Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Angels and Demons: a Rant

This has been pent up for a bit and recently I had a chance to kind of speak about it on a Podcast (in which I sound like a robot). We only touched on the some of the obnoxious things that annoy me about angel character in comics or manga.

But first, I'll explain what I find acceptable when having angel characters. Things that are easier for me to accept despite me not believing it is true.

  • Dead Friend Angel - A common belief is that when someone dies and is good they become an angel. There was a sitcom with that theme where the teen angel haunted his friend and basically acted the same as he did on earth. I forget it's name...I'll look it's called "Teen Angel" it ran from 1997-1998. I had a friend make a manga with the same theme. It's also the theme from "A Wonderful Life".

  • Guardian Angel - There was a web-manga called "Shelter of Wings" that was about her girl and her guardian angel. This person also did lots of research. However this theme or idea is part of my faith and can be used as a fun "buddy" theme for a story.

  • Messenger - The word "angel" means "messenger" and that's generally what their role is. Angel's as quest givers, guides or prophets works. It can even be silly but yeah.

  • Biblical Angels (neutral) - This I can go either way on. They can be good or bad. There are lists of Angels mentioned in the Bible (and a supposed gnostic type book of the Bible that lists more angels). There is one web-manga I've read that uses the "Pagan Book" and researched info to create some cute story that really act for humor. However, this can go the wrong way. "Constantine" villainizing the angel Gabriel (which in the Catholic faith is a Saint) bothered me, although I really actually liked that movie too. It has a good theme. There was a novel I was listening to on tape (it was written by a controversial Catholic priest) used the Angel Raphael. (Also a Saint). It was...awkward.

  • Fantasy Race (not called angels) - The pretty faces and feathered wings can make a fantasy race that is like any elf, human or dwarf out there. As long as they only have the classical "art" interpretation of angel and maybe even call them "Angels" but setting it up as if that they're a race of people, not religious angels.

  • Shoulder Angels - A conscience represented with an angel and devil. Anything symbolic like that I can accept.

Okay so I've given examples of what I feel is acceptable or can tolerate as far as angel characters go. I haven't really even touched on the Demons even. That's because usually they're the other side of the same coin. I'm much more lax about demons being monsters or whatever.

Now I'm going to give some examples of things I really can't stand when angels or demons are included.

  • Angels as Arrogant - If you can swap the angel with a Tolkien Elf or another "master race" then you got it wrong, very wrong. Angels would not be creatures that would try to prove or need to reaffirm their superiority.

  • Demons are Good - This is usually a problem with anime or Japanese games I've played. Demons in Eastern culture mean something different spiritually. Youma the term translates "demon" loosely but can refer to "animal spirits". Usually they're trying to apply a Western idea into their culture and usually from Western perspective it's wrong. So for example, the anime series "Inuyasha" talks about demons as a part of Japanese culture within Japanese culture they weren't trying to be Western. This I find acceptable. I don't mind the term "demon" used in the English dub because I know what they're referring to. However the series "Chrno Crusade" tries to overlap the Japanese idea of demon with Catholic idea of demons. This gives the idea that demons can be good or repent. This becomes a theme.

  • Love between Angel and Devils - I hate this theme. For whatever reason there's a demon who is really sweet and good and the lovely angel he's fallen for (or sometimes it's a human). A forbidden love affair. Beauty and the Beast. One it's usually a very LAME love story akin to every Romeo and Juliet clone out there. Two, it's unbelievable to me because in most cases they're drawn as pretty people...which I'll rant about later. Three, it's LAME. LAME. LAME!!!!

  • Angels/Demons are human - this is different from the "dead friend" example or the "fantasy race". Angels are supposedly perfect beings, they don't have flaws like arrogance and don't make mistakes like poor judgment. They also would not doubt their faith in God. Demons on the other hand are not capable of repenting and becoming good.

  • Half-Angel/Half-Demons - o_o If they're a fantasy race, fine. That's forgivable. But there are stories about demons in love with humans and mating or angels and whatever and they produce a child who then has identity problems. Please choke this. For one, in fantasy they fall into the trap of all "half creatures" that are somehow more powerful than the purebloods or have all the good qualities of both parents but none of the drawbacks.

  • Homosexual Angels? - just an insult. I've already made it clear that I do not support the homosexual movement and gay pride and all that stuff. I prefer not to know about people's sex lives in general, whichever side of the fence you're on. I usually see this in art but because angels are so androgynous and "pretty" they easily fall into this. Because anything pretty and androgynous is simply flamboyant and clearly made for yaoi. :D I really despise this so much. I hate yaoi.
Now, even some of these things I don't like I can tolerate under certain conditions. Here they are:
  • The story does not take place on Earth
  • The story does not take place in Heaven or Hell
  • The story does not use "religion" based Angels or demons
  • The story's theme is very deep and still in tune with most of my beliefs except a detail or two about angels or demons.
Some examples:
Constantine - this story as I mentioned features Lucifer and the Angel Gabriel. Gabriel turns out to be evil or the antagonist. Lucifer was portrayed nicely and mostly in tune with what I would consider him to do. The story circled around things demons do to people and exorcising. It really touched on some very deep and important themes like "the devil is real", "saving grace", and "sacrificial love". Plus it has Keanu Reeves. :) The only thing that bothered me was Gabriel's role in the movie/comic. However, I could over look it because of the quality of the story's themes. I wouldn't believe this story but it was well told. (This one falls into the (Angel's are human/Angels are Arrogant/Angels as Evil).

Disgaea - A Japanese game series/manga that uses classic Japanese philosophy of demons. Demons can be good and can love and all that. The characters, partly because they're so cute and charming, tell a good tale and it doesn't take place in "heaven and hell". The Netherworld and Celestia were treated as countries therefore rendering these "demons" and "angels" to Fantasy races.

This rant may seem pretty pointless and probably very individualized considering the topic at hand. While it is a part of my faith that I accept and believe, I also think there are points here that anyone could accept as really obnoxious stereotypes or themes that need to be smothered to death.

So as you can see, this rant is based very much on personal beliefs and preferences. But I believe that understanding where a legend or truth comes from is important to developing stories and characters. For me I totally accept C.S. Lewis's "Screwtape Letters" as how Demons think and act. Also you see, that I believe angels are real. It's not like elves or fairies which "could be real" (I do believe in fairies! Don't die Tinkerbell!*claps*). That's why I feel I can accept various interpretations of elves or unicorns or fairies, but not angels. To me, Angels are not just another fantasy creature or New Age fad but a real actual being.

That's the gist of it. It's sleepy time.

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