Dharma: In Search of the Lost Fanfic


Kevin Smith‘s “Dogma” has been, throughout the years, my absolute favorite movie. It pretty much still is tied with a very small number of others for first place right now. After all, Michael Keaton was the BOMB in “Beetlejuice!” And even though in the opening captions of “Dogma” itself, Smith explains it as a goofball farce concerning which nobody should get hurt or hurt each other, that opening disclaimer led me to believe that he recognized something of the movie’s profundity in the midst of its comedy, and that he anticipated the film-watching world’s reaction to that comedy’s religious themes. If the film had not been so heart-wrenchingly, hilariously, hair-raisingly good, such a mixed-up madhouse of a movie idea might have failed spectacularly. But it was that good, and so instead it worked beyond its creator’s dreams, at least in my opinion as I sat alone in a Laurel, Maryland theater on a Thursday night in 1999 and laughed, cried, and cheered for God and Her Saving Power, and the power of Kevin Smith’s magnificent storytelling.

So what did I do? What did I do? I wrote a fanfic sequel. (I shuck and devour ideas en masse. Sue me.)

So thrilled was I by “Dogma,” and by my ability to acquire a DVD copy of it fairly rapidly in the years that followed (Thanks, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash!), that I set fingers to keyboard and cranked out, for a (then) new group of stage performer friends of mine, a one-act play called “Dharma.” This play took place in the lobby of the student union of fictional Monmouth State College in New Jersey. (It might have been University; I no longer remember and did not keep a copy – See Below.) It evoked the style of “Clerks,” Kevin Smith’s first film which I had not seen until after “Dogma” bowled me over.

“Dharma” depicted an afternoon at college in the life of Rufina Sloane, the main character, and a few of her friends, as she discussed some of the major weirdness of her life and of the world as she was experiencing it. I engineered the plot of this very talky play to reveal v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y that Rufina was in fact the daugher of The Last Scion, Bethany Sloane, that her Mom had pretty much been silent about the experiences she had had, and that Rufina – whom Bethany had in fact named after Rufus (Rufina also does really turn out to be the name of a Saint; I about fell over when I found that out on the Web) – knew nothing about the events in 1998, depicted in “Dogma,” that had led Bethany Sloane to discover her blood-kinship with Jesus Christ, and to become pregnant with The New Last Scion.

In my exposition of “Dharma,” I posited that nobody among the general populace that God, in the form of Alanis Morissette, had healed from the gory events that took place in the second half of “Dogma,” remembered anything about that day. Only the central characters did. And Bethany had shared none of it with her daughter. You know how it is; people can experience relapse to some form of who they have always been, even after profoundly life-changing, soul-changing events, and fans of the movie may also remember that Bethany was discouraged from being too dogmatic (heh) about anything that had happened, or what to believe about it. Plus it fit in humorously with some trivia I had read about Linda Fiorentino being, as many genuinely good and principled actors are, a somewhat difficult performer with whom to work.

So here was Rufina, B.S.’s daughter, attending college and also experiencing profound personal problems primarily produced by her mother keeping extremely significant and powerful secrets from her.

In my play, when Rufina had a greater-or-lesser nervous breakdown in the Monmouth State Student Union, which severe reaction was more or less a retelling of Bethany’s own “WHY????!!!!” moment in the “Dogma” movie, who walks up to her but some old stoner fuck with long hair who calls himself Jay. He is the one who reveals to her everything that happened all those years before. I do not remember specifically where I took the play’s plot after that, but that was the climactic moment.

It was a terribly fun piece of fan fiction to write – and I must stress here that the copyrights for “Dogma” all belong to its owners. But after I shared the one-act play with my theater friends and told some of my admittedly lower-quality work friends at my government job about it, those work friends – with whom I have parted in years since, rather bitterly, under circumstances rather unrelated to any of this – advised me to abandon the idea I had of sharing this bit of tribute inspiration with Kevin Smith himself. No, said one friend rather vociferously, writers, directors, and producers hate the whole fan-fiction thing that’s going on. J. Michael Straczynski particularly called out fan fiction as a bad thing, according to this friend.

I truly do not know how firmly the friend’s advice was based in evidence, but I took him at his word, and took the words to heart. In short, I got rid of my copy of Dharma. I may have given it away to one of my beloved theater friends, but I definitely did not keep a copy for myself. I also deleted it from my computer files so that no angry professional writer, director, or producer could get me in trouble for it.

And, it goes without saying, I have been sorry about that ever since. It was fan fiction, a tribute to my favorite movie, after all, and I never did anything with it except write it: never produced it on stage, and definitely never made a single penny off of it.

But that’s all water under the bridge, or over Aunt May’s back, or whatever.

I had just wanted to share my thoughts about what could have happened later, after the events of a movie that still entertains me and affects me so. I still laugh, cry, and cheer as Bethany deals with her crisis of faith and as God makes everything all right again, except now it’s all unfolding on our Roku TV in the living room of the house to which my wife and I have retired.

And I wanted to share the tale of my one-time arguably foolish fan efforts with you all.

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