Hail, readers! Welcome to Devils in the Details, a monthly column examining the satanic and occult influences in horror. This column provides a non-sensational look at these influences by examining them through the perspective of modern Occult scholarship. The study of satanism and the occult is a life-long endeavor, and I have much yet to learn. I hope you will join me in this sojourn into the darkness!

Bedazzled (2000) is a film of its time. While indeed not horror in any traditional sense, it toes the line between genre and straight comedy. Starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, the target market was clearly not fright-flick fans. Okay, maybe it did get some The Mummy fans, but with two big-name actors for the time, Bedazzled was set to appeal to a mass audience. Unfortunately, the film was largely panned on release, undeservedly, if I might add! There is comfort in knowing the film has since received cult status, if only amongst the Nightmare on Film Street fanbase! 

Bedazzled is based on the 1967 film by the same name, with Brendan Fraser playing the lovesick loser originally played by Dudley Moore and Elizabeth Hurley taking Peter Cook’s role as The Devil. The films follow a similar premise in which the lonely protagonist, Fraser’s Elliot Richards, in this case, is granted seven wishes at the low, low price of his soul. We’ll leave soul bargains to a future Devils in the Details because the much more exciting aspect of the film is its portrayal of the Devil as a woman. 

 

Traditional Portrayals

While it’s well known Satanic canon that the hellish being is a shapeshifter, rarely does he take a woman’s form in popular culture. Sara Century has a fantastic breakdown of female Satans that’s worth checking out.

The fact does not go unacknowledged within the movie, with Elliot constantly mentioning how Hurley does not resemble the Devil despite materializing a Lamborghini Diablo and manifesting a nightclub in which the desperate Elliot is somehow the most famous patron. It’s not until Hurley transforms into the classic tiny mustache toting, tuxedo-wearing, pitchfork waving Devil that Elliot is convinced. While that’s likely the Satan we all conjure in our minds when we hear the name, it’s only one of many. 

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Satan has appeared as a snake, a dragon, a faun, and a green man among popular representations, so why not a woman?

“While Bedazzled puts forth a moral based on personal choice, I found it refreshing to subvert the classic good vs. evil trope.

Elaine Pagels’ The Origin of Satan describes how Satan, as he first appears in the Old Testament, is used as a stand-in for the ‘intimate enemy’ instead of a foreign force. Satan represents an enemy that is not monstrous, but instead ‘superhuman,’ a powerful adversary to overcome. Let’s also consider the inherent misogyny of the old testament. One could make the case that portraying the Devil or Satan as female would purport that a woman could be so powerful as to threaten the nations of “man.” That said, the Old Testament has no shortage of ‘evil’ or ‘corruptible’ women who also lead to the downfall of the men with whom they associate. 

Assuming that accounts for the lack of traditional portrayals, why are there so few modern female Satan portrayals before Bedazzled in 2000? Could it be that the same internalized misogyny was still prevalent by the turn of the Millenium? Perhaps that’s a question for another article. Still, it is refreshing to see such a new take on a traditionally masculine character. Many have posed the question of whether God is a woman, why not Satan! By the way, Bedazzled also has one of my favorite quotes regarding God’s gender. Elliot asks, “So [God’s] a man?” To which the Devil responds, “Yeah, most men think they’re God. This one just happens to be right.”

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The Devil Helps Those Who Help Themselves

Aside from the reimagining of the Devil as a woman, Bedazzled has some great Satanic takes. Who knew, right? 

Throughout the film, Elliot makes one half-baked wish after another, hoping to improve his life. However, being that the literal Devil is granting the wishes, each comes with their own monkey’s paw stipulation, forcing Elliot to rescind each wish. Presumably, the moral is that you can’t just wish for success, and Elliot says as much after he decides he’s done wishing:

“All my life, I wished to be better looking, to be richer, to be successful, talented, whatever. And I always thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if someone could just wave a magic wand and make that happen?’ Well, I realized that it doesn’t work by magic.”

Although mister Anton Szandor LaVey might have a thing or two to say about magic, the basis for Satanism is an individual responsibility. Both LaVey’s Satanic Statements and The Satanic Temple’s Tenets hold the individual responsible for their own world view and station in life. In particular, the Satanic Bible speaks heavily of the idea that one is one’s own deity. In the chapter The God You Save May Be Yourself, LaVey argues that since God is a human-made idea, worshiping him is worshiping those who invented Him by proxy. He then proposes:

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“Is it not more sensible to worship a god that he, himself, has created, in accordance with his own emotional needs…” – LaVey, The Satanic Bible

All this to say, Elliot must take charge of his own life if he hopes to be successful. While Bedazzled puts forth a moral based on personal choice, I found it refreshing to subvert the classic good vs. evil trope. In the end, Elliot saves himself by using his final wish selflessly, though if you ask me, he could have solved world hunger or something! The Devil explains, “You don’t have to look very hard for Heaven and Hell. They’re right here on Earth. You make the choice,” which is pretty damn Satanic. 

But I think an early scene better portrays the moral and supports the Satanic principles I mentioned. When Elliot meets the Devil, she gives him his first wish. Elliot requests a Big Mac and a Coke. Rather than conjure the fast food on the spot, the two take a bus ride to a McDonald’s, where he orders and subsequently pays for his own food. Elliot’s wish was technically granted, not by the Devil, but by himself, having had the power to do so all along! As Elliot puts it, “*This* truly is the work of the devil.”

What did you think of Bedazzled? Can you think of any other female Satans? Let us know on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook Group. And don’t forget to sign up for the Neighborhood Watch to stay up to date on all the creepy NOFS news!