Friday, October 31, 2014

Depicting The Devil

Well, it's Halloween. A day perceived by some radical religious nutjobs as being a holiday that celebrates all things evil and worships the Devil. One church went as far as to call it "the Devil's birthday", which is just nonsensical on so many levels. But that gets me thinking about the great adversary and accuser himself, Satan. It took me until this year to reach the point where I can officially say that I do not believe in Satan. I do not believe that such a being as Satan/Lucifer the Devil truly exists. I believe that God exists, that angels exist, that demons exist, and that both Heaven and Hell exist in some form. Satan does NOT exist. He seldom appeared in the Bible and most of what is known about him does not have any basis in fact or even religion and scripture. He is a character of mythology - a work of pure religious fiction. A creation of the human mind and psyche who somehow got a larger mythos built around him until he took on a life of his own. But in reality, there is no crazy fallen angel who's waging spiritual warfare against God - when you get down to it, that's just silly. However, I do believe that a Devil exists - not as a person, but as a thing. Not an entity, but rather a frequency. The Devil, called the great Satan and the enemy of God and man, IS evil itself. The further away from God's love and divine goodness you are, the further into the darkness of evil you are. Think of it like the Solar System: God is the Sun and the Devil is Pluto or any planet beyond it that's furthest from the warmth of perfect love. That very concept is the Devil. We use Satan as a metaphorical figure for this evil - a personification of all things wrong and sinful, often to use as a scapegoat for the problems we face, and that the entire world faces. But the truth is that the literal Devil comes from within. A lord of all evil isn't needed for one's corruption -humanity is it's own Devil. And it will stay as such until all lives find the light and salvation of God, and the collective of all evil that got created in the universe by dark hearts is extinguished and removed from existence forever.

And now, this entry shall list my top picks for the best depictions of the Devil in fiction. The ones that I feel, in some way, shape, or form, hit closest to the mark of what the Devil is all about.

 THE DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE (Star Wars): In my mind, this is one of THE top most absolutely perfect representations of the Devil that there has ever been. It's not a person or a living, breathing entity (discounting the Son pictured there), it's not an active force of evil, it's not a place that can be reached, it's not a voice that calls out to you and corrupts you. It's just there. It's there to be the other end of the spectrum from the Force, which is naturally part of everything. The Dark Side is a part of the very thing that keeps living things alive. It doesn't come to you: you come to it. You're tempted by it's dark allure and if you are seduced by it enough to fully embrace it, it's ultimately your own choice. That is the very nature of the Devil. The Dark Side is the great Satan, while people like Palpatine who embrace it and use it for their own selfish ends are evil Satanists, some of the vilest of all human beings. It shows the invisible Devil is often scariest. 

 VAATU (The Legend Of Korra): Another great Devil figure, though this one is heavier on leaning towards the mythological creation rather than the real deal. As a spirit that was born to embody all darkness, destruction, chaos, and evil in the universe, Vaatu naturally has nothing but dark thoughts and instincts, wanting nothing more than to basically wreck shit in the world and create imbalance, making himself stronger. But he was born tied to Raava, his opposite number. As long as the two were bound together, balance was kept in the world. At every Harmonic Convergence, Vaatu would fight Raava in hopes of breaking free, but never succeeded until Wan came along and was deceived into severing the spirits, setting Vaatu free to bring chaos and disorder into the world and create a huge natural/spiritual imbalance. If he were to kill Raava on Harmonic Convergence, he'd grow all-powerful enough to bring the Earth into a thousand years of darkness. Thankfully, the Avatar has stopped this from happening - twice! While Vaatu himself isn't an accurate depiction of the Devil, what he does and what he stands for is true to what the Devil really is. And if he were stationary rather than an active force with plans of his own, he'd be on point.

