Devil in popular culture

Devil in popular culture

The Devil appears frequently as a character in works of literature and popular culture. In Christian tradition the figure of the Devil or Satan, personifies evil. Today the Devil remains a common figure in popular culture.[1]




A man dressed as the devil at New York City's West Indian Day Parade.

Classical Music

  • The musical interval of an augmented fourth is sometimes known as tritone and "The Devil In Music" (lat. Diabolus in musica), a name given to it circa 1400, given its unusual sound. Composers were encouraged to stay away from the interval, and whilst it is sometimes found in non-religious music of the time, it was never used in religious music until the existing system of keys came into use.
  • The devil features as a character in many musical representations from the Middle Ages through the age of opera to modern times. Hildegard of Bingen's Ordo Virtutum (11th Century) features the devil as a character, as do several of the baroque oratorios of composers such as Carissimi and Alessandro Scarlatti. During the 19th Century Gounod's Faust which features the devil under the name Mephistopheles as a major character was a staple of opera houses around the world.
  • Tartini's Devil's Trill and Niccolò Paganini's caprice, The Devil's Laughter are examples of highly virtuosic, "diabolic" violin playing. The theme is taken up by Stravinsky in the Devil's Dance from his A Soldier's Tale.

Popular music

  • Jazz was often called as "The Devil's music", by the genre's critics in the 1920s.[2]
  • The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" (1968) features Mick Jagger speaking as the Devil.
  • "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (1979) by the Charlie Daniels Band was the first modern popular song to feature a battle between the Devil and a musician. The theme of battling the Devil has been revisited several times in other songs.
  • Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal that is commonly associated with Satan, due to its usual anti-Christian lyrics and use of "satanic" symbols such as the pentagram and inverted cross.

Film and television

Generally when Satan is depicted in movies and television, he is represented as a red-skinned man with horns or pointed ears on his head, hooves or bird-legs, a forked tail or one with a stinger, and a pitchfork. When trying to blend in or deceive somebody, often he is represented as a plain human being, and, in some instances, only his voice is heard.

Including Satan as a personification of evil holds many narrative opportunities. Others have portrayed a human character's struggles with Satan to mark human foibles and failings in the attempt to live a good life — for example, Bedazzled (1967, remade 2000) and Oh, God! You Devil (1984). In Angel on My Shoulder (1946), the Devil uses the human desire for revenge to his own ends. And in the horror/suspense genre, including Satan provides for a gripping, virtually all-powerful foe, as seen in The Omen trilogy where his son Damien is the Antichrist. He can also be seen in someplaces throughout the movie "Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny" (2006) resulting in a rock-off at the end with Jack and KG.

Sometimes in cartoons, when a character is unsure what (s)he should do, a devil and angel version of themself appears. Whereas the angel tries to get the person do the right thing, the devil tries to get them to do evil.

In the TV series Touched by an Angel, Satan occasionally appeared in the guise of a human being. In each instance, he would manipulate individuals around him in an attempt to thwart the efforts of God (as being carried out by the angels Monica, Tess and Andrew). He was depicted in five episodes of the series. John Schneider, Todd Rulapaugh and Mandy Patinkin each portrayed the character in one episode, while David Ogden Stiers appeared as Satan in the two-episode series finale.

In the TV series Stargate SG-1, the alien character Sokar, a Goa'uld, takes the persona of Satan, possessing a great army with which he wanted to take control over all other System Lords and subsequently the galaxy itself. He even creates his own Hell on Ne'tu, the satellite of his homeworld Delmak, where he sends his enemies for torture and punishment.

Star Trek: The Next Generation included a character pretending to be Satan in the episode "Devil's Due", including the traditional typical image and the Klingon version. Throughout the episode she appears as an attractive mischievous woman.

In the film, The Passion of the Christ, Satan is portrayed by a woman and has a decidedly more androgynous if somewhat wraith-like appearance than the traditional image of a red-skinned, horned satyr-like monster.

