Good news! The world ends Saturday!
Willoughby Thom | Thursday, September 5, 2019
Twenty-thousand Christians have signed a petition to remove Amazon Prime’s mini-series “Good Omens” from Netflix due to concerns that the show is “normalizing Satanism.” Wait, that doesn’t seem right. There are two issues here: the series isn’t on Netflix, and it isn’t promoting Satanism in any way. In fact, this beautiful piece of work is incredibly important.
If you’re not familiar with “Good Omens,” you should be. It’s a mini-series on Amazon Prime Video adapted from the book “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. The six-episode series is perfectly translated from text to film, and it’s about an angel named Aziraphale and a demon called Crowley, assigned to earth by Heaven and Hell to spread Good and Evil respectively. Since the beginning of time, Aziraphale and Crowley have delegated their miracles strategically in order to balance Good and Evil. But when the anti-Christ is born, Armageddon looms on the horizon. After thousands of years on earth, Aziraphale and Crowley have become close friends (despite what the demon says), accustomed to their earthly lives and willing to do anything to stop the world from ending. What makes this series so important is that it’s extremely relevant. The book and the series are written as if Armageddon is to occur in real time. As the book says, “The world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact.”
Since its release, the series has stirred up controversy within many Christian organizations (despite the fact the book has been an award-winning novel since 1990) for many reasons, but two stand out: First, an angel and demon are friends (some may say more than “friends”), and second, God is voiced by a woman. It’s true that the series addresses biblical stories such as Creation, Jesus’ crucifixion and is loosely based on the Book of Revelations, but the story is not intended to be blasphemous like these organizations claim. In fact, both the series and the novel use biblical themes to more effectively comment on human nature and equality.
It might be important to look at the groups’ reasons for petitioning and why these two points should be seen as socially important, rather than topics for debate.
Why can’t an angel and a demon be friends? If dogs and cats can be friends, angels and demons can be too, right? Of course, this relationship is more spiritually complex, but it questions the essence of both human and spiritual nature considering they are intertwined. Angels are spiritual messengers and demons are malicious spirits, but they were both angels once. The demon Crowley is “an angel who did not much as fall but saunter vaguely downwards.” Since the beginning of time, Aziraphale and Crowley have balanced their acts of good and evil. And as they are the only spiritual beings put on earth, according to the story, it’s destined they become friends. They often come to each other’s rescue when they find themselves in unfortunate situations, and, more often than not, it’s demon Crowley saving angel Aziraphale.
This relationship between angel and demon is not one of “opposites attracting,” but a question of human and spiritual nature. Man is inherently good. This is a big philosophical statement that is hotly contested, but in relation to this topic, beings are naturally good. Angels, like humans, are not perfect. They have sinned but they have been pardoned, whereas demons have sinned and have not been pardoned. In other words, they are “Fallen Angels.” In the series, it’s Crowley who says, “I didn’t mean to fall. I just hung out with the wrong people.” Therefore “the fall” was not intentional but occurred due to exterior influences. The fact that a demon and an angel are portrayed as friends should not be a topic of concern, but rather highlight the ideas of friendship and love.
Friendship is often cliché when discussed in film and television, but friendship is no walk in the park, unless it’s in Saint James Park (watch the series to understand). The constant give-and-take and moral struggle both Aziraphale and Crowley endure as they try to understand their relationship is parallel in both film and novel, but it is important to note the social importance of this relationship. Socially, the dynamics of friendships are not explicitly discussed but understood. By presenting a friendship between two morally different individuals, angel and demon, it forces the viewers to open their hearts and minds to potential friendships and social acceptance.
God is a woman, just like Ariana Grande said.
Throughout the series, the voice of God is a woman, and this forces us to ask whether or not God has a gender. According to the Catholic Church, God is neither man nor woman but simply God. Historically, God is referred to with male pronouns, but the Almighty is a spiritual force and it wouldn’t have a specified gender identity. Humanity was created in God’s image; therefore, God is both male and female. Nevertheless, it is essential to understand that “Good Omens” uses theological themes and imagery as ways of emphasizing social progressiveness. It’s not intended to be blasphemous. By having a female voice as God, the show comments on the perceived patriarchy often found in organized religion. It tries to provide secular viewers an outlet for understanding.
In all, “Good Omens” is a vitally important piece of literature and film because of its one-of-a-kind storyline addressing social matters not conventionally discussed in the midst of theological themes. Watch, therefore, with an open mind.
As a whole, the mini-series is a cinematic masterpiece. Unlike many films or series based on books, “Good Omens” is practically a carbon copy of its novel. It’s witty, visually stunning, and brilliantly cast: Michael Sheen, David Tennent, John Hamm, Jack Whitehall and Nick Offerman are just a few of the many well-known names that contributed to the humor and wonder of the story. The multiple narrative threads add depth like no other, and the director does a magnificent job of knitting the storylines together in a way that allows the audience to make natural connections between events. The costumes are beautiful, and their use of imagery and special effects breathes life and truth into the marvelous fantasy.
All said, read the book and watch the series before the world ends on Saturday.