The shows Good Omens (Amazon Prime) and Lucifer (formerly of Fox, now on Netflix*) have quite a bit in common on the surface. Both are about angels and devils who decide to come hang out on earth with we mortals, and find us surprisingly compelling. Both shows are based on the creations of Neil Gaiman.
However, Mr. Gaiman actually wrote the script for Good Omens, whereas he hasn’t had much to do with Lucifer, beyond a guest appearance as the voice(over) of God in the last episode of season three. And, that, I think is where the difference between the shows comes in. Mr. Gaiman—and Terry Pratchett, with whom he wrote the book Good Omens—have a very amusing worldview, but it is decidedly not a Catholic worldview. And while both shows have their good and bad points, I’d argue that Lucifer is the MUCH more Catholic of the two.
First things first, let’s answer some of the looming theology questions raised by the shows.
Do angels actually exist? Can they care about/interfere with/help/tempt humans? Yes.
The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.Catechism of the Catholic Church 328
Angels are involved in the human world for good:
From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.Catechism of the Catholic Church 336
And for bad:
Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”.
Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls “a murderer from the beginning” . . . In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.Catechism of the Catholic Church 391, 394
Can fallen angels repent? Nope. They cannot. Catholic teaching is that, while humans can repent and be forgiven by God, angels cannot. This is because humans have an incomplete understanding of the consequences of our choices. Angels, however, chose with a perfect understanding, therefore they cannot change their minds.
It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”Catechism of the Catholic Church 393
Can angels eat (Good Omens) or have sex (Lucifer)? Again, no. Angels are “purely spiritual” (CCC 330). While they can appear as humans, they do not have actual corporeal bodies, and so can’t do human body stuff. (See my all-time favorite explanation of what angels look like in the Bible, here.)
I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord.Tobit 12:15, 19 NABRE
Even though you saw me eat and drink, I did not eat or drink anything; what you were seeing was a vision.
Jesus said to them in reply, “You are misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven.”Matthew 22:29-30 NABRE
So, neither show is a good representation of the nature of angels, let’s be very clear on that point. However, if we set aside the theology of angels, both shows DO have an interesting take on the nature of repentance and redemption and the meaning of life as it pertains to humans.
Good Omens is a very hip, stylish, and well-done show. The special effects and the graphics are COOL. The acting is AMAZING. David Tennant walking in this show is EVERYTHING. Superficially, it really appeals to me, as there is very little (and mindfully employed) swearing, no nudity, and only one non-graphic sex scene. (But was I the only one really confused by that sex scene, like, mechanically? How would where they were positioned even work? Probably best not to think about it too much.) The writing is witty and clever. The pacing is excellent. It is fun to watch.
But at its heart, it’s got it all wrong. In Good Omens, not only the humans are agnostic, so are the angels. Impossible of course, see Psalms 96:7, 102:20, Matthew 18:10, and many many others. But here, God is absent, someone takes his calls for him. The good angels aren’t actually good. The bad angels aren’t actually bad. They’re all just selfish and unsympathetic and warmongering. We humans are on our own, and the only things that can save us and our world are woke-ness and friendship. The preaching of the latter, according to Good Omens, being the actual reason Jesus was put to death. It’s all rather cringy.
Lucifer, on the other hand, is superficially more problematic. The title itself makes a Christian likely to scroll right past it. It’s a fantasy/comic book-based show, but functionally, it’s a procedural cop show. That means at least one murder per episode, which I often find to be wearying, genre-wise. And while Good Omens wants most to be hip and witty, Lucifer wants to be edgy and titillating. It began as a network show, so there is no actual swearing (even in season four) and there isn’t any actual nudity, but there is quite a bit of lingerie. There are no graphic sex scenes but there are very frequent mentions of sex, particularly deviant sex.
Sex is the thing that Lucifer gets most wrong, (but Good Omens gets it wrong too). While Lucifer, the character, rightly bemoans the fact that people like to claim that “the devil made me do it,” and points out that people are responsible for their own choices, there is never an indication that NOT having sex out of wedlock or with whoever or multiple whoevers would be a choice that any reasonable person would make, or that God would have any opinion either way. In fact, Lucifer states that porn stars are rare in hell, as they’ve brought so much joy on earth. Eww. And wrong. And the scene of the good angel Amenadiel losing his virginity to a demon manages to be both completely non-graphic and completely gross. Chloe Decker, the main female character, dresses in a conspicuously modest manner (even when it doesn’t fit the plot, I’m actually kind of curious about it) and is admirably immune (so far) to Lucifer’s sexual wiles. But she’s abstinent only until she isn’t and no eyes are batted over it.
