5 Movie Fandoms That Turned Into Actual Religions
It's no secret that some people can get lost in their favorite fiction properties, but fandoms sometimes turn into something more. And by "more," I mean they sometimes become the kinds of people that will hook jumper cables up to your nipples if you say that their favorite movie superhero looked kind of weak in the last film.
It's understandable, though. We're always looking for community, for belonging, or for meaning. It's how "real" religions got started in the first place. It just so happens that when you're talking about batshit religions based off of popular fiction, you may less be looking for an answer to what happens when you die and more of a way to justify spending two paychecks on a replica lightsaber because it's actually just your holiest relic, instead.
Though I don't personally roll with any religions based on fiction, I would sign up tomorrow if someone started a church devoted to getting together and talking about how Kevin Costner actively detracts from every movie he's ever been in and not a single one of his roles wouldn't have been better with Kurt Russell in the lead instead. So, I get it ...
The Matrix - Matrixism (The Path Of The One)
Ancient religions were cobbled together on scrolls. Etched in stone. Formed by literally moving the earth with your hands and building some goddamn shrine that would be seemingly impossible for any human civilization to put together. True marvels, both intellectually and physically coming together through the search for meaning. Religions based on popular fiction are first recorded on Geocities pages.
That's the case with Matrixism, or, The Path of the One, something that gave me a visceral, bodily reaction to even type.
Among the main tenants of this religion, followers of Matrixism had to believe in the Prophecy of the One, which, as far as I can tell, is just believing that Keanu Reeves is a rad dude, so I'm still on board here. Naturally, the second most important aspect of following The Matrix as your religion is doing a boatload of psychedelic drugs. Believed to be the most natural link to the film's red pill/blue pill thing, the best way to think that Laurence Fishburne is sitting in your living room is to fill an empty bottle of dishwasher soap with LSD and pour that shit into your mouth.
Thirdly, if you're getting into Matrixism, you have to, of course, relent that reality is a construct and we are very possibly just in some bored future alien kid's computer simulation, made to work our shitty day job for his enjoyment until he has to alt-tab when his parents come in to see if he's doing his future alien kid homework. Oddly enough, the final rule demands followers believe in one or more world religions, as it adheres to the teachings of the Bahaʼi Faith, some loose connection to the world of The Matrix with a religious prophet who once spoke about a similar world.
If you're following, this certainly should all work to illustrate just how loose the rules are when making your own modern religion based on fiction. So maybe it's time you re-upped that Geocities site that lays out exactly why and how Dom from Fast and the Furious is the third coming of Christ and watch the followers roll in.
Harry Potter - Snapeism
Harry Potter superfans scare me. They're like this incredible supernova of theater kids smashing into a black hole of Disney adults, where they slip through space and time to emerge as one all-powerful, lore-obsessed Megazord that will stick a twisting wooden rod up your ass if you get undesirable results on a "Which Harry Potter House Do You Belong To?" clickbait quiz. Well, those involved in Snapeism might think my trip to Ollivander's Proctology was a bit too lenient.
Basically, Snapeism stems from the belief that the mercurial character Severus Snape was a spiritual entity that visited J.K. Rowling through her writing and manifested himself onto the page not through her own creativity but instead by being a very real thing. A level of absurd fandom that I can actually get behind because we can apply this to just about anything. Did you think the screenwriters of The Predator just dreamt that dreadlocked bastard up? Hell no, he actually touched down in their living room while they were working on some late-'80s comedy romp meant for Michael J. Fox when the red lasers showed up on their foreheads, and they just knew what they had to write next.
But Snapeism doesn't stop there. The real juicy stuff comes in the form of the Snapewives, followers who believe that they are essentially sister wives of Alan Rickman. Or Snape. Or whatever. Giving themselves over completely to Snape, the Snapewives commit to a faithful relationship with his spirit and are dedicated to preserving and practicing the theology and teachings of all things Snape. Some even claim to have had romantic encounters with the spirit of the YA novel character. And yet, even typing all of this, it still makes a lot more sense to me than just about anything I've ever read in the Bible. I just wish I was lucky enough to be drifting off to sleep only to get a sexy little rendezvous from Hans Gruber's ghost at the foot of my bed.
Seinfeld - Festivus
Not every religion based on popular fiction has to be so serious. With Seinfeld's legendary Festivus holiday, you get to see what happens when a fake holiday turns into something bigger. In fact, Festivus was already "real" long before Seinfeld made it popular. The episode's co-writer, Dan O'Keefe, had been suffering through the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength long before George was put through it on screen because Festivus was actually the invention of his father. When the younger O'Keefe brought it to the writers' room over at Seinfeld, the absurd, goofy holiday and borderline religion really took off.
