Cultural Conversations Pop Culture by Daniel Blackaby September 16, 2022
Satanic Panic: Understanding and Responding to the Little Demon Controversy￼
Just when you thought the cultural discourse couldn’t get any crazier, Hollywood cranks the volume to eleven by making a cartoon about the antichrist.
Recently, while watching a football game with his family, congressman Mike Johnson encountered an advertisement for the new animated show Little Demon. He took to social media to express his displeasure. His post went viral, and many Christians quickly went from zero to full-blown panic, rallying behind the increasingly popular sentiment, “Disney is coming for your kids!”
For those blissfully unaware, the official synopsis of the show is as follows:
“Thirteen years after being impregnated by Satan, a reluctant mother, Laura, and her Antichrist daughter, Chrissy, attempt to live an ordinary life in Delaware, but are constantly thwarted by monstrous forces, including Satan, who yearns for custody of his daughter’s soul.”
Yikes. Clearly, we’re not in the Hundred Acre Woods anymore! Beyond the shocking and intentionally provocative subject matter, the show is also hyper-violent, highly sexualized, and unrelentingly profane. Graphic blood and gore? Check. Nudity? Check. Countless heavy profanities? Check. Danny DeVito bizarrely doing voicework as Satan? Also check. This show seems to have it all.
The question is, what should Christians do about it?
How Should Christians Respond?
To start, everyone should take a deep breath. Knee-jerk outrage is easy but rarely helpful. Nobody’s eternal salvation hinges on a thirty-minute cartoon, no matter how profane or blasphemous. As Christians, we must go beyond the inflammatory headlines and attempt to understand what the show is (and what it’s not).
Is it really made by Disney?
Yes and no. Little Demon is a Disney product, but one a bit further downstream. It is produced for FXX (a cable channel that was swallowed up by Disney several years ago when Disney merged with 21st Century Fox). While the show technically lives under the expansive Disney umbrella, it’s not a Disney-branded show or available on Disney+. Instead, it streams on Hulu (a Disney-owned but distinctive platform) and on FXX. While “Disney” has increasingly become shorthand for “bad Hollywood,” the narrative here is a bit more nuanced.
Is it really targeting children?
No. Despite being animated, the show is clearly not aimed at children. It belongs in the growing genre of “cartoons for adults” (following shows like The Simpsons or Family Guy). It airs live on TV at 10pm (when most kids are asleep), and it isn’t available on any of the more kid-oriented streaming platforms (and it’s restricted from children’s accounts on Hulu). Younger viewers can still stumble upon the show, but to say that FXX is “targeting” children is a stretch.
Is the Satanic material concerning?
Yes, although perhaps not in the way or to the degree sensationalist online outrage might suggest. Obviously, Christians shouldn’t make light of hell or demonic powers. At the same time, the outrage about Little Demon is amplified by the fact that the satanic material is so easy to spot. Satan is a literal character in the show, with scenes taking place in literal hell. Thus, it is easy to label “satanic.”
Biblically speaking, however, anything contrary to God’s design and will is framed as being of Satan (Matt. 12:30, Matt. 16:23). In other words, a show doesn’t need to depict a horned man with a pitchfork to promote satanic thinking. Depicting the antichrist as a protagonist is clearly alarming, but so too are the more subversive but equally anti-biblical ideologies that permeate many less controversial shows. The individualistic, “God of my own life” worldview embodied by much of today’s popular entertainment will likely do more damage in leading people away from God than a show like Little Demon. In fact, by treating Satan and hell so casually and comically, the show arguably does more to lead viewers to reject the supernatural, demonic world than to embrace it.
What Should Christians Do?
To start, Christians probably shouldn’t touch this show with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. It’s vile, and there is simply nothing of edifying value to be found. Christian parents should also make sure they are not ignorant of the entertainment their children can access and should take necessary steps to prevent them from inadvertently encountering shows like this one.
Hollywood is free to tell the stories it desires, and Christians are free to be vocal about their displeasure toward such shows (there is currently a petition on change.org to cancel the show). At the same time, Christians should understand that even in the unlikely event that they succeed in pressuring the network to cancel the show (a show designed to be offensive is probably not threatened by offended people), there are endless other options for entertainment readily available that are antithetical to biblical teaching. Crusading against a particular show is like trying to stop the ocean waves with outstretched arms (although, the inability to prevent all cultural filth does not minimize the value of preventing some of it).
The unbelieving world doesn’t live in according to the sinful flesh because of shows like Little Demon. Shows like Little Demon exist because the world has embraced sin. Christians should be more heartbroken than outraged about a world that so openly flaunts its rebellion against God, knowing that the reality of damnation in hell isn’t a comedy like Little Demon. This controversy should energize Christians to share the gospel and shine the light of Christ in a dark world.