In the show, God is Lucifer’s father . . . check. But he also has a creation-goddess-mother . . . not-check.
However, there’s quite a lot that Lucifer gets right about people, and faith, and Catholicism. Season 1, episode 9 features a noble priest character. Later when there is a “bad guy” priest, he’s clearly rogue and gets excommunicated. Even though his aims turn out to have been right, the ways he went about trying to accomplish them were immoral and wrong, and he is handled correctly by his superiors. And there’s a moment when Chloe says it would take a miracle for Lucifer to become a saint, and he quips that it would actually take two. SO awesome.
More importantly, God is REAL and the angels know him. They find him frustrating and confusing but they know that he created them and us. He has a plan for them. He loves them and hasn’t given up on them. No matter how great their sins, they can be redeemed by their choices and actions. And while this is notably untrue for angels, it’s very true for humans, and important for us to know and understand.
Lucifer’s interior state of grace is apparent by the condition of his wings. When he is motivated by love and self-sacrifice, and his choices and actions are good, his wings are angel wings. When he is motivated by evil, his wings are devil wings. The state of his soul is visible in an exterior way. Another character is worried that a life of hedonism and of helping criminals means she is damned, but she repents, and makes amends, and in the end sacrifices her life for a friend, and goes to heaven. Notably missing from the equation are participation in the sacraments and the life of the Church, but what they get right, they get right in a particularly Catholic—faith AND works—kind of way.
So, anyway, I wouldn’t argue that either show is must-watch or must-not-watch for Catholics. I’ve seen a LOT of love for Good Omens amongst Catholics on social media, but in the end, where it counts, the show really fell flat for me, and I wouldn’t watch it again or recommend it to others. Lucifer, on the other hand, I found imperfect (and over-sexed) but ultimately heart-warming, and I plan to keep watching (and glancing away when necessary) when the fifth, and reportedly final, season comes along.
I wouldn’t recommend either for kids or teens, and Lucifer’s sexual content is likely too much for some adults.
*P.S. I know, I know, some folks cancelled Netflix because they said they “may rethink [their] entire investment in Georgia” if the state’s new abortion law goes into effect. Here’s the short version of my take. 1. I believe we are missionaries in a pagan land and boycotts are not the way to change hearts and minds. (See previous posts here and here.) 2. Netflix hasn’t actually pulled any shows out of Georgia. (For the record, Amazon actually already has.) But if they do, it’s a business decision that they are allowed to make. There is no moral imperative to shoot TV shows in Georgia. 3. The tragedy here isn’t that Georgia will (maybe) lose some business, it’s that multiple production companies believe that their actresses will be greatly inconvenienced by not having access to abortions during filming. Boycotts don’t fix that problem. Relationships fix that problem. Boycotts just widen the divide between “us” and “them” and make it less likely that we can engage meaningfully with one another.
P.P.S. The Nativity of St. John the Baptist is coming up on Monday, which means the vigil and the bonfire is Sunday, along with the feast of Corpus Christi! Get the official rite of the Roman Ritual blessing for a Bonfire for the Vigil of St. John the Baptist here as part of the June booklet bundle, or on its own here. See the Catholic All Year Liturgical Living Video on it here. Or, if you’re local, get a ticket here to come to the Mini Fiat Conference at my house and we’ll provide the bonfire for you! But hurry, Friday is the last day to register.
Get all the new July booklets here as printables or here as a paperback!
Why would it take two miracles? I’m having a slow day over here.
The Catholic canonization process requires two miracles, one to go from venerable to blessed and another to go to saint. 🙂
Ah, yes, thanks! 😀
I guess it would depend. . are you watching for a theology lesson or for entertainment with an interesting story? Same kind of thing happened with Harry Potter… Or when parents had an issue with our jr year religion teacher (a SSJ nun) using Star Wars as a metaphor about Jesus and the struggle between good and evil… Or The Shack… A female embodiment of God and the Holy Spirit… Papa says right at the start- “I didn’t think you needed thr image of a father right now” (I’m paraphrasing)- what’s wring with that?
Everyone is entitled to their perspective. Mine happens to be that I enjoy the banter and style/look of Bad Omens. I saw all the points you had in your post about what angels can/can’t/are/aren’t and agree. But the incorrectness in theology won’t prevent me from enjoying the show. And Maybe it will bring some not so sound in their understanding to question and research for themselves.
