Well, hello there.
It’s been a while. My God, my life has been in turmoil lately – and I think part of it might have been due to my moratorium on finishing Lucifer, a Netflix Original that I got into a few years ago. Oh, yes, and I binged too many Lisa Kleypas novels and briefly lost the will to go on. But you might have heard of Lucifer – it’s apparently loosely based on some comic book or another, where the devil gets bored of ruling hell and decides to take a vacation to earth. While there, he unwittingly gets involved in a murder mystery, and winds up becoming a consultant for the LAPD with Detective Chloe Decker. Celestial hilarity ensues for 6 seasons.
Rambling warning, spoiler warnings, and potential insanity warnings? I don’t know. Just tell me what you’re favorite fictional take on Biblical stories. Mine so far are Lucifer, the Mortal Instruments, and the Hades Series by Alexandra Adornetto.
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Now, I’ve touched on my thoughts about this series in some of my other writings, especially when I discuss the Good Place. And wow, now that I’m done, I have ALL the thoughts. I’ve told anyone who will listen how much I loved the show up until the first half of season five, when “God” comes down to earth. It was all well and good, but the plotline that I lost patience with was the whole idea that God could forget where his powers are, or that he would retire and leave his job to one of his angels. In this universe, angels are the literal children of God and the Goddess of the universe, created in the “Big Bang” (get it?) Now, I was willing to overlook a lot with this show, because I love the drama, and the romance, and the pace, and just the pure hilarity. I love Tom Ellis – he’s sexy as hell, no pun intended, and he/Lucifer are the inspirations for more than a few of my romantic characters.
I am almost 100% sure that shows like this are trolling Christians – literally just trying to get a reaction out of us, so that they can say either, “It’s only fiction, stop complaining,” or “None of this celestial stuff is real anyway – it literally doesn’t matter.” But hey, trolls gotta troll, and I’m game. Again – I really love this show, and I was bawling trough most of these last few episodes. I could take most of it with a grain of salt, all in good fun – I can even imagine the real God having a chuckle here and there. But for some reason, even though most people don’t really understand the significance of Satan at all, poking fun and making a caricature of him is one thing – but when it comes to God, I just felt the show itself could have done so much better. Not from a Christian perspective, which this show obviously doesn’t maintain, but from an adaptation perspective. This show is the ultimate “that’s not what happened in the book!!!!” not just for Bible-readers, but apparently for the comic lovers as well. I can’t speak to the comics, because I’ve never read them. The only thing I’ve heard is that comic Lucifer is a lot closer to the Biblical devil – not so affable, and much closer to actual evil.
I have no idea whether the God retirement plot is canon to the comics or not, but my main issue with this, other than the absolute blasphemy, of course, is just how unclever it is. I love this show because of how CLEVER it is! It makes you feel! It makes you think! It’s visually appealing, and did I mention Tom Ellis – but no.
I’ve often wondered to my circle why this show how to be premised on the beings of the Bible at all – especially when the God plot came in. Honestly, this show felt like it really could have worked just as a show about a corporate brat who doesn’t want to inherit daddy’s business and just wants to party and drink all the time. Yes, I know, the show only exists because of the comic, but it’s one of those things where it’s an adaptation in name only. So that’s more unnecessary evidence that this is just troll-baiting. Anyway, all of that is fine. My main concern with shows like this, whether it’s an attempt at a serious Biblical adaptation or not, is that consumers of the material might not have the global view that Bible readers have – they may actually believe that this is what the Bible, and the Christian faith, is actually about. Whether your religion is Star Wars or Islam or Buddhism, you can probably agree with me that you can tolerate a certain amount of fun being poked at what you love and believe, but when it threatens to replace the true representation of the story, you start to get concerned.
There’s a few well-known tropes when it comes to the devil – Satan, Lucifer, etc. Forked pointy tale, horns, pitch-fork, etc. Some of this imagery does come from the Bible, but gets twisted in popular media mainly to sell Halloween costumes. There’s also another insidious idea that a lot of people believe in good faith – that the devil is in charge of hell, and rules over it, etc. That his job is to torture people, and that he’s somehow employed by God. You ALMOST might get this impression from reading the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis – the idea of Satan and demons being some sort of evil corporate empire employed to mess with humans. Of course, if you look below the surface of the the Screwtape Letters, you’ll see that Screwtape and Wormwood are working out plots to drive people away from God while they are still alive on earth – they are not actually ruling in hell.
No, if you want to use the Bible as your reference, why not actually use the full canon? The actual story, instead of some sort of strange, white-washed adaptation? This is an issue of modern churches, not just mass media, by the way – that God is some lovey-dovey, all-peaceful being who’s just at one with everything and sits on his cloud accepting everything.
But the Lucifer take is…bizarre. Let’s just say that. I was immediately put off it because of just how strange it was. The obvious irreverence was disturbing, and made me look out my window for fire and brimstone, I’m not going to lie. But just, why? That’s my question. They set up in the actual world of the show that God is all-knowing and all-powerful. And I must say, the God Johnson storyline was a lot more believable and reasonable, and fit so much more with the cleverness of the show. But apparently, the writers did a 180 and decided that God is actually some bored, bumbling ex-husband who is getting senile with age. Never mind the Goddess of the universe thing. That’s a whole other topic. But the thought that God’s power is something like the power of Lucifer’s ring – that it exists as some sort of tangible, finite resource that can be condensed and stored, i.e. in a baby rattle, and that God will go on the fritz and accidentally explode people without it.
