Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Sympathy for the Devil

In the land of pop culture, Satan acts as our bridge to discuss God and morality. Throughout many movies, TV shows, and books Satan questions God and the morality that God has set forth. The last post I did about Satan, I talked about Al Pacino’s closing speech in The Devil’s Advocate. While Al Pacino’s devil is clearly evil, his final speech does make the viewer question a lot about God and morality, while Satan declares himself a humanitarian for wanting humans to be able to do whatever they want. The speeches cause the viewer to question God—clearly what any Satanic figure would want—but the way the movie is written and performed never causes the audience to actually sympathize with Satan. Basically, after watching The Devil’s Advocate I wouldn’t be surprised if people could see the devil’s “point”, but still think he is entirely wrong and a bad person.

And once again it is time to talk about Supernatural!

The writers of Supernatural were just brilliant when writing seasons four and five, especially when it comes to Satan. Season four of Supernatural introduced us to angels. I’ll give you all a minute to swoon over Castiel.

Done? Okay, good. Anyway, season four introduced us to the angels who, in the words of Dean Winchester, are total dicks. Other than Castiel and Anna (who is a fallen angel), all of the angels are terrible people. This is actually kind of Biblically accurate. There isn’t much about angels in any mainstream canon Bible, so most of what Christians believe about angels has been taken from books not included in the Bible. These books, like many Biblical books, are often contradictory. Some portray the angels as actually being the kind entities that do care about humanity. Most books, however, portray angels as very dangerous beings who really do not care about humanity, and this is how Supernatural portrays them. Angels don’t care about humans beyond what they can use them to accomplish. So when season five rolled around I expected Lucifer to be like his angel brothers—a dick—but Lucifer was surprisingly nice.

It was a great contrast. The angels that you expected to like were completely unlikeable (with a few exceptions), while the devil seemed sweet. He constantly apologized to Sam for the bad things the were happening to him (being Lucifer’s vessel) and even mournfully admits when he is doing something wrong. When Lucifer buries all the women and children in a town alive to complete a ritual to raise the Death, the Horseman, he admits that the ritual is awful. Lucifer recognizes what he is doing is wrong, but feels like he has to do it. This isn’t always the case, though. When it comes to humanity Lucifer isn’t very sympathetic. He acts like he cares, but he does come off as more subtly manipulative. Though, despite his hatred for humanity, he at least pretends to be nicer to them than the angels do. So this doesn’t really make Lucifer’s character all that sympathetic, it just makes him less of a dick than the angels. What really makes Supernatural‘s Lucifer sympathetic is his relationship to the other angels.

It’s revealed that all of the angels are like a great big family with God as their father. Though throughout the show, most of the angels don’t act very familial towards each other. The archangels, Raphael, Gabriel, Michael, and Lucifer do. It’s further revealed that Michael and Lucifer, in particular, were extremely close.

I was a son. A brother, like you, a younger brother, and I had an older brother who I loved. Idolized, in fact. And one day I went to him, and I begged him to stand with me. And Michael… Michael turned on me. Called me a freak, a monster. And then he beat me down, all because I was different. Because I had a mind of my own. Tell me something, Sam, any of this sound familiar?

Michael and Lucifer are brothers that were very close until Lucifer turned away from God and Michael cast him into hell. It’s made very clear that neither brother liked this or wanted to do this, but Lucifer is actually willing to not kill his brother. In the final episode of season five Lucifer begs Michael not to fight him, but Michael refuses because he feels God wants him to kill Lucifer.

Furthermore, the reason that Lucifer betrays God also makes him a sympathetic character. In the episode “The End”, Dean is sent into the future where Lucifer has won, and the whole world looks like a scene from The Walking Dead. In this episode Lucifer explains to Dean why he was cast out of Heaven,

You know why God cast me down? Because I loved him. More than anything. And then God created… [huffs a small laugh] You. The little, hairless apes. And then he asked all of us to bow down before you. To love you, more than Him! And I said, Father, I can’t. I said these human beings, were flawed, murderous. And for that, God had Michael cast me into Hell! Now tell me, does the punishment fit the crime? Especially when I was right. Look what six billion of you have done to this thing. And how many of you blame me for it.

This speech is actually an updated version of a speech Satan gives in a apocryphal book called “The Life of Adam and Eve”, where Satan tells a frustrated Eve why he hates humanity. The reason Lucifer misses entirely is, of course, that humanity is actually a reflection of God, so by loving humanity he would still be loving God. It’s unclear in Supernatural if this is the real reason Satan rebelled and hates humanity, but it’s definitely the one he has convinced himself of.

Lucifer in Supernatural isn’t a good person, but he is very… human, ironically, which is why we sympathize with him. By making the devil not necessarily good, but human, he becomes this sympathetic character that allows us to ask questions about God and religion, and, maybe more importantly, it allows us to ask questions about human nature.

Well that’s all for now folks! Tune in next time and get some religion!