Right. I can excuse the theology issues, but it’s the underlying worldview that left me feeling disappointed in a Good Omens. I just don’t agree that the whole meaning of life comes down to friendship and being against pollution. And while I enjoyed aspects of the show (especially David Tennant walking) it’s the lack of Truth at the core that was the issue for me.
I do not understand this blog. These are fantasy shows, and are written to entertain, not for religious purposes.
I haven’t seen Good Omens yet. As a copy editor, I can say that I am a HUGE fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing.
Kendra, I am a huge fan of your blog and agree with you on 99% of your posts – but I don’t understand how any Catholic in good conscience could support either of these shows.
Don’t you have a personal rule about only endorsing shows with clear good and bad guys? In Lucifer the protagonist is…the Devil! How much more blurred could the lines get?
He’s so clearly not what the actual devil is, though. For me it isn’t an issue.
The Jesus portrayed in The Last Temptation Of Christ is clearly not who Jesus Christ really is either, but would you watch and endorse that movie based solely on its own merits of good story-telling or entertainment value? I’m assuming not because it is scandalous and probably harmful to the majority of people who watched it. Perhaps you could view it without confusing your own understanding of Catholic theology, but I doubt you would publicly support it.
I’m really okay with agreeing to disagree. I’m just surprised you chose to write a post on this show, considering your large number of followers. And honestly I wanted to voice an opposing opinion, as I fear this post might lead people to watch this show, who wouldn’t have otherwise.
I understand what you’re saying, but I guess I just don’t see us being required to avoid something because it has a character called Lucifer. The show is definitely not occult and I don’t see it being in any way a temptation to actual Satanism or a misunderstanding of the actual devil.
I haven’t seen the Last Temptation of Christ, so I can’t speak to that specifically, but I of course wouldn’t recommend something that I watched and felt was a negative depiction of Jesus or the Catholic faith.
That was my issue with Good Omens, actually. It presents as innocent, but I think it has the more dangerous message, and does depict a characterization of Jesus that’s inaccurate and a false idea of God and Christianity.
I can personally put up with the trappings of a show if I think the underlying message is Truth. And I thought that was the case with Lucifer. But I’m sure it’s not for everyone!
I will admit I have never seen Lucifer, so if you say it is just a character named Lucifer and not the Devil, I’ll have to take your word for it. To me, it seemed like a show intended to portray Satan as a handsome, likable, sympathetic guy – which is why I won’t be watching.
I will also say, however, that if there has been a lot of support for Good Omens in Catholic circles (!), then I’m very grateful you’re warning your readers of its dangerous message. I can definitely see your point that many people are likely to avoid Lucifer based on its title and darker marketing, but might think the quirky Good Omens to be harmless.
Please say a prayer for me and I will for you! I readily admit that these days it is hard to discern what is helpful or harmful to the soul to watch (doubly for our children!).
I don’t mean to indicate that the character Lucifer isn’t meant to actually be the Devil on the show, he definitely is. But the character really functions as the means for a human super-redemption arc. I just don’t see the show as being a temptation toward the occult. But anyone who already struggles with an interest in occult things should steer clear.
Haven’t watched Good Omens, but I think your take on Luicfer is spot on.
The angelogy/demonology is a done-to-death neo-pagan trope ala-Supernatural, but there was lots of good ol’ fashioned Catholic redemption in the characters and some surprising sophisticated and sympathetic depictions of faith for a network TV show.
The sex jokes got quite tiresome after a while though. I did kind of miss the murders and who-dun-it episodes after the switch to Netflix. They were a welcome break from the baaad theology.
Not appropos for anyone who doesn’t have thick-skin or can’t tolerate a very casual attitude to sex.
Huh. Why would you waste your time watching these shows? Jesus is sitting right next to you, watching them with you. Is his heart happy that you are putting your time and energy into this? Again, huh. To each their own, but this just puts a different spin on who I thought you were.
Well, please pray for me!
My thinking is that people are on different places in their journeys and it’s helpful to people who are watching TV shows anyway to have some input from those of us who are looking at entertainment with a faith perspective.
I spend time on social media seeing Catholic people championing shows that contain full nudity and graphic sex scenes. I want people to have other options. I don’t watch or recommend those shows, even when one can fast forward though objectionable scenes or watch them though something like vidangel. I also don’t recommend shows that don’t have sexual nudity but have a message I can’t support. This was the case with Good Omens.