 THE NIBIRU ENTITY (Scooby Doo: Mystery Inc.): This creepy mofo is also one of the all time best Devil characters ever made, seamlessly combining both the mythological entity and the realistically accurate frequency. Like the Satan or Lucifer of myth,
he was a member of a normally benevolent race of beings before he fell from grace and became the most evil thing alive, so evil that he had to be imprisoned within a special crystal coffin that confined his very essence. He desires nothing but absolute power over all dimensions, and he wants to consume everything he can in order to have it. In the series finale, he brings about an apocalypse to Crystal Cove, and is intending on doing this to the rest of the world and all galaxies as well, and we actually see him killing and eating people on-screen! This thing is just pure evil to the core. Like the literal Devil, he creates an evil frequency from within his tomb, creating a curse that reaches out to the darkness in people and tempts them into embracing their worst nature and doing terrible sins in the name of their selfishness and greed. He has no physical form, though we see him manifest himself as evil glowing eyes: he takes a form by using Pericles' body as his vessel. He also borrows heavily from Lovecraftian horrors like Cthulu and Nyalenhotep. He is a demon in the purest sense.

 CHERNABOG (Disney's Fantasia): How can I list the greatest Devils depicted in fiction without mention of him? To me, he might just be the absolute best visual depiction of the Devil there has ever been. Rather than take a human shape, Chernabog is huge and towering. Instead of having any humane features, he's a demonic gargoyle-like creature. Instead of being red, he's pitch black, the color of darkness. And his eyes are golden, yet completely and utterly soulless looking eyes. In all of his time on screen, Chernabog does only one thing - revel in total pure evilness along with the legions of demons of Hell. And he never speaks. Not once. Not one word. The combination of his design, his silence, his actions, his animation, and the symphony that accompanies him all create this incredible image of what the Devil is. The imagery seems mythic and yet the moment itself feels unsettlingly real. If the Devil took on a physical form, this would be it.

 JUDGE FROLLO (Disney's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame): Aside from Chernabog, Disney's most literal depiction of the Devil came from this guy. Frollo is definitely an example of a human being who has turned so far away from God and towards evil, that he has become the Devil incarnate. The irony being that he does so despite, and largely because, he believes he's doing God's work. He has a selfish, hateful, downright malicious agenda and he gets behind a religion and cause that's seen as inherently righteous in order to make that agenda justified to himself and others. He's a fanatic, a hypocrite, a bigot, a corrupt leader, and even a bit of a sadist. He's done all sorts of terrible things: child abuse, emotional manipulation, torture, murder, arson, attempted genocide, and even attempted rape. Y'know, in a Disney movie! What makes Frollo an atrocious monster is that he's far from the realm of impossibility. His type of pure evil is all too real.

 GHETSIS HARMONIA (Pokemon): In a series about Pocket Monsters, it's a human being who's closest to being the Devil. Like Frollo, he's a cruel, child abusing, hypocritical, zealous, manipulative, corrupt, sadistic bastard who hides behind a cause that's seen
as righteous by others in order to conceal and justify his own evil agenda. UNlike Frollo, he has no delusions of serving a higher power's will - he knows full well how self-serving he is. And yet he still finds his actions justified due to his extreme narcissism that has him believing himself to be "perfect." Aside from his character, Ghetsis is given imagery commonly associated with Satan.
His name is based on the tritone, "the Devil in music". He has a horn-like hairstyle, red eyes, and eventually a black cloak. He carries around his cane-staff the way the Devil carries a pitchfork. He specializes in all forms of torture and talks about claiming the hearts, minds, and souls of others.
His battle theme sounds like a dark reprise of that of Arceus', the Pokemon god. Most notably, his second big plan has him attempting to turn the world into a frozen Hell through Kyurem's icy power,
a detail clearly influenced by Dante's Inferno's depiction of Satan's level of Hell. The opening to "Episode N" in the anime even has him throwing back his cape in a devil like fashion set to a fiery background. It all suggests he's the Devil made flesh, and any world of his would be a Hell on Earth.

