I watched the first episode of “Lucifer” when it premiered. One would expect a few things given that this is television, after all: the supposedly “immune to Lucifer’s charms” detective looks to be about 26, tops, and is hot, of course. Nothing new there.
I expected Lucifer to be tall, dark and handsome, as is appropriate for a Romantic portrayal of the fallen angel (there’s a rich tradition in European, 19th century literature of portraying the Devil that way). There are plenty of inside jokes about Lucifer’s “Father,” and his reluctance to return to the Underworld. Some of the acting is rather bad, and the story is somewhat simplistic and seems targeted to teens and 20-somethings, who deserve better than these diluted story lines and predictable plot twists. Everything seems too easy, natural and light in this show, and even when they are attempting to be serious via the apparitions of the black-winged angel admonishing Lucifer for being bad, nothing seems particularly weighty, and certainly nothing here suggests real evil.
And therein lies the rub. There is no attempt here to address the nature of evil. Here, Lucifer is portrayed as the “devil with a soul,” a character that nobody would take seriously as evil incarnate. This reinforces the idea that evil is kind of cool, sexy, bad in a rebellious teenager kind of bad, and most of all, nothing to be truly afraid of. If, however, you have ever been confronted with true evil, the kind that sears your soul and makes you fear for your sanity, then you know that it’s truly dangerous to make evil appear bland and adventurous.
True evil loves to hide behind such silliness. My favorite line about the Devil comes from “The Usual Suspects”: ‘The greatest trick of the Devil was convincing the world he didn’t exist’. The other ‘greatest trick of the devil’ is convincing the world that evil isn’t all that bad, and can actually be fun and super sexy! Our American media culture is so used to downplaying anything truly awful and scary to the point of inculcating in us all a sort of moral mediocrity, a blase attitude about anything too upsetting. Yes, I do understand that the Entertainment Industry’s job is to ‘entertain’ us, but I also think that if your topic is Lucifer and, by association, evil, then you have some obligation to at least SUGGEST how evil truly operates in the world. This has been done well before: think of the iconic figure of Hannibal Lecter. Look at those eyes. Those are eyes that suggest the power and horror of evil. Not the blandly handsome eyes of our hero in this new show.
Why bother taking evil seriously? Quite simply, because it exists and can destroy our lives. It kills, mains, seduces, rapes, distracts, lies, manipulates and destroys the good and the noble in our character. It threatens our humanity, our love, our hope and our belief in God. It can lurk in obvious places, such as in the hearts of ruthless killers, but it also can be found corrupting our politicians, bankers, CEOs and anyone or any group with power over others’ lives. Evil can be found all over social media, distracting us from useful and creative pursuits. It can be found in a raised fist at home. It can be found on paranormal investigations, classrooms, offices, homes, churches . . . it’s everywhere.
That, my friend, is truly terrifying. We have to fight it wherever it infects our environment. It’s not going to show itself in obvious ways. We need a moral education; we are starving for shows about the true nature of Good and Evil and powerful ways to combat the demons. Shows like “Lucifer” do us all a disservice by turning evil into a fun hour of hot guys in nightclubs. We can’t be warriors for the Good until we know what we are truly fighting.