If the message of the show is good at its heart and the sex/violence/language is at a level I’m okay with, which was the case with Lucifer, I can handle that they’re using a modified version of angels and devils to get the message across.
I see your point about the show as perhaps, (big maybe) piquing someone’s interest in finding out more about the Catholic Faith. But it also makes me think of the last 60 years of dumbing down the faith in our teaching of the catechism, or the watering down of the Liturgy in our Mass, so that we may find some common ground with people in ‘where they are at’ with the hope that maybe, perhaps, it might make them interested in finding out more. Instead, it has caused more people to leave the Church. How well does it work to water down anything just so people will try it? Why promote the above show when it blurs so many lines? Didn’t you move your family to a new neighborhood, just so your kids could go to a solid Catholic school? Surely there were other Catholic schools nearer your old domicile yet you wanted them to get the whole Truth of the faith, not just a partial mixed up one. Why promote a show that is at best, entertainment with a bit of half truths thrown in? Isn’t there enough confusion in this world already? There are plenty of good movies, shows right on Formed.org that would be well worth recommending rather than binging on shows like Lucifer. Truth is beautiful, half truths are not. The devil is the father of lies, but he usually inserts a bit of truth in his lies. You say in one of your above responses to someone commenting that the show “is definitely not occult”, but then later in another of your responses you say people with an interest in the occult “should steer clear.” You say that the character of Lucifer isn’t what the actual devil is, and then you say that he is portrayed as the devil in the show. You say in your blog article that the sex isn’t as bad or as graphic as Good Omens, yet you say it is “over sexed” and “ has deviant sex” but that you still look away so it’s okay. What about people prone to sexual impurity, whether actual or by thought only? You say you wouldn’t show it to teenagers, yet there are probably teenagers who read your blog because of your good reputation with their parents. Is this a good show for them to watch if you watch it? Aren’t there better things to lead people to, instead of this? Aren’t there better shows to promote? With kindness, I say this. I am not trying to start an argument.
I am a work in progress, for sure, and my tastes are not as refined as they might someday be. But also, unfortunately, “Christian” entertainment is often poorly made and poorly acted and I don’t think it can be considered a substitute for most people at this point for secular media, entertainment-wise. This is particularly disappointing when you look at the beautiful history of Christian (Catholic mostly, of course) art and music. I see I have disappointed you and some others, and that’s never a good feeling. But this is, in all honest transparency where I am. I love my faith and live it and try to spread it and I also watch silly TV shows. I pray daily that I would be docile to the Holy Spirit in what I consume and what I share. This is a show that I thought had a good message despite its shortcomings. I of course encourage people to trust their own informed consciences. And I ask for your prayers.
I’m not disappointed in you. I have to say, I found your blog about 6 years ago, give or take, and you’re the only one I consistently return to since you have so many good ideas on liturgical living as well as other things. I was just puzzled at your take on that show. But one thing- there are really several very well made movies and documentaries on Formed, and I am surprised at how many Catholics even in my own parish haven’t checked it out even though they may have heard about the site. Many parishes offer the site for free; ours does. Thanks for all you do.
Caroline— Holier than thou attitudes and judgmental, preachy people are another reason people have abandoned the church.
Looking for theology on network TV is like trying to find a virgin in a cat house. And why on earth would you watch junk like that when you could read Flannery O’Connor?
PS— I intended the comment about O’Connor sincerely but with a wink of humor— it wasn’t meant to sound snotty.
Gosh, this is a difficult one huh?
It’s personally hard for me to watch shows with cussing and sex in them. I feel that it’s a huge open window to the next bad spot. Similar to how smoking pot can lead to more dangerous drugs even though many claim it is a very innocent drug (maybe that’s not a great example, I don’t know).
It’s not the popular way, but listening to cussing puts cussing into the vocabulary and makes it more readily available than it would have been if I didn’t allow cussing in my immediate bubble. That’s why I don’t listen to music with cussing and thats why I don’t spend a lot of time with people who have mouths like sailors. Because then I find myself thinking or even saying cuss words.
Same with watching anything with sex and simply looking away. It may not feel tempting, but it’s still affecting the soul right? The viewer is still supporting a show that is potentially opening the world of pornography to a young boy or girl. Or a grown man or woman even..