 MELKOR AND SAURON (Middle Earth): Both of these dark lords created by Tolkien are perfect depictions of the Devil on various levels. Morgoth is very close to the concept of Satan, this one being a Devil who always has been the Devil. His successor Sauron, however, is pure Lucifer, being of the most beautiful race of people in existence and having fallen from grace by rebelling against God, turning into the evilest and ugliest being alive. Both are malicious, deceptive, power-hungry, and rotten to the core. Like Chernabog, Sauron is a perfect visual for the Devil - a shadowy humanoid shape in the center of a fiery circle, making what looks like a big flaming eye. Never speaking, barely seen, but always felt, Sauron embodies evil.

 LUCEMON (Digimon): He's an evil, prideful, narcissistic, homicidal angel Digimon named LUCEmon who leads the Demon Lords and even has an attack called "Paradise Lost". How much more blatant can you get? But Lucemon is actually a more effective Devil figure than the more typical devil Digimon that the franchise also has. He wants to destroy the entire Digital World and raise Hell in it, also attempting to do the same to other worlds, but he doesn't see this as being evil for evil's sake. In his own mind, he is a Christ figure who is bringing a perfect new world order where he, as a god, will shepherd all weaker Digimon by removing their free will and thought, making them his mindless, obedient slaves. He's also quite a fetishist for agonizing torture and pain, meaning we can expect a lot of that in his "utopia" as well. It really all boils down to the fact that he has his own, warped vision of a "pure" world and the Digital World as it exists was not up to his standards. Lucemon is thus delusional, insane, and thoroughly evil.

 CHAOS (Sailor Moon): Here's another Devil without a form or voice of it's own but with an evil presence that only gets more and more inescapable as the manga's story progresses. All misery, sorrow, anger, hatred, evil, and disorder in the galaxy manifested itself as this thing, which is now the source of all darkness. While sealed into the galaxy cauldron by it's opposite number, Cosmos, it yet had enough power to spawn offsprings created from it's dark soul. Queen Metaria, the Death Phantom, Pharaoh 90, and Queen Nehelania are all incarnations of Chaos.

 TRIGON (Teen Titans): One of the most fearsome and hideous devils you will see anywhere, Trigon the Terrible is known as the master of destruction for
a reason. He is responsible for the ruination of the realm of Azarath, and is the one who conceived Raven as an offspring whose empathetic powers are closely tied to him, thus making her his access to other dimensions that he can lay waste to. If all of Raven's emotions and powers were to go out of check, Trigon could destroy the Earth. And in Season 4 of of the animated series, he does just this. The sky turns red, the world turns to lava and fire, people turn to stone, buildings are in ruin, demons are free to roam loose, and Trigon slouches down on his throne that used to be Titan's Tower. Oh, but he doesn't wish to stop there - he sends hordes of demons out into the galaxy to lay waste to other worlds as well, in hopes that he can take over the entire universe! Truly he was as evil as they come. We also see a typical deal with the Devil story play out between Trigon and Slade before any of this world destruction happens. Slade sold his soul and made all this possible, but Trigon still screwed him over. Trigon's most memorable trait is those four glowing eyes. Creepy as literal Hell!

 THE FIRST EVIL (Buffy The Vampire Slayer): This one was also as blatant as it gets. It's the darkest, most demonic, most evil force in existence, known only as "the First Evil." First Evil? The first evil thing to ever exist? Sounds like the Devil to me! It also could take on different forms, speak temptations to people, has servants who perform rituals and do it's work for it, and is in the business of claiming souls. Even without a name, it's the Devil! That said,
I did not at all care for it playing the part of Big Bad for the awful seventh/final season of the show.

