So the FOX network plans to launch this new show in 2016:
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but previews for movies and TV shows these days tell us plenty about what to expect. Based on this trailer and its synopsis, I’d like to share my first thoughts about FOX’s Lucifer.
What “Lucifer” Gets Right
Giving Their Devil His Due
Our first encounter with FOX’s Lucifer is in a form such as we should expect him to appear. No horns, tail, or pitchfork. Nothing in his appearance to make us flee from him in horror. He’s attractive, wealthy, well dressed, and speaks with sophistication. He drives through the night self-satisfied, solitary, and yet pleased to have others serve him and line up eagerly at his door. His popular club is named “Lux” (Latin for “Light.”) “And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) He draws many to himself by means of human sensuality.
His name, “Lucifer Morningstar,” is drawn from Isaiah 14:12.
Church Fathers wrote that “Lucifer” was never the devil’s proper (or “God-given”) name but that it signifies the glorious state from which he fell. However, I give the show creators credit for a pretty good name choice.
FOX’s Lucifer is a denouncer, reviling “this human stain” and “your corrupt little organization.” This is in keeping with him being ‘the accuser of the brethren, who night and day accuses them before God’ (Revelation 12:10) as he did with righteous Job. (Job 1:9-11, 2:4-5) In fact, his most well-known titles highlight this trait: “Devil” comes from the Greek word for “Slanderer,” while “Satan” is Hebrew for “Adversary” or “Accuser.”
Lucifer is willing to transgress laws whenever it benefits him. Perhaps this is why FOX’s Lucifer will premiere in 2016 driving with expired tags on his license plate (but it’s more likely just a production mistake.)
What “Lucifer” Gets Wrong
The Devil They Know is Better
Than the Devil They Don’t
If there were people in the entertainment world who didn’t believe that Adolf Hitler really existed, I could imagine someone reenvisioning him to be some TV drama’s charismatic hero. Many people would be understandably offended and concerned about what evils could flow from presenting the leader of the Third Reich — a spreader of hate and murderer of millions — as primetime television’s next charming protagonist. Ordinarily, aware of Godwin’s Law, I would avoid drawing comparisons to Hitler. Yet as bad as Hitler was, the devil is much worse. The worst thing the show’s creators will get wrong about the devil is that he is certainly not, and will never be, ‘a demon with a heart of gold.’
When a young, dispirited pop star returns to Lucifer he counsels her, “Pull yourself together,” and comforts her. Following her sudden death, he looks on her lifeless body with shock and concern. He asks of the LAPD homicide detective, “What is your corrupt little organization going to do about this?” Later, he tells a female confidante, “Someone out there needs to be punished!” She replies, “Stop caring, you’re the devil.” Indeed, this does not fit with his true character. Unable to strike out at the Almighty, the devil attacks the human race God loves. The devil would not mourn the death of a young woman lost in her sins, he would desire her unhappy end and encourage it, as he did the suicide of Judas Iscariot. The devil hates us all.
Lucifer meets the police detective again and offers his assistance: “We should be out there punishing those responsible. Come on, I’ll help you.” However, the real devil does not accuse sinners and will their damnation out of a devotion to truth or justice. He tempts and condemns out of envy, to prove that others are no better than himself. “[B]y the envy of the devil, death entered the world…” (Wisdom 2:24) Jesus said of him, “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
If you want to see something of what the devil is like, I suggest Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. (*) Heath Ledger described the Joker as “an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown,” and his portrayal of evil will be long remembered. However, I doubt the same will be true for FOX’s Lucifer.
Why I Doubt “Lucifer” Will Last
The Devil Has No New Tricks
What type of show is Lucifer? It’s a sometimes light-hearted police procedural with supernatural themes and a “will-they-or-won’t-they” romantic subplot. FOX’s Lucifer is basically like The X-Files with angels instead of aliens. However, I’ll be surprised if it survives beyond its first season. I am dubious about how original and well-written the show will be since it borrows so much from previous works:
— We saw charming, talented eccentrics tagging along with cops to solve crimes in The Mentalist, Castle, and Monk.