In the TV series Supernatural, Lucifer is stated to be the god of the demons in the third season episode "Sin City". Season four of the series deals with demons trying to release him, which they eventually succeed in doing. In the fifth season premiere, the risen Lucifer convinces a grief-stricken man to become his human vessel (as he is an angel, Lucifer must obtain permission before possessing someone). The relationship between Lucifer and Michael, a major focus of the fifth season, is portrayed as a tragic story of once close brothers becoming reluctant enemies. Although each is resolved to kill the other, the complexity of this relationship is apparent in the season 5 finale when the angel Castiel strikes Michael with 'holy fire', and in brotherly protectiveness Lucifer destroys Castiel, with the words "Nobody dicks with Michael, but me". It should be noted that, of all the depictions, in Supernatural, the Devil is shown less evil and more of a tragic villain going so far as stating himself that he cannot lie.

The TV series Reaper has Satan portrayed as a smooth-talking gentleman who has an often joking manner about his craft. He is played by Ray Wise.

The two-part Doctor Who story "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit" features a version of the Devil referred to simply as "the Beast", who claims to have served as a subconscious basis for devil-like deities in religions throughout the universe. This depiction gives more emphasis on the monstrous appearance of the Devil, depicting him as a gargantuan, red skinned beast with horns and a skeletal face.

The Torchwood episode "End of Days" features a gigantic demonic being named Abaddon, called the "Son of the Great Beast" (referring directly to the Doctor Who episodes stated above). Abaddon kills people by casting his shadow over them to absorb their life-energy, which is ultimately his downfall.

In the anime Demon Lord Dante (魔王ダンテ, Maō Dante), Demon Lord Satan helps Dante in his battle against God and his angels.

The third series of TV series Ashes to Ashes introduced the character Jim Keats (played by Daniel Mays), a Discipline and Complaints officer sent to audit the Fenchurch East police station. The bigger picture reveals Fenchurch East to be a purgatory for police officers, with Gene Hunt saving souls and sending them to Heaven, while Keats is shown to be the Devil, taking souls to Hell.

Satan has been featured as a character on many other series, including South Park, Family Guy, Futurama (though this incarnation is specifically the "Robot Devil", who runs Robot Hell the entrance to which is situated under a fairground ride called the Inferno in New Jersey, and is once referred to as Beelzebot), Cow and Chicken, The Simpsons, and Robot Chicken.

In an uncharacteristically-benign treatment, the Devil 'merely' uses his powers to defeat a sports team (the New York Yankees) that he apparently dislikes in the musical and film Damn Yankees.


The BBC Radio 4 comedy show Old Harry's Game features Andy Hamilton in the leading role as Satan.


Many writers have incorporated the character of Satan into their works. Among the works are, in chronological order:


