Sympathy for the Devil

During the OJ trial, I heard a Brit joke that Americans love show trials so much that they’d try Satan if they could.

Well, in the upcoming movie Suing the Devil, that’s exactly what happens. The problem of evil gets hashed out in a courtroom drama.

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This looks so very heavy-handed. So many Evangelicals who try to create popular culture haven’t grasped the idea of understatement or subtlety. I hear that every time I catch one of the Christian music stations.

I think the part that bothers me most is that there have been so many interesting treatments of Satan in literature. Think of the proud Satan of Paradise Lost or the quirky Professor Woland of The Master and Margarita.

There’s also so much potential for Satan in a court room drama. The Old Testament version of Satan is God’s prosecuting attorney, so you can see the potential in that. And of course the famous quote from A Man for All Seasons:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

At least it looks like Malcolm McDowell is having fun. He really chews the scenery as Old Scratch, and that might be the only thing worth seeing in the movie.

  • Craig

    Your mention of interesting treatments of the Satan made me think of the Piers Anthony book “For Love of Evil”, one of the books in the Incarnations of Immortality series.

    The thing that always struck me about that book was how it portrayed someone doing the job of the devil without actually being the typical stereotype of nastiness. He wasn’t completly evil and heartless (though obviously not an angel), just a guy doing a job to the best of his abilities.

  • David

    There was also a brilliant film made in 1997 that explores this theme, “The Devil’s Advocate” with Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves.

  • vasaroti

    I’m afraid that soundtrack would have me running screaming into the night. Christian rock is…of the Devil?

  • Duke York

    Wow! Craptacular!

    That was a good line, though… “I’m a Tom Jones man!” Heheheheh.

    I hated how the devil had no comeback for “Who was Jesus Christ?”, but the Christians have to show that their magic works in the end, and their magic consists of saying “Jesus Christ” until things get better naturally.

    If you want something more nuanced and entertaininging (lowest bar ever), check out History of the Devil by Clive Barker.

    (If course, there is also God on Trial, but Elie Weisel, but that’s too much for me right now.)

  • Tim

    Unbelievers can see how stories featuring Satan make for powerful allegories about the human condition. On the face of it, a film like this is clearly not trying to be literalist either. I’m pretty sure the Aussie Evangelicals who made this don’t think Satan is really a white-haired pugface man in a black suit. But I’m equally sure that, beyond the low-production-value parable, they take Satan to be an actual living being. And this sort of nonsense pretty much all stems from the idea in the last seconds of this trailer: when you die, you might be damned. Such superstitious fear-mongering is still the raison d’etre of most forms of Christianity.

  • Noelle

    The villain is always the most interesting character. It is indeed a shame to waste Satan in such a silly matter as an Aussie evangelical court drama. I’m still sad Reaper got cancelled after 2 seasons. Ray Wise did a nice Devil.

    Is the $8 mil in Australian dollars? Couldn’t Satan just create the money out of nowhere? Wouldn’t that upset the balance of the entire economy, having that money suddenly show up? Or would he be bound by the laws of economics and have to take it from other sources?

    • WMDKitty

      Reaper is one of the best shows I’ve found on Netflix. I wish there was MOAR.

  • Custador

    What thw f***ing hell?!

  • JonJon

    This looks so terrible.

  • Dylan

    Apparently if someone is educated and intelligent, that also means they are evil. But, we already knew that…

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Suing the devil is risky business – you know he’s got all the best lawyers on his side.

    This reminds me of my stance on blasphemy laws: I do not oppose such laws in principle, but I think there should be no third party filings. Any deity who thinks he/she/it/they has been blasphemed would be welcome to show up in person to file a lawsuit.

  • Sunny Day

    “Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake! ”

    Like much of Christianity, I don’t get this part either. The Devil is a supernatural force of evil that even God can’t or won’t get rid of, WTF does some idiot think some laws are protecting him from?

    • David

      The point is that the law is the law; no matter how foul a character is the accused, he/she is allowed their day in court.

      Moore isn’t saying that the law’s going to protect him from the devil — he’s saying that if you disregard the law in order to go after the devil, then the rule of law itself is undermined and no one is safe from similar treatment.

  • dantresomi

    @Duke, I read Clive Barker’s book and its pretty good.
    Also, Anne Rice’s “Memnoch the Devil” is pretty good. She wrote that before she went back to Christianity.

    I noticed that in “Suing the devil” all of the lawyers came from Ivy Leagues and one person had the IQ of over 250. Another Xian snub at intellectuals.

  • chrisfromcanada

    Is this for real? The script-writing makes it look a lot like one of those Christian propaganda films.

  • Robster

    An Aussie evangelical drama? An Aussie evangelical? Is there really such a thing? Things are going downhill.

    • TrickQuestion

      I wasn’t aware that the klan had a hold there either.

      • Skippy

        The KKK? In Australia?!?

    • Tim

      Aussie Evangelical megachurches are on the rise. Ever heard of Hillsong?

      BTW I just noticed Rebecca St James name tacked on the end of this trailer. Anyone else remember her 15 minutes of CCM fame?

      • Robster

        Yeah, they’re noisy and in your face, but it is only one, it is a big one and like rabbits seems to breeding unsavoury offspring around the nation, but it is only one. If Hillsong is the total of evangelical Australia, there’s not much to worry about.

  • thin-ice

    Dammit, vorjack, I was heading toward finishing this Labor Day in a good mood, then you made me watch this trailer. Only took a few minutes to clean up the vomit, now I have to get my head straight again.

  • Jerdog

    You forgot to mention the Simpson’s episode with Flanders-satan. It turns out he can’t have Homer’s soul because he gave it to Marge.

  • Jonathan M.S. Pearce

    Has anyone ever seen the excellently brilliant BBC drama called ‘God on Trial’ about the true story of the Auschwitz Jews who put God on trial in WW2 for breaking the covenant?

    It is on Youtube, but I cannot link it as I cannot access YT at work! I’ll link it tonight – a must see.

    The wiki site is here:

  • Carnage

    Of course who could forget the classic ‘Miracle on 34th street.” ….

    Oh wait we are talking about Satan not Santa. Oh well same diff. :)

  • Mattimaticus

    This post brings to mind a favorite quote by Ingersoll:

    “If the account given in Genesis is really true, ought we not, after all, to thank this serpent? He was the first schoolmaster, the first advocate of learning, the first enemy of ignorance, the first to whisper in human ears the sacred word liberty, the creator of ambition, the author of modesty, or inquiry, of doubt, of investigation, of progress and of civilization.”