Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: The Power of Christ Compels You!

Demonic possession. It makes up a large chunk of the horror genre, from classics like The Exorcist to B-grades like The Rite and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The idea that a spiritual being could commandeer our physical forms is both fascinating and terrifying to viewers.

Now, I’m pretty much the opposite of a horror buff, so instead of any of those movies I’m going to talk about Supernatural and Blue Exorcist, and how possession is portrayed and fought in these series.

Demon possession first shows up in the fourth episode of Supernatural, and remains a go-to plot point for the remainder of the show. The first demon is dispatched using a full exorcism, and throughout the rest of the seasons that remains the best way to deal with possessions, although such varied remedies as psychic powers, a magic gun, a magic knife, and angelic mojo.

Supernatural possessions are usually given away by a blink, where the possessed person’s eyes switch from regular to a full eye black, red, or white (depending on the rank and position of the demon inside). When a demon has possessed a human, they can push aside that human’s consciousness and control their body in whatever way they please, even after the human inside has died.

Demonic possession is nearly impossible to avoid, but the main boys sport tattoos that protect them from being taken over.

In Blue Exorcist, possession is just as nasty, but you see fewer instances of possession by rank-and-file demons and more cases of possession attempts by Satan himself.

Satan is determinedly trying to escape from Hell so that he can take over the mortal world. But because of his great power, he cannot take just any human body as a vessel. Every time he tries, he burns up the person from the inside.

This happens on two notable occasions: firstly, the Blue Night (so named because Satan’s power manifests itself with blue flames) where Satan’s attempts to find a vessel killed many of the world’s most powerful religious leaders; secondly, the possession of main character Rin’s foster father, Father Fujimoto. This incident is what inspires Rin to take up arms against Satan, thus providing the conflict of the show.

So what is possession and exorcism like in all those movies I’ve been avoiding? Are there other pop-culture examples I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments, and tune in next time to get some religion!

6 thoughts on “Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: The Power of Christ Compels You!

  1. Hey, a subject I actually know about! Well, one thing I’ve always found interesting is the difference between “shojo anime demons”, and demons in a legit horror genre. I say legit horror genre demons because in manga and anime I’ve found a decent amount of both “reformed demon, I was bad but now look how good I can be! For love!” or something, and also a mix of terrifying will devour you just because or posses you and it WON’T be fun, and also a good mix of subtle supernatural influence. The last one is my personal favorite; the characters believe in and blame the acts of evil on something demonic or supernatural, but in truth the acts of evil are simply done by people.
    Now take, for example, the Batman universe. I’ve always enjoyed when the supernatural show up in Batman since the supernatural is a place where the great detective is generally out of his comfort zone. Demons in this place have usually, much like in the Marvel universe when Nightcrawler encountered them, been portrayed in the western “they come from hell, always want something, can’t be trusted and generally find ways to screw you over even when you’re helping them” sense. It’s therefore something quite interesting to play with, particularly in regards to Arkham. Lets say there is someone who is possessed, obviously people are going to believe they’re crazy instead and commit them. How much of what’s going on is legit possession, how much of it is in their head, how much of it is insanity? It’s a question worth playing with.
    On the other hand, things can get convoluted when someone else joins the rp who views demons in the “anime-shojo” sense of the word. Suddenly instead of having their body taken by force, resulting in crazy behavior that gets them locked up and other nasty things (horrible hallucinations preventing sleep and keeping them on edge, possible malnutrition as the invading forces prevent them from being able to keep down food, self-inflicted injuries and bouts of generally crazed behavior), or having visual or auditory hallucinations that lead them to commit acts of depravity in order to allow a demon access to this world (as was done in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell), now they’re getting “special powers” from a demon-from-hell benefactor who asks for nothing (and takes nothing) in return ever. Just because the demon “feels sorry for them”. Or they’re having a whirlwind romance with a reformed (and attractive!) demon, or something.

    • The idea of a shoujo anime demon makes me think of things like Chrono Crusade or Trinity Blood (although Abel is a supervamp and not a demon) – Chrono and Abel are these really terrifyingly powerful beings but they like to hang out with/fall in love with nuns with guns? If they can just be nice with no perks for themselves, then is demon-ness just a race and not a lifestyle too? Hard to say. It often just seems like an excuse to give the sweet romantic lead a hard, bad-boy edge. I guess, though, that there is sort of a spectrum between the ‘shoujo’ demon and the legit-horror demon…
      I’m not familiar with Batman outside of movies and whatnot (still getting my feet wet in the American comics realm) but I can see how demons’d be an interesting plot device in Gotham. I agree that demons are usually more compelling characters when they act, well, demonic.

      • Well if you’re getting into Batman at all, I would recommend anything taking place in Arkham, as those tend to cover more than just a single villain or two at a time. And lets be honest, the villains are really the best part. Also, the Joker’s Asylum was really good. Once you figure out who your favorite villains are it becomes a lot easier to simply track down issues they’re featured in. That’s how I do it, anyhow. Otherwise it’s just too overwhelming.
        You know, if you ever get interested. Happy reading if you do. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Kokoro Community, Fairies Invent Religion, and Exorcising Anime Demons «

  3. Pingback: Oh, My Pop-Culture Jesus: Exorcisms in Pop Culture | Lady Geek Girl and Friends

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