The Comparison Of Satan In The Bible To Media
When we think of the portrayal of Satan, the prince of darkness, in the different texts, films, and religions, there are many things that are common traits. But there are also things which differ in each medium, and that is what this paper will be exploring. Using three different sources, the movies End of Days, Devil’s Advocate, and Spawn(not the most profound movie I admit, but a sharp contrast and an interesting portrayal Satan), and compare them to the Bible to show the different ways that Satan is portrayed, both visually and personality wise.
The first thing that needs to be explored is the way Satan is portrayed visually within these three references. The first, both chronologically and by importance, would be the Bible. Originally, in the Garden of Eden, Satan is portrayed a serpent, though with legs.
Now, nowhere in the Bible does it come right out and say that the serpent in the garden was actually Satan, but it is heavily implied throughout the book that it was he. After the serpent convinces Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, God says, So the LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life(Genesis 3:14). This is the first time Satan (or at least what everyone is convinced is Satan) is portrayed with a visual reference in the bible. All throughout the bible, Satan is given a serpent like appearance, as in Revelations 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. So, to sum up what I’ve been saying for the past paragraph, Satan in the Bible is portrayed as a serpent-like creature.
In the movie End of Days, you don’t see Satan portrayed right off, you merely hear his voice saying, Behold the thousand years has ended, and you have failed. However, before Satan is even portrayed in the movie, there is a reference to the serpent form he is given in the bible. A child that he is destined to become betrothed too is born, and is taken down, where a snake is sliced open and some of the blood fed to her. Later in the film, the now grown up child Christine is said to have his blood in her. Which means that the snake is indeed a decedent from Satan, or at least that’s what they’re implying in the movie. The first time we see Satan in the film, it is for our eyes only, meaning that the characters in the movie cannot see him. He is portrayed at first as a spirit of sorts, translucent and shimmering, no real substance, as he seeks out a suitable human form. The form he finds is an unnamed human, played by Gabriel Byrne.
The man is quite fit, with dark hair, slicked to one side, and impeccably dressed. After his human form is destroyed beyond repair by a man named Jericho Cane (played by Arnold, an ex police officer turned bodyguard, who has lost faith in God for losing his family), he once again becomes the translucent spirit that he was in the beginning, which only the audience can see. Than, after a rather ominous silence, Satan pops up from the floor of the church Jericho has taken refuge in, now what would be considered his true form (if beings such as God and Satan can be said to have one permanent form that they prefer.) His true form is quite hideous actually, as he now is at least 20-30 feet tall, composed mainly of what appears to be rotting flesh. He resembles a giant bat more than anything else, with large bat like wings and a face that is similar to that of a bat. He also has the customary horns, though they stick out to the sides and are more like spikes, and a barbed tail. So this is the physical portrayal of the prince of darkness in the movie.
In the movie, Devil’s Advocate, Satan (played by the illustrious Al Pacino) is portrayed much the same way as in End of Days for a while. He’s visually given to us as a normal man throughout the whole movie, save for the very end. He seems to be a suave, sophisticated man who wears nice suits and is a rich individual. He has hair slicked to the side, a somewhat wrinkled facial appearance, and a constant smile on his face that seems to hide something more insidious, which it does. He can also assume other forms, as he turns into a reporter at the end and than shifts back into his normal guise. There’s virtually no reference to the snake portrayal, nor is there much of a reference to the more classical portrayal of Satan, with the horns, wings, tail, and cloven feet. The only time the devil in this movie is not given a human form is at the very end, when his plot is foiled by Kevin (Keanue Reeves), the veil of humanity is ripped away from our eyes, giving us a glimpse of his true form. It’s not a hideous creature, a fanged monster, nor is it a serpent of some kind. Instead, Satan’s true form is an Angel.
That is correct, an angel, complete with wings, glowing aura, and long flowing hair. If you’ll recall, Satan once was an angel of God, before having a falling out with him, so it makes sense that Satan’s true form would likely be the one he was given at the beginning of his creation, that of an angel. So to sum up what Satan looked like in the film, it’s a mortal man for most of the time, save the end, when he’s given his angelic form. Also, for some reason, when he touches holy water, it starts to boil, most likely because he’s pure evil no matter what form he’s in.
In the movie Spawn, which I am using as a sharp contrast to the other two films I have listed, there is a tremendous difference between how he is portrayed anywhere else, except for a few scenes in End of Days. Throughout the entire movie, Satan, actually known as Malbogia in the film, is portrayed as a hideous beast, with no angelic or human form. His part is played by no one really, just special effects, and a man with a very raspy voice that fits the devil very well. The devil is always rather large and quite a repugnant creature in the movie, with a jaw line that extends outward a good twenty feet from his head, which is covered in spiked blonde hair (along with the rest of his body). He has unsightly horns protruding from the side of his head, which are larger than spikes even. His eyes are about as big as a man, and said mouth contains rows upon rows of razor sharp teeth. He appears to have no use of clothing, either lacking the parts necessary or having little to no modesty, but you never see his midsection down.