— We saw snarky jerks growing in their humanity in Community, House, and Sherlock.
— We saw a fallen angel embracing human life and love in Los Angeles in Nicholas Cage’s City of Angels.
— We saw a brazen angel in human form magically attracting women in John Travolta’s Michael.
— We saw a female love interest be uniquely impervious to a dangerous hunk’s powers with Bella and Edward in Twilight.
— We even saw a demonic vanity license plate (“BAD 1″) in Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley’s Bedazzled.
— At least FOX’s Lucifer plays piano instead of a mean fiddle.
Will these recycled elements gel into a successful hit? Will solving crimes, landing insults, exposing hypocrites, titillating women, and facing-down CGI angels and demons be a long-winning formula? I’m skeptical, but either way, I don’t plan to be watching.
How We Should Respond
Resist the Devil and He Will Flee
In the preface to his spiritually insightful and quite funny book about demonic temptation, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
As it is with devils, so I think for this show. In the coming year, I expect it to attract more heat and noise of controversy, and I suspect the show’s creators will welcome the free publicity. We may be told that everyone must watch the series in order to form an opinion — as if forms of entertainment were somehow entitled to our time and focus. On one hand, we do not want to lend this show inordinate attention. On the other hand, ignoring its existence would be a mistake. We should respond to FOX’s Lucifer with both true teaching and prayer.
Just like with the inaccurate history of Dan Brown’s
The Da Vinci Code, this regrettable new TV show will bring with it
opportunities for catechesis; to teach about angels and demons, temptation and discernment, and the war that is fought for every human soul. (Teaching can be as easy as sharing an article like this one.) We can discourage others from tuning-in but, whether we like it or not, questions will come our way and we should be well-prepared to answer with the truth.
We must also pray. In 2012, an 24-year-old gunman with red-dyed hair, reportedly self-identifying as “the Joker,” killed 12 people and injured 70 in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater showing the third film of the Batman trilogy. On the human level, the responsibility for this crime lies with its perpetrator, but just as a movie can inspire an unstable person to imitate a villain, so a show about the devil can both lead the unwary into exploring the occult or subtly persuade others that the devil’s just a myth. Against such evils we should pray; not only for the impressionable viewers among the audience of millions, but for the creators of such art itself.
Spiritual connections are mysterious and rarely certain, but dabbling with satanic things can open doors to evil and burn us. Six months after the release of The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger, the actor who had immersed himself into the persona of the demonic Joker, was dead from a drug overdose. At one infamous concert in 1969, during which an audience member was later killed by “Hell’s Angels” working security, The Rolling Stones’ performance of “Sympathy for the Devil” was interrupted by a fight and the song had to be restarted. At the time, Mick Jagger remarked onstage, “We’re always having—something very funny happens when we start that number.”
For the good of everyone involved, I will be praying that the cast and crew of FOX’s Lucifer may soon find themselves safely employed in other work and, if Lucifer ever comes to air, that its harm may be minimal and a better show may quickly take its place. I invite you to join me in praying for the same by invoking the help of St. Michael, who fought the devil and the demons out of Heaven. (Revelation 12:7-9)
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us
in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him we humbly pray;
and may you, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
(*) — Like the devil, the Joker in The Dark Knight is a liar, telling incompatible tales about his scars. He loves fire, chaos, violence, and death. Alfred the butler says of him, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” The Joker is an accuser of all: “See, their morals, their ‘code’…it’s a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you, when the chips are down, these — ah — ‘civilized people?’ They’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” In the Joker’s climactic final scene, he is angered that those on neither ferry have blown the other up. Batman asks him, “What were you trying to prove? That deep down, everyone’s as ugly as you?!” The Joker tells Batman that they have been locked in “a battle for Gotham’s soul” while the camera films him, from an inverted perspective, having the likeness of one in an everlasting fall.