Maybe you and your husband are tough and your heart and soul are very well guarded. What about other viewers? Is the viewer watching this with their husband and hoping he’s whole heartedly looking away as well? Or maybe he’s sneaking peeks, allowing his soul to corrode and be tempted. I personally don’t want my husband seeing that kind of stuff, it makes me burn with anger when we are watching something that seems innocent and bam there’s a nude woman. I feel like I took part in allowing my my husbands heart to be vulnerable. The only nude woman my husband should voluntarily see is myself, and it should go both ways.
I can’t even stand shows with a simple lingerie scene with women’s breasts spilling over the tops of their nighties, the scene is over but where does the imagination stop.. at what point do you get stuck and struggle to get out? At what point do you watch something a little more risky with a little more sex, just a little more nudity, just a little more cussing because you’re a grown adult and you can handle it? I feel like it’s a slippery slope, not one I want to allow for myself or allow for my husband.
Like I said, it’s difficult, I just wouldn’t want to go out of my way to put anything impure into my life or that of my family. The world is already such a cruel, dirty, tempting place. Sorry this was so wordy.
By the way, like many previous posters said, I love your blog. I love how much you know about your faith, and all the things you teach us newer moms about parenting.
Kristy D, I agree with you! I think if most wives understood how much their husbands (and sons) have to battle lust, they’d never go near most shows or welcome them into their home. My husband has a serious history with lust. Why would I not help protect his heart and soul, knowing the struggle he’d face if lured into a show using lust to entertain? Let’s also not forget the sin against the actors. They are being used in a real way to make the show successful. I’m originally from SoCal, a BA in tv/film. Interned with Sony Pictures. I left that world behind with a gut feeling that a lot that industry comes down to using people. Sure, there is some great production that happens. Great acting and writing and cinematography. But most of it is the constant competition to be more shocking, more sexual, more visually stimulating (or horrifying), more expensive, more addicting… and with those goals in mind, we know that most of it will not coincide with the path to Heaven. In my experience, most of the trying-to-break-into-the-biz people are willing to do anything, seeking success in Hollywood. And it’s that mentality that does indeed leave actors/actresses quite vulnerable. Dr. Conrad Baars (deceased, Catholic psychiatrist) spoke about how many unaffirmed people seek out acting as a way to seeking affirmation. Many are not healthy people, who feel loved and know their worth in Christ. So we must take in consideration as well that what we watch may encourage their vulnerability working in a particular show. The same concept (if I’m describing it well) applies to workers in the porn industry. Sure, the viewer is in danger but we must also care for the soul of the worker whose soul is also in danger. I appreciate Kendra’s view in most circumstances but I cannot get on board with this post. I’d rather hear about what is safe for my Catholic family rather than the various disclaimers of “this might bother you if…” or, “… it didn’t bother me.” (I’m paraphrasing. But you know what I mean.) I know what I see with my eyes stays with me. My children also seem affected this way. My husband needs to not engage in behaviors that invite demonic companions to drag him deep into the sin of lust. We’ve been through deliverance and don’t wish to invite back such company. Better safe than sorry. But discernment in these times can be confusing. God bless everyone in this space. May we all make choices that please the Lord!
I just wanted to say thank you for being real. We are all looking for entertainment and as much as I enjoy learning about the faith I also enjoy “secular shows”. My personal approach is probably not as picky as it should be but I have been hesitant with both these shows and I think they were a great topic to hear a Catholic opinion on! Thanks for being real and your honest review!
Lucifer Morningstar in the SHOW is based off a comic series made by DC that took the Devil and made their own thing.
Hello Kendra, first time reading your posts. Very interesting, I have watched Lucifer up to season five and I’m planning to watch the last season 6. I agree that at first I passed on the show solely because of the title but later wanted to have an opinion about the show. To me it is purely entertainment, the sole idea of the show “that lucifer left hell because he wanted a vacation” tells me that the whole show will be base on real characters with a huge twist. So I don’t take the show seriously but only for what it is, a comic show. I will definitely won’t let my kids watch it, as there is some inappropriate dancing, killing, blood, etc. but I’m pleased they don’t have bad language and extreme nudity.
You are actually wrong about angels being able to have sex. They can’t /anymore/ but that was not the case before the great flood when angels mated with humans and created the monsters known as the nephilim.
References Genesis 6:1–4, Ezekiel 32:27, Numbers 13:33
And honestly to say someone else’s interpretation of anything spiritual entity is “wrong” is very short sighted. Art is not about exact representation, sometimes it can be about taking an archetype we all understand and exploring it more deeply to allow people to think critically about what they believe. For instance, the idea of redemption, and the idea of evil and good. Also scapegoating. All of these are literary themes, which means they are not in any way “wrong”.