  • In DC and Vertigo comics, the figure of the devil is portrayed by Lucifer Morningstar, the fallen angel and former ruler of hell, leader of the Unholy Trinity - although other figures, such as Neron or the First of the Fallen, are sometimes used to portray the devil. Neron in Underworld Unleashed gives powers to numerous villains. Darkseid is also associated with the devil, Lucifer and Hades.
  • In Marvel Comics, a "Lucifer" has been mentioned in some comics as being a hell lord with the same "Fall from Heaven" backstory. In the recent Ghost Rider series, Johnny Blaze faces a demon who claims to be Lucifer. In other Marvel plotlines, several high-level demons, such as Mephisto, Azazel, Marduk Kurios, and Satanish, have claimed to be the Biblical Satan. In Marvel Comics there is the Norse devil Loki. The Japanese God of Evil Amatsu-Mikaboshi has a satan-like role in Marvel.
  • Satan is a main character in the manga Devilman by Go Nagai.
  • Jio Freed, the main character from the manga O-Parts Hunter contains Lucifer/Satan, the most powerful demon in the series.
  • In the Manga series "Bastard‼: Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy" by Kazushi Hagiwara, Satan appears as a large alien like monster and has destroy the Milky Way Galaxy by flying across it. Satan also helps Dark Schneider by telling him that he is a major part of the end times prophecy, and will lead demons and mankind to war against God and his army.
  • In Image Comics, Satan is depicted as the twin brother of God in the comic book series Spawn. In this portrayal, both God and Satan are depicted as being antagonists who squandered their powers as creator gods in endless fighting and were punished by the Mother of Creation for their actions.
  • In the Japanese manga series Dragon Ball Z by Akira Toriyama, the figure of satan is portrayed by Dabura, who is the ruler of the Demon Realm. Dabura is placed under the wizard Babidi's control by a spell, becomes his right-hand man, and does his bidding. Dabura later retaliates against Babidi's orders, Majin Buu ends up turning him into a large cookie and eating him. Dabura appears a red demon that possesses two huge horns (similar to a minotaurus), and a blue outfit with a white cape.
  • In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac the title character, Johnny, is sent to Hell and has an extensive conversation with the Devil 'Senior Diablo.' Also in the spinoff series Squee!, the devil is married to a Christian woman and has a son, Pepito the Anti-christ, who befriends the unwilling Squee. Squee is invited to Satan's house for dinner, where Satan and Pepito both try to get Squee to join them, but he refuses and leaves after finishing dinner.
  • Roger's best friend in Darkness Within is a Devil named Brian Hallus, who brags about having given wedgies to Lucifer.
  • Satan is the main character in Normal Bob Smith's satirical Satan's Salvation.
  • In the Japanese manga series Ao no Exorcist by Kato Kazue, Satan is the father of the main character, Rin Okumura, who, being Satan's son, emits blue flames, the sign of Satan.

Video Games

  • Satan is the final boss in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. He appears as a long haired nearly naked man.

Devil's Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary gives a satirical view of Satan:

SATAN, n. One of the Creator's lamentable mistakes, repented in sackcloth and ashes. Being instated as an archangel, Satan made himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a moment and at last went back. "There is one favor that I should like to ask," said he.
"Name it."
"Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws."
"What, wretch! You, his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn of eternity with hatred of his soul — you ask for the right to make his laws?"
"Pardon; what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them himself."
It was so ordered.

U.S. Justice

In 1971, Gerald Mayo brought a civil rights action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Satan and his servants who allegedly placed deliberate obstacles in Mayo's path. In this U.S. court's written opinion, the court did not deny the existence of Satan; rather, the court asserted that it was unlikely that Satan was ever present in the geographic area included in the Western District of Pennsylvania, stating, "We question whether plaintiff may obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this judicial district." In what was clearly a jocular reference to The Devil and Daniel Webster, the court implied that Satan might live in New Hampshire, stating, "While the official reports disclose no case where this defendant has appeared as defendant there is an unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff." This appears to be the only published legal case in the United States regarding the existence of Satan and, at present, the United States' official position would seem to be that Satan may exist and, if so, Satan might be found in New Hampshire.

See also

Further reading

  • The Comics Go to Hell: A Visual History of the Devil in Comics (by Fredrik Stromberg, 360 pages, Fantagraphics Books, 2005, ISBN 1560976160)
  • The Lure of the Dark Side: Satan & Western Demonology in Popular Culture (by Eric S. Christianson and Christopher Patridge, 256 pages, Equinox Publishing Ltd, SW11, 2008, ISBN 1845533100)
  • The Satanic Screen: An Illustrated Guide to the Devil in Cinema (by Nikolas Schreck, 256 pages, Creation Books, 2001, ISBN 1840680431)


  1. ^ Kurtz, Lester R., 2007, Gods in the Global Village: The World's Religions in Sociological Perspective, Pine Forge Press, ISBN 1-412-92715-3, p. 153.
  2. ^ The Devil's Music: 1920s Jazz

External links

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