Depicted as more of an aggressive pragmatism that spits in the face of the usual holiday spirit and charm, Festivus felt more like watching what's boiling up inside all of us around the holidays burst through our chests like an alien to latch on to a mall Santa's face. In the years since the episode, Festivus has gone from being a classic moment on a classic show to something that some people actually celebrate. Sitting around their own aluminum poles on December 23rd to let their families know all of the ways they disappointed them throughout the year before engaging in a wrestling match with the head of the household.
And you know what? I'd far rather tell my uncle why the untrimmed nose hair that looks like a rappelling rope for a team of SWAT boogers makes my blood boil than sit through just one verse of "Wonderful Christmastime" while looking at the fake Christmas pine smell spray, wondering just how much I'll have to shoot up my nose to escape this wintery hell.
The Cthulhu Mythos
Not every religion based on popular fiction has to respect the wishes of the creator. That definitely applies to the direction people have taken H.P. Lovecraft's various works of horror and metaphysical terror. Although Lovecraft was vocally anti-religion and pretty damn upfront that his works, in many ways, were attempting to call attention to man's foolish insistence on trying to find purpose or knowledge through fabricated deities and fables, people have still completely run with his creations far beyond his wildest dreams. (Thankfully, they haven't adopted his pretty damn upfront super-racism.)
Known for creatures like Cthulhu, Lovecraft's stories and world patched together in them have taken a life of their own since his death, inspiring a cult-like following, reaching all the way into the world of Satanism and beyond.
It makes sense. Do you know what Jesus doesn't have? Goddamn tentacles. If I was a kid and I opened up the Bible, and there was this kickass dude hanging on the cross that was super buff and had tentacle arms and was also immortal, and there's a jetpack on Buff Tentacle Jesus, I would have been the number one Christianity kid in the entire city.
But what's especially wild about how people have taken the works of Lovecraft and the creatures within into the realm of something mystical is just how not down with that he would probably be. It even spawned something of a bogus religion scam industry for Lovecraft's literary creation, the Necronomicon, where scammers have put forth fake versions of this already fake work since the 1940s. The obsessive following that has come from the work of someone that was super against obsessively following such ideas is the perfect level of irony to accompany a religion based on popular fiction.
I just can't wait for the hardline sect of violent nihilists that finds something we all missed in the teachings of Mr. Rogers and brings that to the world.
Star Wars - Jediism
The Jedi here are real people that live their lives according to the principles of Jediism, the real Jedi religion and philosophy. Jedi followers, ministers, and leaders embrace Jediism as a real living, breathing religion and sincerely believe in its teachings. Jediism does not base its focus on myth and fiction but on the real life issues and philosophies that are at the source of myth. Whether you want to become a Jedi, are a real Jedi looking for additional training, or just interested in learning about and discussing The Force, we're here for you.
These are the words that await you when you visit the Temple of the Jedi Order website. These are the words of a religion trying really hard to separate itself from the source material from which it became a religion to begin with. It's like starting your own form of Christianity, and the second someone hops onto your cool Geocities pages, a message appears reading: "Alright, well, listen, we don't actually do the bearded guy thing or the cross deal or any of the water/wine stuff, so just go ahead and turn around if you think you're going to get any of that in here." It's weird because it's kind of their thing.
But that's the case with Jediism, a religion based on the core tenants of what it takes to be a Jedi and less so on the cool powers that you would ostensibly get from becoming a real, actual Jedi. Jediism actually sounds kind of all right, mostly because it's just a bunch of people that are meditating and chilling out and calling it tapping into The Force.
For those practicing Jediism, it seems as though they've gone through great lengths to legitimize their religion, and I can't even imagine the uphill battle they're constantly fighting to make people take something that George Lucas created seriously. The second they have people taking a hard look at their religion, about to take the plunge, George probably goes and creates a character called Kum Dingo that is part of some retconned storyline that turns Luke into an android and rewrites C-3PO's character as a human that was actually just really shiny and kind of talked weird but was most definitely not actually a robot.
All of this is to say that you were watching Star Wars wrong the whole time. I can say with complete sincerity, I would far sooner follow whatever the hell Jediism is up to than take seriously a single word that George Lucas ever puts on a page again.
Top Image: Warner Bros.