My note for this post is “write a damn dissertation about Lucifer, you coward.” There is going to be a lot of rambling in this post, so I feel like I should preface it with the tl;dr: Lucifer is misunderstood, and I’m going to weep about him forever. I feel like I should also put a warning on this? I have a very complicated relationship with Christianity, and that’s definitely going to come out in this post, so if that bothers you, don’t read this.
Literally. Like, I’m not joking even a little bit. There was this meme a while back that my friend sent me, and it was something like “what’s the title of your friend’s TED talk,” and they were always hilarious because, deep down, no matter how much I want to shout about important topics, Erin is right. “The devil is misunderstood, and here’s an entire essay why while citing the Bible” was her immediate response, and yeah, that checks. I’m not going to cite the Bible here because I lost my college essay in which I actually did this exact topic (except combined it with Shakespeare, hence the featured image of Antony & Cleopatra), and I am going to be forever bitter about it, but here we are, let’s talk about why I love the devil.
No, Supernatural is not the reason behind all this, but yes, they did amplify it for me and provide a very good example for me to wave my hands at and go SEEEEEEE?????
A little bit of background: I was raised Episcopalian (ffs I have never spelt that right once in my life), so I was baptized, given first communion, and confirmed in a Christian church. When I was thirteen, one of my friends passed away, and I was so furious with God that I asked to meet with my priest. There were two ways this conversation could have gone, and, unfortunately, it definitely didn’t go the way either of us were hoping. When I sat down, I told her what had happened, and I asked, “Why would God kill at thirteen-year-old child?” She could have empathized with me and said it was a horrible tragedy. Instead, she said, “He had fulfilled his purpose in life and followed God’s plan for him.”
I’m sure you can imagine my reaction, no matter what kind of faith you currently practice. Because telling an upset teenager that her friend was essentially supposed to die because thirteen years was just the right amount of life according to God? You know what, I’m all set with this nonsense, but thanks for opening my eyes. And this post is not meant to knock anyone’s faith in any way, truly. If you’re Christian, and that makes sense to you, I applaud you. I’m not because it doesn’t make sense to me, and though we’re not going to get into that because that’s highly personal, we are going to talk about the Bible as a piece of historical fiction.
I was recently writing about exorcisms and summoning a demon in my book, and there was this bit where one of the MCs finally just comes out and asks if the other MC planned on ever actually summoning the devil. He doesn’t because that’s overdone, and also, they ascribe to a lot of Dante theology in this book, so there’s a lot of conversation around how one would even summon a being literally frozen in half. There’s definitely a lot of this whole post in this book because I’m literally never going to be able to sneak it into anything else I write (challenge accepted), but there’s another conversation where they talk about what summoning the devil would actually look like, and one of them says, “Given that he’s an angel, I think you might need a different sort of magic.”
And that, right there, could actually be the conclusion of this post. Think about it for a second. Your father is this all-powerful, all-seeing being, and you’re one of his firstborn children, but he’s got so many other children that he doesn’t really have the time of day for you. Pretty much from conception, there’s abandonment issues, so of course that leads to a little rebellion, especially when, after dear old dad’s done with all his actual children, he creates more children, but he abandons them even faster than his original ones, and that hits a little too close to home. It seems only natural, then, that you’d raise the question, “Uh, shouldn’t we care about these new children? Just a little?” And when nobody answers you–or, if they do, it’s basically just to say you’re being overdramatic and childish–it makes sense to take matters into your own hands. And sure, trying to corrupt Eve was a terrible way of doing it, but when you’re angry at being ignored, begging for your father to listen to you, and trying to clean up his mess, again, that’s going to come out a little bitter. To really add insult to injury, after you make a single mistake, you’re permanently cast out of your home, thrown into a horrible, dark, literal hell-prison, and forced to oversee the whole thing. All against your wishes because you dared to ask a question and get a little pissed off when that question was laughed at.
I mean, honestly? Do I need to continue? The devil is easily the most misunderstood character in literature, and wouldn’t you do the exact same thing as him in his situation? And of course he turns into something of a monster in hell! Look at the shit he’s been through! I’d give a big old shrug and just say, alright, if they want someone to hate, I can be that and worse, too.
And of course he gets demonized. One of the core beliefs in Christianity (+ Catholicim & whatever other Western nonsense you want to throw in there) is basically don’t ask questions. You must have a firm, unyielding belief in God and His plan for you, and if you doubt either of those, you’re out, byyyye. It makes sense, then, to take the first character that’s ever asked a question and lashed out when he didn’t get an answer, and to demonize that character into the literal definition of evil.
When I tell you that I screamed like a prepubescent (IS THAT HOW THAT’S SPELLED??) child when the pilot for Lucifer was first released, WOW. I’ve been following this show since that pilot was first aired as a test to see if it would garner interest, and the waiting period between pilot and first season was actual torture, never mind the excellency of the following seasons. There is truly not a single thing that I don’t wholeheartedly love about this show and its representation of the devil. Really, I could take this whole post and just shove Lucifer at you, and that would pretty much do the trick. Because one of the biggest plot points in Lucifer is that he’s not the epitome of all evil. That image was created for him because someone decided they wanted a scapegoat to cover up all their own failures (yes, I’m @ing God right now), and Lucifer was a convenient person to blame it all on once he tried to shed a light on those failures. The image of evil was created for the devil, not by him.
And, oh gosh, let’s go back to the angel bit. Because Lucifer is an angel, present tense. In Dante’s The Divine Comedy, he has wings. There’s a whole scandal around one of the statues commissioned for the Vatican in the late 1800s because it looked too angelic, and they needed it to be a bit more evil, but the artist was like, “But he’s angel. He’s supposed to look angelic. That’s the whole point.” AND IT IS THE WHOLE POINT, THANK YOU. He is an angel, but God needed a devil, and well. The whole angel on one shoulder, devil on the other drives me crazy because, nope, sorry, that’s just two angels on your shoulders, and the “devil” character is merely asking you to be honest with yourself.
That, truly, might be where most of my issue with Christianity comes in. The “angel” character wants you to never sway from the path of “good” and to always believe in a higher calling, to just take your lot in life and flourish in that lot only. The “devil” character wants you to question the world, wants you to have a healthy balance of “good” and “bad”, wants you to fail so that you can see, through experience, a better path forward, wants you to be your own person, not someone who lets themself be blindly led.
One of my all-time favorite things in media is when, like in Lucifer, we get to see both a “devil” side to the character and a very human side. I love whenever Lucifer uses his “devil face” only for his wings to come out and be this beautiful, feathery white. I love when media portrays the devil as something more than just the image that was created for him. I love when they challenge that image, when they ask the questions because that’s his whole thing. Everything that makes the devil “bad” is just challenging the norm. And I’m not calling the devil “good”, either, because good/bad is a whole other conversation to have that would take far longer than just me shouting about the devil. We need a balance in life, or we’re basically just inanimate Barbies, and to call something inherently bad with no possibility of good is just–wow. Yeah. That’s a lot.
I could honestly keep going. I have so many feelings on this topic. I literally wrote a paper on it in college, and I’m seriously forever bitter that I lost it. Lucifer is one of my favorite characters in literature, and I will always be on the hunt for new adaptations of his story. There are so many complex ways to break it apart and retell it, and though I should probably ramble on about all the different iterations that I love, we’d be here for another year, so I’m going to wrap this up.
The devil is misunderstood, and the way he’s been misunderstood is a really interesting conversation on how what we think people are often outweighs who they actually are.