As a young teen — with parent bought subscriptions to the National Lampoon and Spy — I was obsessed with all manner of strange religions and aberrant behavior, which starts as simply as Scientology and builds into lifelong obsessions with groups like the Jack Chick, Unarius UFO groups, the Process Church, the book Illuminatus! and, of course, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs. Sadly, as everything good has been destroyed, even indulging in fringe conspiracy groups just gets sad these days. I was hoping that this documentary would show me a glimmer of hope and how slack could prevail against an increasingly darker world.
Originally called Slacking Towards Bethlehem: J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius, director Sandy K. Boone (this is his first film, yet he has produced several) explores this kind of sort of a church that took some smart, nerdy and even weird folks to examine the various ways that conspiracy and religion were crashing toward one another — which is where we are today — and then do nothing but make fun of it.
With a vast mythology that explains how Jehovah 1 gave salesman J.R. “Bob” Dobbs the secrets of the universe sometimes in the 50’s while containing references to Lovecraft and the ability to poke fun at other religions and exlaim that greed is good, the Subgenius ideals were pretty strong to my young mind. It didn’t hurt that adherents included de Mark Mothersbaugh, Mojo Nixon,Paul Reubens, Negativland, David Byrne, R. Crumb, Penn Jillette, Nick Offerman and Richard Linklater.
This movie does a decent job of setting up the path of this group and shows how that pre-internet, it was amazing to find people who shared the same values and interests that you did. Personal connections, while harder to come by, seemed to mean more.
Where my sadness with this film comes in — and this is for me only, perhaps — is that it really presented no answers as to how Bob fits in with our Q-Anon world of today. But perhaps that’s just slack in action, the idea of inaction and meaning nothing meaning everything. Here I was hoping for an explanation of everything, when the truth is that answer is that there is no answer. Things just are.
J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius is available on demand. We were sent a screener to watch and review, but that has no impact on our opinion of the film. Want to learn more about the Church of the Subgenius? They have an official site ready to indoctrinate you.