 QUEEN JADIS (The Chronicles Of Narnia): If Narnia is the world in-between life and death, and Aslan is Jesus Christ, then Jadis would most certainly be the Devil figure here. The evil, despotic queen of a world that she brought ruination upon, she was there when Narnia was created. She played her part in the garden of Eden parallel before fleeing north to become the White Witch, who plagued Narnia and Aslan ever since. Like Ghetsis, she makes full use of the frozen interpretation of Hell, spreading ice and snow magic everywhere she can. In her rule of Narnia, she casts it into an eternal winter but makes sure to specifically remove Christmas, being the birth of Christ, of course. She has the temptation and soul claiming angle down, as seen with her temptation of Edmund and with those she's either enslaved or turned to stone. It is she who orders and oversees Aslan's own crucifixion moment, as evil itself did with Jesus in life. And she's still a lingering dark force even after she's been killed, seen in the film version of "Prince Caspian."

 THE JOKER (The Dark Knight): An unusual example of a Devilish character, but he fits the bill surprisingly well. There's absolutely no background on this guy - no given justification for why he does or should exist. There are no sensible motives behind his goals. He just wants to spread anarchy and chaos until human civilization falls apart, and he intends on sending a message about how "everything burns" so that people will finally start to get his way and embrace what he believes to be humanity's true nature, a nature of thoughtless, psychotic savagery. The Joker does all this and finds it fun. He's a murderer, a torturer, a terrorist, and an exploiter of the very worst kind. In this sense, he's basically nothing short of the Devil in make-up.

 DARK ELEMENT (Dark Chronicle): Another one who takes the Devil concept for how it accurately is. The great Satan's home is not Hell, but the hearts of living beings. The Dark Element is the Devil born and nurtured within the heart of Sirus, who'd harbored immense hatred for the human race after all they took from him. From there he influenced the rabbit into becoming Emperor Griffin and claiming the Atlamelia stones' powers as part of a plan to make him a physical manifestation who could wipe out all life in the entire world. Unlike most antagonists in the game, there was absolutely nothing positive about Dark Element. He was a force of pure evil.

 MR. DARK (Something Wicked This Way Comes): Owner of his own Pandemonium Carnival and leader of a circus troupe known only as the Autumn People, Dark does business in a way that has been that of the Devil's for centuries. He lures in people who are suffering due to issues in their lives and offer them their heart's greatest desires, things that promise happiness and comfort. But once they've completely given in to what he's offered them, their souls are his to claim, after which he takes it all back from them, trapping the souls in misery. Why? Because he and his kind thrive off of misery and pain, always hungering for the darkest parts of human souls. Dark was a more complex character in the original book, having a morality that's backwards from humanity's default. In the film, though, he's just a straight up evil dick and made no apology for it. Either way, he's an exploiter of what people hold personal and tormentor of humanity.

 THE OVERLOOK HOTEL (The Shining): Forget Randall Flagg, forget Leland Gaunt - THIS was the closest Stephen King ever gave us to the Devil. The hotel itself is the perfect representation of Hell - a wide, lonely space where people are forced to grapple with their personal demons and issues that come to light. And the evil unified consciousness that runs the place is the Devil, a demonic force that cannot be seen or heard, but always felt. It's more frequency than entity, though it acts through the various souls that it's claimed over the years. Nothing is scarier than an evil that at first seems like nothing at all, because it's an unfamiliar kind.

 THE DEMON (Paranormal Activity): While not necessarily the Devil, this thing is frighteningly close to how demons actually operate. They're invisible, they're voiceless, they're not always consistent, and they seek humans to get inside of. The level of evil that this demon has is particularly horrific, given he seems dead set on violating a girl's very being.

 JOHAN LEIBERT (Monster): A case similar to the Joker, this man really has no reason to want to fuck society over so bad and push the abandonment of morality by proving a point about human nature - he was just born with overwhelmingly evil urges and a dark, sadistic nature. Everything in his tragic background are outlets for his evil rather than reasons or explanations. He commits atrocities because he enjoys it, but he's also a narcissist who seeks validation. He wants to corrupt the most moral souls he possibly can in order to feel ahead of the curve. In essence, he's more the Anti-Christ than he is Satan, but still a Devilish figure to be feared.