It is always hidden behind either a large rock, or a column of flame (which Hell seems to contain an fairly decent amount of.) His arms are longer than his body is presumed to be, with large claws at the end with the customary foot long razor sharp points. In other words this devil, Malbogia, is the stuff of nightmares, the things that a parent would tell a naughty child when they misbehave, that they will get snatched up by this dreadful thing if they continue to misbehave. There would be no mistaking what character is being portrayed if one was to look at this film with no real idea of the plot, as I doubt any other movie would have something this hideous being anything other than the prince of darkness himself.
Now, if physical appearance were all that mattered in judging a character, than that would be it. But there is more to comparing people than by merely looking at them. Personality matters too, as it shows what lies beneath the veil of the physical. In the bible, the devil’s personality is never touched upon that much. It’s a given that he’s the master of evil, and therefore, bad, but he’s never actually given a character, nor does he speak that much to let us know his feelings. Personality does not seem to have much bearing in the Bible.
In End of Days, the devil’s personality plays a big factor in him getting what he wants and how he operates, defining him as a character. He, while in the human body he has possessed, is quite sophisticated. He’s a smooth operator, and seems to know the right things to say to try and get what he wants. When he’s talking to Jericho (Arnold), he says, You know who the biggest underachiever is? HIM. He’s just got a good publicist that’s all. When good things happen, it’s His will. When bad things happen, He moves in mysterious ways. Satan possesses a pleasant sounding voice, and he’s very convincing, nearly managing to convince Jericho to join him. The Devil is also very promiscuous in this movie as well, even though he’s after just one girl, he has different forms of relations with at least three other women, ranging from a kiss and a fondle, to intercourse with a mother and daughter at the same time.
Perhaps his most unique personality trait is his habit of going into fits of calm rage. By that I mean that he will have outbursts of anger, such as turning a restaurant to a charred cinder of it’s remains, punching a man right through the head, snapping someone’s neck, or stabbing them in the head with a cross, all the while remaining the perfect picture of calm. He refuses to get all that angry, even when his mortal body is shot and blown into several different and no longer usable parts. He’s the perfect gentleman, right up until the last minute when he’s nearing the deadline for his evil plot to take over the world at the beginning of the new millennium, at which point he loses his cool and destroys nearly an entire church in his fit of rage. To sum up the devil’s personality he’s smooth and sophisticated, and quite a calm guy.
In Devil’s Advocate, Satan has much the same personality as Satan in End of Days, except for the fact that he shows emotion more often than the End of Days version. He likes to have a lot of fun, using the riches he acquired in his human guise. He throws lavish parties, attends shows such as boxing fights, and wears very nice clothing. He’s a ladies man through no visible effort, leaving everyone to wonder just what he’s doing right, not knowing he’s, well, Satan. He also pretends to be very concerned with what other people’s problems, but he has a way of saying the right things so he sounds like he has their best interest in order, but he’s really manipulating them to do the opposite. He’s a smart man, able to think and talk his way out of just about any situation; again he’s a smooth talker.
He’s also not afraid to make religious references to God should he have too in order to convince someone to do something. When he’s talking to Kevin he says that, God doesn’t carehe let us all down. That guilt thing? I don’t do that. Guilt is just a big heavy sack of bricks you carry over your shoulder. Who are you carrying that for Kevin? Him? Why? What’s he done for you lately? He knows what to say to try and get someone over to his side. Satan also seems to know everything, and as a side note, he’s a good dancer. I guess when you’re the prince of all evil you can’t have two left feet.
In Spawn, the devil Malbogia seems to have about as much personality as a dried up two by four. His entire personality is typical big angry demon, who gets upset in no time at all. He doesn’t seem to do much of anything besides make crummy deals with one guy and yell at his servant for messing around. He’s loud most of the time, gets upset very easily, and doesn’t really make a convincing sales pitch, so no one likes him all that much. In other words, Malbogia’s a big jerk that isn’t suave, sophisticated, or even that much fun to look at. He’s a VERY sharp contrast to either of the other films, and even the bible itself.
The final trait that should be discussed to really differentiate between the three different portrayals of Satan is their goals and how each Satan goes about achieving them. In the Bible, Satan’s main goals, though never really discussed, are seemingly too disrupt God’s plans and basically make life miserable for Jesus by trying to tempt him. He goes about achieving these goals by tempting Jesus while he’s in the desert, as in Matthew 4:8-9 says Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if though wilt fall down and worship me. He tries to offer what he feels would be most valuable to Jesus, in order to get him on his side. Another goal of Satan is becoming free from his thousand years of imprisonment in the underworld and preparing for the final battle Between Heaven and Hell. Revelations 20:7 says that and when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8} And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Ma-gog, to gather them together to battle.
Now, in End of Days, Satan’s goals are a bit different. He wants to birth his child, the anti-Christ, and than take over the world. His main goal in the movie is to consummate with Christine, the girl who is destined to be his bride because if he does than that will mean he have the resources to rule the world. He’s not above killing to achieve his goal, nor is he above tempting anyone either. He makes a deal with a man he has set on fire, using him to betray Jericho and nearly succeed in killing Jericho (who is protecting Christine from Satan.) Satan also tries to tempt Jericho by offering to bring his family back, the thing that Jericho would want most in the world and find valuable. He offers to, Make it as if it never happenedyou could hold your wife again, see your child grow up, go to the prom, and see her smile. I can make all the pain and misery go away Jericho. Also, Satan doesn’t exactly see his goals in the same way as the other people in the movie. He views it as a, change in management and offers Jericho to be in on the ground floor and at my side.
