– I just said to George today that…
– Who’s George?
– He’s the devil. He’s not that bad once you get to know him.
The Devil is a popular character humans love to analyze and make their own adoptions of. Satan, or Lucifer (whatever we decide to call him) has little to say in the Bible. He is mostly talked about by others. His biggest role in the Bible is tempting Jesus in the desert. Even if Satan has a small part in the Bible, the big book does make one thing perfectly clear to us: this creature is pure evil and must be avoided at all cost. But since Satan has so little lines, humans have naturally grown curious about this fellow. Who is he, really? What are his motivations? What are his feelings?
“Leaves out of the book of Satan” (1921), a movie by Carl Theodor Dreyer, is a movie based on D. W. Griffiths, movie “Intolerance” (1916). Dreyer’s film, as Griffiths, tells different stories from different times. The Devil appears in this movie as a sad person who must tempt people. For it is what is required of him. The Devil succeeds in tempting people, which hurts him and makes him feel bad. He doesn’t really want People to do bad things, but he must tempt them, for there must be a struggle between good and evil. Already in early cinema Satan’s character has been portrayed as sympathetic, humanely. The Devil is not a bad tempter; he’s a guy stuck with a job he hates.
John Milton wrote an epic poem in blank verse named “Paradise lost”. It was published in 1667. It tells the story of Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden. It is said to be Milton’s attempt to justify God’s ways to man, but the poem has become mostly famous for its portrayal of Satan. Satan is a complex character in the poem. He is the first major character to be introduced to the reader. At the beginning, Satan is the Angel Lucifer up in Heaven who rebels against God since he doesn’t want to accept the fact that God has power over the angels. He convinces fellow angels that Heaven is an unfair monarchy, and that the angels should have equal rights to God. Satan later shows up convincing Eve to eat the apple, promising her that she will become equal to God. Milton describes Satan as a charismatic and persuasive person who’s also quite in love with himself. But also as someone who is independent enough to question authority. Milton allows Lucifer speak his mind, express what makes him angry. His belief in equal power, i.e democracy, is interesting in the way that it’s considered a common, acceptable belief now a days, which actually make his attempt to overthrow God seem good. Here’s a part from the poem in which Lucifer convinces some angels to follow him:
“Who can in reason then or right assume/ Monarchy over such as live by right/ His equals, if in power and splendor less / In freedom equal? or can introduce/ Law and edict on us, who without law/ Err not, much less for this to be our Lord,/ And look for adoration to th’ abuse/ Of those imperial titles which assert/ Our being ordained to govern, not to serve?”
A funnier adaption of the Devil is George Spiggott from the movie “Bedazzled” (1967). George Spiggott is a man who offers people seven wishes in exchange for their souls. He offers Stanley, a troubled young man, one of these deals. While granting Stanley his wishes, George also tells Stanley about his relationship with God and Heaven, telling his side of the story. In this version, the Devil has changed his name from Lucifer to George since he thought that Lucifer, which means “bringer of the light”, sounded a bit “Poofy”, as he puts it. George spends his time doing small pranks, since he must bring evil into the world to even out the good others bring in. He also is trying to get back into Heaven by winning in a deal he’s made with God. Spiggott has many wonderful, hilarious comments about himself in this movie, but the funniest one is probably when he explains why he rebelled against God. He simple explains that since he and the other angels were always worshipping God and telling him how great he was, Spiggott became bored and thought that they could exchange places for awhile. “Bedazzleds” portrayal of the Devil is of one who is stuck in a job and home that he doesn’t exactly like. He finds the world tedious and wants to get back to Heaven, his original home. It’s easy to sympathize with Spoggott’s character when you realize that he doesn’t really want to cause any trouble, he just does it since it’s a part of the deal. Satan in this version mostly is a person that has made a silly mistake – in his cause of going against God – lost his home for it, and does what he can to get back what he’s lost. Something we all can relate to.
The Portuguese writer Jose Saramagos adaption of the Devil in his novel “The Gospel according to Jesus Christ” is probably the most sympathetic one to date. The Devil goes by the name “Pastor” in this book which tells the life of Jesus Christ from Jesus’ point of view. Jesus first meets Pastor in his late teens. He and Pastor are shepherds for a flock of sheep while Pastor tries to warn Jesus about worshipping God. Jesus, a highly religious man who doesn’t know he’s the son of God yet, finds Pastor’s ideas frightening. They separate due to Pastor’s frustrations with Jesus. Years later, when Jesus is confronted with God and what Gods plans are for him he realizes that Pastor was only trying to help. God explains that Jesus must die for him so that he can get more people to worship him. Pastor, who shows up during this discussing between God and Christ, gets God to list all the people who like Jesus will have to die in order for God to get more followers. God lists them and how they all died painful, torturous deaths, making Jesus panic. Turning to Pastor, Christ ask for help, but it’s too late. In “The Gospel according to Jesus Christ”, God is portrayed as a power-hungry madman who wants people to suffer and die for him. Pastor is a calmer person; he doesn’t have any need to be worshiped and doesn’t see why anyone should die for God. He tries his best to help Jesus, but knows when it’s too late.
Even if I do love Pastor, I would have to say that my favorite adaption of Lucifer in any form and culture is that of Satan from “South Park”. “South Park’s” Satan is an insecure man often confused and tormented by the difficulties in his love life. His first major role in “South Park” was in the movie “South Park: Bigger, longer and uncut” (1999). There Satan plays the tragic villain. He desperately wants to take over the world since he longs to be where the sun shines, flowers bloom and people are happy. In Hell there’s only misery, which exhausts and irks him. Satan is also having problems with his boyfriend, Saddam Hussein, whom he feels neglects his feelings and who is only interested in sex. In this film Satan sings one of the funniest, but also most sympathetic, songs about being the Devil. (Check it out on the end of this post!) In other episodes Satan is seen as a very easy going fellah. He celebrates Christmas and has to choose between a nice boyfriend and a bad boyfriend. He’s undeniably human in his mixed feelings about the world and humans. His confusions are honest. Satan is so human he becomes hilarious. How can you NOT love this guy?