And yes, the stupid celestial war. It was so underwhelming. Like, they couldn’t have gotten just a few more extras to be in the “war”? And what about that whole plot point about God’s power needing to be contained within God for the fabric of the universe to remain intact?
AND WHY WOULD GOD NEED TO RETIRE?
Yes, there’s a lot of weird romance in this show, and strange relationships. The point there is to subvert the expectations and present an alternative “what-if” scenario. But it plays fast and loose with the actual rules of mortality and celestially, which dramatically lowers the stakes of the show. Like, if Eve, a human, can simply come down from heaven if she’s bored, then why does it matter if anyone dies? Oh, and what if Adam was a coked-up, misogynistic playboy? What if demons and angels actually had different lineages, different parentages? And what if angels couldn’t reproduce with humans? So many of these questions that are just unnecessary, and often just played into whatever hot topic was happening in society at the moment.
One thing I will say, is that of all that shows that try to address the whole police brutality and BLM thing, this show is actually a proper medium for it. It already has to do with police, and making the world a better place, but it already played into this problem in the first place in earlier seasons – so another shoe-horned political commentary.
In total, I realize, that shows like this – including the Good Place – are an attempt for humans to answer big questions that have potential eternal consequences. We’re all trying to figure that out. Whether you believe in the Force or the Nine Circles, a lot of us wonder whether there’s more to life than meets the eye. Is everything just a random accident? Does anything happen when we die? Where did we all come from? The Bible gives a pretty comprehensive account of all this – I’d give it a read if you’re keen. It’s not always a fun or clean or happy story, but if you’re wondering what all the Lucifer references are, that’s where you can find the source material. But just like the Good Place, Lucifer ends up on a focus of how to make the after life “better” and “fairer,” essentially because it is seen as unfair that this short life we have can result in eternal, inescapable torment for the rest of your life with no recourse. Both shows end with a conclusion where the forces of “good” and “evil” both work together to create a system with second chances and redemption until you eventually earn your eternal bliss. At least Lucifer didn’t take the unbelievably nihilistic, depressing, and suicidal conclusion that eternity eventually becomes meaningless, and that the only thing that makes life worth living is death. Gah. But both shows seem to try and set up premises for the conclusion that goes exactly counter to the Bible – that we, on our own, have what it takes to be good enough to deserve eternal happiness. That we can somehow earn our way into heaven – either by getting enough points, or passing enough tests, or in the case of Lucifer, getting over whatever it is that makes you feel guilty. Both these conclusions are problematic, of course, but they are both attempts to comfort ourselves with the belief that whatever happens on earth isn’t permanent – we can have second or even endless chances in the afterlife to get to the “good” place. This isn’t surprising, of course – the Bible is full of stories of people doing just that. God gives us very simple instructions, and offers to help us and walk with us, and yet we still think that there must be a better, or different way, so that we don’t have to rely on anyone other than ourselves. And why not? Trusting in God is scary. We don’t see him. It’s hard sometimes to believe that he even exists. We can see and touch and feel ourselves and others. We can even put some stock into our own imaginations and theories, in a way that we can’t technically see into the mind of God. Why would we trust him when he says that all we need to do is turn to him, and trust? Repent, and accept forgiveness? Nothing we do is that bad, really, right? Who is God to tell us that we have anything to be sorry for? It’s simple – but it’s not easy. And it’s scary.
But good news, none of us have to choose that. We don’t have to trust God, or read the Bible, or even think about these big questions if we don’t want to. It’s our choice. But for God’s sake, if we are going to use the Bible to try and examine some of these questions, let’s use the actual Bible. Whether it’s a trashy Netflix show or a feel-good church-sermon. Either make up your own religion or story, or examine the Bible and Christianity for what they really are.
As much as I hate the implications of the conclusions of the Good Place, at least it doesn’t claim to be an examination or satire of the Bible – not really. And as much as I love that Lucifer at least leaves us with some hope that life – and the afterlife – can be inherently rewarding and are something to strive for, there were a lot of missed opportunities to provide some real – even if satirical – examination.
So that’s all the theological bits and thoughts. I’m glad I finished the series. I loved the happy – if strange – ending. And even though I’d watched all the YouTube reviews ahead of time, and knew how the story would go more or less, I still loved how the show communicated that feeling that we all have at times – we are going to die one day. Or have to say a very painful but necessary goodbye. I could feel the actors were really in these moments as well – knowing that the show itself was coming to an end. These emotions came through, and I was not okay by the end. But please, remember that all of that is some very creative, but very strange fictional subversion. Entertaining, and tear-jerking, but completely fictional.
I may or may not be getting back to reviewing stuff soon – I just finished Midnight Sun, and man…the thoughts. So many thoughts.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13