Saturday, November 9, 2013

Top 10 Favorite Satans

It's more than a little shameful that I haven't written anything since June and I'm well aware of this. No movie reviews. No costume analysis. No totally random pop culture critiques. No personal nonsense  For a while I thought it was because of a lack of things to write about but now I can see that that is the symptom and not the cause. Every spare second of time that I have had in the last few months has been filled. If I haven't been running off to Washington DC, seeing musicals in New York or Boston, getting my colonial history on in Salem (one of my favorite New England towns) or rocking out to one of my all-time favorite bands in Nowheresville, New Jersey, I have been parking it in front of my computer filling out endless job applications. Of course, sometimes the end result of filling out job applications is the acquisition of a job and while I am super happy with said new job, I am now working two part time jobs resulting in over 50 hours a week which leaves little time for pop culture but a lot of time to brag about my adventures to coworkers.

The only thing I felt provoked to write about in the last few months in terms of pop culture has been about music, the only thing I have had any time for and that's mainly because of how much time I have been spending in my car. I thought about writing about how the rock genre is floundering in the 2010s (and the punk genre is dying) or something about the emotional connection one can develop with music but I haven't had time to research the first and I basically wrote the other one off as something for my personal journal. Other than that I've been managing to SLOWLY work my way through "Downton Abbey" which would be great for a costume analysis if I had any desire at all to get that many screencaps. And I really, really don't.

So instead, I'd like to talk to you about Satan.

He's one of my favorite literary characters, he's an element in a lot of people's religious beliefs, and he's very open to interpretation leading to all sorts of Devils in literature, film, television, and music. With Halloween, my favorite holiday as I wrote about last year, only recently past, the Devil has spent a bit of time on the forefront of people's minds and his horns on the top of people's heads (including mine) so I figured it might be interesting to rack my brain for some of my favorite versions of Old Scratch. He has looked like everything from an incomprehensible Nightmare Fuel beast to the mulleted and red-skinned finger-puppet on my bookshelf to Elizabeth Hurley and has an ever-changeable personality to match.

10. Beelzebub from "Beelz" by Stephen Lynch

The Devil has had a lot of influence in music. Some think he invented the rock genre (which isn't true but try telling the former Pope that). He has however been running with Van Halen, been given sympathy by the Rolling Stones, and apparently, fathered musical comedian Stephen Lynch. In the song "Beelz" off Lynch's second album The Craig Machine, Lynch starts by describing a fairly typical menacing interpretation of Lucifer before quickly flipping into a high pitched and feminine, "My name is Satan!" Beelzebub, but you can called him Beelz, describes himself physically in terms that seem conducive to a lot of the conventional ideas: goatee, horns, hooves. The album art even has a picture of him as a red-faced and horned stereotype and aside from Beelz's girly voice, he does seem to like typical evil things for the Devil. Of course, he also has some more unique hobbies including romantic walks, watching Fox News, and being a Red Sox fan. While I may not be a fan of baseball, as a part-time Bostonian it's nice to know that someone down there likes us.

9. The Devil from Tim Timebomb's Rock N Roll Theater

Sometimes the Devil doesn't come in the form of some kind of beast. One time the Devil came in the adorable form of a pink-suited Davey Havok with a John Waters-esque pedostache. Kind of a ham, as many devils are, he doesn't want to torture sinners so much as he wants to party with them and stage elaborate song and dance numbers. In the first episode of what will hopefully be more of Tim Timebomb's Rock N' Roll Theater, the devil is perfectly happy to be BFF's with our sinner main character, Dante Wison, and get him laid all in admiration for the debauchery he lived in prior to his sudden demise. But don't ever try to usurp him and fire his elevator girl. He may seem pretty harmless but he knows how to give you exactly what you deserve.

8. Satan from Dante's Inferno

One of the oldest interpretations of the Devil happens to also be one of the more unique and has been rarely built upon by all the literature, media, and music that has come after it. The Devil in Dante's Inferno can be found in the very bottom of the ninth and last level of hell, the level reserved for the traitorous, a level covered in ice that freezes the tears of its inhabitants. Physically, the Devil is a three-headed monstrous beast bearing the heads of who Dante considered to be three of the biggest traitors in history at the time: Brutus, Cassius, and right in the center place of honor, red-faced Judas. Satan is huge and ugly with bat-like wings that seem like they are trying to escape and spends his time crying tears of blood while chewing up sinners in his three mouths. Instead of being a scary figure or a manipulative one, this devil is portrayed as being intimidating but kind of ashamed and depressed, and, compared to his other representations, kind of pathetic. He's just another repenting sinner which makes this interpretation particularly contrary to most of the other ideas about Satan.

7. Satan from South Park

It's far more common for Satan to take on minions than it is for him to date but I guess if he's going to settle down, it would make sense for him to do so with an evil dictator. Saddam Hussein's ex-boyfriend is another one of those traditional red-skinned, horned monsters but don't let his appearance fool you. He can be pretty cuddly (although you probably wouldn't want to actually cuddle him unless you're one of his boyfriends). Sometimes he grants wishes to people who help him or decorates Hell for Christmastime to cheer up the sinners and he's actually pretty sensitive and nice. He puts on his scary face once in a while but it's pretty much an act. He always seemed to be less vengeful and more like just another one of the condemned, making him one of the Satans who is most similar to Dante's Satan. But Dante's Satan never put on a sexy schoolgirl costume. So there's that.

6. Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

I'm gonna have to walk you through this one, especially if you have never watched an anime. Kyubey is not technically the Devil (although I could actually be wrong) but his role in the story is that of the Devil in the classic Faustian tale. He requests servitude from foolish victims in exchange for a wish and, of course, makes it seem like the payment will not be too bad and may actually be kind of a good time. No one knows the error of their desires until it is too late and he comes to get what he wanted. Hiding behind an innocent cat-like exterior with an unchanging expression and an equally cute voice, he almost seems more like a cousin of Hello Kitty than a creature who is out to feed off vulnerable girl's emotions and ultimately bring about the end of mankind to further his own goals. But he is. So don't make deals with talking creatures that look like Pokemon. 

5. Professor Woland from The Master And Margarita

For another Devil from the category of the "chilling with the humans" type, let us go to the Soviet Union. Woland is angered by the literary elite and their fervently atheist views and part of the reason why he seems to go there is to mess with both the people in power who don't believe in him the most and the greedy bourgeoisie. Strangely enough he also wants to throw a formal ball for all his famous sinners and, if she can endure the party, give an opportunity to a woman named Margarita to be with the man she loves. This Satan is still kind of arrogant and likes to punish sinners but he is not unfair when it comes to punishments and rewards. Physically, he takes on the form of a dark-suited man with a limp and metal capped-teeth and a funky eye although a lot of people can't agree on just how he appears. Unfortunately, Woland is frequently overshadowed by his team of crazy assistants and his motives are unclear a lot of the time so he only takes spot number 5.

4. Hades from Disney's Hercules

As often happens with Disney, the villain is the coolest character in the movie. Hades' goal is simple: overthrow Zeus, take over Mt. Olympus, and maybe pick up some souls along the way. He's a fast-talking deal maker, has frequently had enough of everyone's shit, and is kind of the sassy gay best friend to Megara, a woman whose soul he got in a deal. He also has some of the best deadpan lines in the film. For instance, when asked how things are in the Underworld he says casually, "We'll, they're just fine. You know, a little dark, a little gloomy, and, as always, full of dead people. What are you gonna do?" In an interesting contrast to most interpretations, Hades is blue-skinned and has hair made of a blue flame but turns orange and red when angered. He also rocks a grey toga with a little skull pin on it and has smoke instead of feet. He's a little uptight a lot of the time but maybe sometime he can steal a girl in a field and feed her some pomegranate. I hear that works out well for him.

3. Lucifer from The Devil's Carnival

"I'm not in the business of murdering innocent children. That's God's jurisdiction. I deal only with the guilty" may be one of the best Devil quotes ever. Unlike a lot of modern Devils, Lucifer has the appearance of a more ancient humanoid beast which correlates so well with his personality. He has the very calm demeanor of one who has seen and done it all and spends most of his time seated in his throne, letting his circus performer minions deal out punishments he has set. He may not be very friendly but he is logical to the point where you can't help but agree with him on the points he brings up. By the end he seems to have found renewed interest in his job with the goal of overtaking Heaven but I guess we'll have to wait for The Devil's Carnival 2 (whenever the hell that's coming, no pun intended) to find out how that goes. Oh, and he also has a wonderful bass-baritone singing voice.

2. The First Evil from Buffy The Vampire Slayer

The Buffy universe has a slightly different construction of its afterlife and theistic ideas than the conventional Judo-Christian set-up and as such, its Devil figure is also unique. The First is an incorporeal entity that can assume the form of dead people (including vampires and resurrected people), a power that allows for the ultimate in psychological manipulation. It has existed before people, before even the Old demons, before time perhaps. The First has one main goal: to throw the balance of good and evil in favor of the evil. As with all Devil figures, it cannot be killed, only suppressed, so the next time you start having a conversation with dead people, you shouldn't ask questions, just pick up and move. You probably live on a Hellmouth (I hear there's one in Cleveland). 

1. Satan from Paradise Lost

Okay, so it's kind of an obvious first choice but I would argue that it's still less obvious than if I had given Satan of The Bible the number one spot (and he really doesn't deserve it; however if I made a list of my favorite versions of God, Old Testament God would definitely make that list). The fact is, when I first read some of this poem when I was in high school, I was immediately struck by how John Milton portrayed Lucifer. He's written more like an anti-hero than anything else in his desire to be equal with God and his subsequent jealousy over Adam and Eve is more relatable than deplorable. He may be kind of arrogant but he is not unlikable. You love him and hate him simultaneously and I really think it was this interpretation of the Devil that made a lot of the other ideas on this list possible. Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven, indeed.

Some other notable examples:
* Peaches from Rocko's Modern Life
* The Devil who went down to Georgia
* Damien from The Omen

Now get behind me.

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