 LUCIFER MORNINGSTAR (DC Comics): This one's a no-brainer. This IS Lucifer, and is easily the best modern interpretation of the mythological fallen angel.

 THE IDEA OF EVIL (Berserk): To put it simply, this IS the Devil. The Devil IS evil, thus the very idea of evil, the very concept and force that is evil in all the collective subconscious of every living being that exists in all realities of the universe, is the literal Devil. The great Satan comes not just from within, but from further within than we could ever go or comprehend. It has influence over many and does it's work through it's disciples, namely the evil Griffith, also known as Femto, who is like Lucifer. And it shall live on until God can finally destroy it.

 RUNNER UP: WALTER WHITE (Breaking Bad): I just had to include this unusual runner-up because really, this is one of the best depictions of what it means for a human being to become the Devil by totally succumbing to the Devil within himself. This is how far a human can go until he is the lowest, most vile and wretched creature that could possibly be called "human." This is how one is consumed by sin - by repeatedly sinning without ever turning back, all by choice. The road to Walt's own personal Hell was paved with good intentions, namely the well-being of his family. But by the end of that road, Walt admitted that he lost sight of that motivator, staying in the life of crime because he was good at it and it made him feel alive. He became a self-serving destroyer of lives, even bringing about his own self destruction, and he barely even regretted it. Until his final moments, Walt had nothing but fondness for his heinous life - empathy, remorse, and repentance was beyond him now. That is what the Devil looks like in the reality of the physical world, and there's always some special form of Hell awaiting such people, who unfortunately do exist.

Now, let's close this out by name-dropping some other Devil figure candidates!

 Hades (Disney's Hercules)
 Maleficent (Disney's Sleeping Beauty)
 The Coachman (Disney's Pinocchio)
 Davy Jones (Pirates Of The Caribbean)
 Satanus (Superman)
 Darkseid (DC Comics)
 Mephisto (Marvel Comics)
 Surtur (Marvel Comics)
 Satan (South Park)
 Rumpelstiltskin (Once Upon A Time)
 The Shadows (Babylon 5)
 Shabranigdo (The Slayers)
 Darkrai (Pokemon: Mystery Dungeon)
 Giratina (Pokemon)
 Zorc Necrophades (Yu-Gi-Oh!)
 Fire Lord Ozai (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
 The Diclonius (Elfen Lied)
 The Unknown Man (Elfen Lied)
 Lord Tirek (My Little Pony)
 The Book Spirit (Care Bears)
 King Piccolo (Dragon Ball)
 Freeza (Dragon Ball)
 Dabura (Dragon Ball)
 Demise (The Legend Of Zelda)
 Bowser (Super Mario Bros.)
 Devimon (Digimon)
 Daemon (Digimon)
 Keel Lorenz (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
 Chaos (Final Fantasy)
 Shinryu (Final Fantasy)
 JENOVA (Final Fantasy VII)
 Yu Yevon (Final Fantasy X)
 HIM (The Powerpuff Girls)
 Gnomey (The Powerpuff Girls)
 Vicious (Cowboy Bebop)
 Femto (Berserk)
 Naraku (Inu Yasha)
 Kyubey (Madoka Magica)
 The Devil Gundam (G Gundam)
 Lanancuras (Shinzo)
 The Major (Hellsing)
 Luca Blight (Suokiden II)
 Dr. Weil (Mega Man)
 Mr. H (The World Ends With You)
 Schwartz (Tales Of Legendia)
 XANA (Code Lyoko)
 Bill Cipher (Gravity Falls)
 Aku (Samurai Jack)
 Father (Codename: Kids Next Door)
 Unicron (Transformers)
 Dark Specter (Power Rangers)
 Leland Gaunt (Needful Things
 Randall Flagg (The Stand)
 Mara (Buddhism)
 Screwtape (The Screwtape Letters)