Jericho responds a lot more violently than Jesus did, who merely turned down the offer with a shrug and a scripture, while Jericho throws him out of a window and onto a car. This barely deters Satan from his goal, and he sends his flunkies to rough up Jericho. So to sum up the way Satan achieves his goals, taking over the world and sleeping with Christine, is that he’ll give anyone near anything, offer anything, use mobs to injure, kill, maim, torture and corrupt people to get whatever he desires.
In Devil’s Advocate, the goals are very similar to the goals of Satan in the film End of Days (gee, am I the only one who notices that End of Days Satan is a lot like Devil’s Advocate Satan? Just a little fun fact for you to digest.) What is Satan’s goal in this film? To have his son Kevin, who doesn’t find out that his dad is the human form of the devil until the end, mate with his daughter (Kevin’s half-sister) to create the anti-Christ. He wants a family, someone to take over all his affairs on earth as he prepares for the big war with the other side. How does he go about trying to achieve this goal? Anything. He’ll kill, lie, cheat, manipulate anyone to do this. When one person is on the verge of doing something that will potentially land his son Kevin in a lot of trouble, he arranges for his death, which Kevin finds slightly suspicious as he (The Devil) was ranting about this man at the same time the death happened.
But Satan says that it doesn’t work entirely that way. He can’t, make things happen just by snapping his fingers. He just nudges people in the right direction, saying things, and than let’s free will take it’s course. When Kevin’s wife proves to be in the way of his goal, though we don’t know it at the time that she is, he causes her to have hallucinations, seeing a baby in a dream which holds something in it’s hands, which turns out to be a uterus. After a while, it turns out that she can no longer have children, a form of disease that makes her sterile. So while he cannot perform grand scale things, apparently he can do things of this nature to someone. He’ll also try to make it seem like his way is better than God’s, saying that God is the ultimate prankster. He gives human beings instinctfree will.
And than, I swear, for his own personal amusement, sets the rules in opposition. Look, but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, but don’t swallow. Even though Kevin points out that the bible says that they’re destined to lose, the Devil retorts by saying, Look at the source, look at who wrote the bible. Do you think He’d admit it if He was going to lose? So to sum this up in one sentence, Satan will try to do anything to reach his ultimate goal, which is the corruption of his son Kevin and the birth of his grandson, the anti-Christ.
For once, Spawn does not prove to be that much of a contrast from End of Days or Devil’s Advocate. Satan, or once again Malbogia, as he likes to be called, has the same basic goals as the other two cinematic Satan’s. Raise an army, corrupt one exceptional person and than destroy heaven in a vast war. This singular special person happens to be Al Simmons, ex government agent, a highly trained killer, who is betrayed by his boss Jason Winn and murdered.
Recruited by Satan with the promise that he can see his wife again, Simmons is sent back to earth after spending five years in damnation. Much has changed since he was gone, his wife having remarried and Winn now more powerful than any other one man in the entire world. Simmons is also given powers of Hell Spawn, which include increased strength, and other magical abilities. Though Malbogia never directly acts on his plans, he uses his servants (a demonic clown known as the Violator) to convince Winn to attach a dead man’s switch to his heartbeat and tie it to a deadly virus. Should Winn die, the virus would spread all over the earth, killing millions, and setting the stage for the war between Heaven and Hell. Simmons is caught up in the middle as Malbogia tries to manipulate Simmons into killing Winn, thus cementing Simmons’ place as the general of Hell’s army, and to lead the war against Heaven.
To achieve this rather lofty goal, Malbogia has his servant do anything necessary, including antagonize Simmons, attack his ex-wife/widow and her new husband (Simmons ex-best friend), and even have Winn involved in the middle of this as well. However, Simmons recognizes what is going on, and that if he kills Winn, the virus will kill everyone including his wife and friend, and that Winn himself will become a powerful Hell Spawn as well. He foils Malbogia, who doesn’t really take to well to this and there’s a climactic battle at the end, leaving nothing really resolved as Malbogia is still alive and well, still plotting how to capture Simmons and turn him to the evil side.
But, perhaps there is no perfect portrayal of Satan in film.
Maybe, in all the years since the original story, the Bible, was written, there has been too much that has been muddled, twisted, and adapted for other stories to give a clear representation of the Devil as he’s viewed in the Bible. Of course, it doesn’t matter how he’s portrayed really, merely how we perceive him, that influences us the most. If he’s a serpent, than someone may fear serpents. End of Days could cause some sleepless nights for someone fearful of the idea of an all-powerful demi-god roaming the streets in the hours before the millennium comes, bent on our destruction and domination. Perception is the key to existence, and no matter where, when, or what culture you’re from, in the end, perhaps our perceptions are the only things that truly matter in this existence.