So God is in a bit of a jam. Trapped in a corporeal human body, which was put into a coma by the Stygian Triplets sent by the demon (ex-muse) Azrael, he is incapable of stopping two excommunicated angels from erasing their sins and entering heaven, thus negating all of existence. That's a pretty pickle for our favorite deity. So who does he call upon to help him out? Not a saint. Not a priest. Not the pope.
Bethany Sloane. A questioning Catholic abortion clinic employee who happens to be the last Scion of Jesus Christ, his great, great, great to the power of fifty grandniece. Now I'd like to note here that while several Christians have a problem with this, Jesus did
have (half) brothers and sisters (see Mark 3:31, Mark 6:3, John 5:7). This does not negate Mary's virginity, as said siblings are born after the birth of Jesus, which is all explained in the film, and yet some choose not to listen and call it outright blasphemy. It may be theoretically inaccurate, and a stretch of the imagination-- but it doesn't step all over the story of Jesus's virgin birth.
The Book of Bethany
Serendipity: "I have issues with anyone who treats faith as a burden instead of a blessing. You people don't celebrate your faith; you mourn it."
Bethany Sloane is not only an accurate choice for a savior (Consider: Rahab the Harlot, who helped hide the Isrealites, and was ancestor to King David, and, eventually, Jesus Christ) but also a very detailed, interesting character. Bethany lost her faith in God when an infection ravaged her uterus and rendered her infertile. The cause of this was a college pregnancy with her then-boyfriend, Brett, whom she later married. She had told him at the time that she'd had a miscarriage, but the truth was, she had an abortion. When Brett learned of her infertility, and the real cause of it, he divorced her and married another woman.
Bethany: "What's He like?"
The Metatron: "God? Lonely. But funny. He's got a great sense of humor."
Devastated, Bethany found herself straying from her rigid Catholic upbringing... until the Metatron (or Voice of God, played by the incredible Alan Rickman) appeared in her bedroom and bestowed a holy quest upon her.
Rufus (on Christ): "The Man loved being human. Probably why He was so good at it."
Bethany and Rufus, the Thirteenth Apostle (Chris Rock)
Like any real hero, Bethany doesn't want the job. She breaks down when she learns the truth of her heritage, and begs the Metatron to take it back. The Metatron inspires her with stories of Jesus, sharing his memory of telling a twelve-year-old boy his fate and how he hadn't wanted it either. But Bethany rises to the challenge, just like Jesus did, and finds her faith along the way.
Bethany: "You're saying that having beliefs is a bad thing?"
Rufus: "I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier."
Bethany's story is the classic Hero's Journey. There is a call to arms, which she reluctantly answers. She gathers allies along the way, some of them unlikely. And she reaches her lowest point when she's about to give up when a wise mentor puts her on the path again. Finally, at the crux of battle, it's Bethany who figures out the key to saving the world. And, after that, she is rewarded in a way that only God can reward you... but you'll have to watch the movie to find out.
Bethany: "Why are we here?"
Bethany asking God that age-old question
God: "[pokes Bethany's nose] Nweep."
The Metatron: "I told you she was funny."
Dogma and Feminism
Kevin Smith slips several points for the feminist viewer into his unorthodox film. Not only does Rufus, the Thirteenth Apostle claim that Jesus was black (and why not? Jesus was related to Moses who married a black African Cushite woman), but Serendipity, a muse, claims that God is a woman.
Serendipity, played by Salma Hayek
Serendipity: "Can you believe it? Me - a muse, for God's sake!... That's the cosmic joke. I can give out a zillion and nine ideas a second, but I can't keep any for myself. Her quirky sense of humor."
Bethany: "You're saying God's a woman... He's always referred to as a Him."
Serendipity: "I didn't write it that way. My job stops at the idea stage. The person that holds the pen adds their own perspective, and all the pen-holders were men. One of the drawbacks to being intangible is that you have no say in the
editorial process... See. these being male-dominated times, the Pharisees and High Priests felt threatened by the idea of a woman lording over them and controlling their fates. so they made sure that She became a He. Doesn't stop with God - the whole book is slanted and gender-biased: a woman's responsible for the first sin, the fall of man, and the expulsion from Eden. a woman cuts Sampson's coif of power, a woman asks for the head of John the Baptist. Read that book again some time - women are painted as bigger antagonists than the ******* Egyptians and Romans combined."
And lo and behold, who shows up as God at the end of the movie but the quirky Alanis Morissette, who does a handstand in a white and silver dress in the garden. Although, in the end, Rufus does make an excellent point:
Rufus: "She's not really a woman. She's not really anything."
Bethany: "No - She's something, alright. Something comforting."
Rufus: "Crisis of faith over?"
Bethany: "I think I'm now burdened with an over-abundance."
Rufus: "When it rains, it pours. You saying you believe?"
Bethany: "No. I have a really good idea."
Alanis Morissette as God
So women play a powerful role in Dogma
, and Bethany is a fascinating character, with a strong will and a whole lot of courage. And that's
what makes her a hero.