It would be a night to remember in the irreverent halls of Hell. Hundreds of motion pictures from the 20th Century had been considered before the impious committee narrowed their list down to four films. The coveted award would be presented to the movie that had influenced the greatest number of people down the path toward damnation. But not one of the scowling, mocking, screaming demons present that evening could have guessed the winner.
The first finalist was unquestionably a crowd favorite. The Exorcist had long since been recognized as the motion picture that most glorified their efforts amongst mankind. Even such human organizations as Entertainment Weekly and Movies.com had named it the scariest movie of all time. Demons and warlocks alike banged their tables in fiendish delight at the memory of its diabolical impact on the U.S. public.
Another commendable entrant was Deep Throat, nominated for its part in launching the adult entertainment industry and introducing smut into mainstream America. It was nothing short of devilish genius that compelled this second-rate film into movie theaters across the land. It did more to sexualize the American culture than any other film. Many heads nodded their approval at this selection throughout the banquet hall.
With the nomination of Casablanca, the art of understated insinuation received due recognition. An enormously popular movie with humans, this forties’ flick brilliantly glamorized adultery. Ingrid Bergman’s performance as a woman who could not control her emotional lust for Humphrey Bogart’s character was so compelling, that even the most moral people rooted for her to dump her devoted husband in favor of her ex-lover. Certainly, the fact that humans consistently voted it one of the greatest movies of all time suggested its influential nature.
As worthy as these three motion pictures were in their own right, they would not receive the coveted statue being presented that night.
Everyone present was wondering what movie could possibly have produced more evil effects on mankind than these worthy finalists. “And the winner in the Best Picture category is…” the anticipation mounted as the mischievous announcer allowed a long, drawn out pause before exclaiming, “It’s a Wonderful Life!”
The announcement unleashed a torrent of reactions from the audience. First, there was the deafening silence of utter disbelief. Unclean spirits and ghouls frantically looked at each other in bewilderment. Then the groans of despair began to rise, which quickly escalated into screeches of anger. “But that is one of the most wholesome movies Hollywood ever produced!” shouted one angry demon. “Even the evangelicals love it,” cried another. “Who made this stupid decision?” demanded another incredulously. “Don’t these morons understand that the message of this movie is that a good life makes a difference in the world?”
The impish presenter cringed and squirmed under the growing fury. The wild, shrieking demonic horde threatened to erupt into a full scale riot.
It was at that moment that Apollyon, that great dragon from the lower regions of the Abyss, suddenly appeared from behind the curtain, sending the terrified announcer scurrying away.
“I think that once you grasp what this movie accomplished,” cooed the hulking, deformed principality condescendingly, “you will agree that this was the right choice tonight.” No one believed the great liar, even if they were too intimidated to voice it. The Adversary was too arrogant to be disconcerted by their cynical glares. Still, he knew he must win them over.
“I understand that the wickedness promoted by movies like The Exorcist and Deep Throat accomplished much for our kingdom,” he reasoned. “But you must keep in mind that their blatant evil is also the very thing that caused many humans to avoid them or, in any case, to steel themselves against their influences.”
“And yes, it is true that the Enemy scored points with the perception It’s a Wonderful Life conveyed that a good life is meaningful on earth. But there is an underlying message in this movie that completely overshadows those losses.
“I want you to consider George Bailey,” continued the monster. The mere mention of the name magically produced a video clip of Jimmy Stewart on an enormous screen behind him. The scene was of a bitter and despondent Bailey throwing down shots of whiskey at a bar, muttering to God that he wasn’t a praying man, yet finding himself in such a quandary that he had nowhere else to turn. The horrible demon-god let this image settle into the devious minds of his devious audience.
“You see this man?” he demanded, pointing at the screen. “He is the personification of what Americans believe about themselves: good people willing to take a stand against evil.”
“Here’s what makes this film such a valuable advocate of our cause. The underlying message of it is that God goes to bat for the George Bailey’s of life, they need only ask and help will immediately be dispatched from heaven.” The fallen angel paused for effect before going on. “The message is that God is obligated to send average Joes to heaven and that it’s only evil men like Mr. Potter who go to hell.”
“You have to understand that humans want to be deceived,” he continued. “They love the fact that there are Mr. Potters in this world because it reinforces the notion that they are good people who deserve to go to heaven. Can’t you see that it’s the very fact that Americans see themselves as George Bailey—on their way to heaven in spite of their godless lifestyles—that makes this movie so devastatingly effective?”
The mood in the great hall was rapidly becoming more buoyant and cheerful, some of the more discerning demons even nodding their hideous heads in agreement.
“It’s been over 60 years since that movie came out,” he concluded; “and this false notion that so-called good people go to heaven is more deeply entrenched in the American psyche than ever. Even stupid humans are beginning to catch on to the utter brilliance of our plan. If you don’t believe me, just listen to this,” he stated, preparing his audience for the coup de grace of his argument. He spoke the words slowly, to allow them to sink into every wicked heart present. “The Los Angeles Times recently did a study that said for every American who believes he is on his way to hell, 120,” he stopped and repeated that number; “120 of them think they are going to heaven.”
The eruption of blasphemous singing and disgusting revelry confirmed that he had been right all along. Case closed, dispute settled, all dissension silenced. And so it was that one of America’s most endearing and beloved family-oriented movies also made its way into the hearts of hell’s angels.