You know what would be really cool to see in real life, but almost never happens organically? A person stuck in the confused middle of a debate between an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Wouldn’t that be absolutely outrageous to actually see in real life? Because, of course, you wouldn’t see the angel or devil. All you would see is the frantic back and forth of the person’s head as they find themselves trapped between the better angels of their natures and the excuse that the devil made them do it. The shoulder debate between angel and devil has devilishly angelic legacy on TV. Here are some of the most memorable examples.
Leave it to “The Simpsons” to present a masterly example of the shoulder debate between angel and devil by turning the tables on the very basis of the concept. In a segment featured on one of the Treehouse of Horror Halloween episodes. All of Springfield’s advertising mascots have come to life and wreaking havoc throughout the city. One of those mascots is a giant red devil the shoulders upon which Bart Simpson is taking a ride. In one ear he urges the devil mascot to destroy his school. He then crosses over the shoulder and take the role of the angel by urging, in only a slightly different voice, to, yes, destroy the school.
The teachers at Lawndale High School have gone on strike and one of the replacement teachers has just been fire for hitting on a female student. Since it was Daria’s mother than was instrumental in causing the school to lose the scab, she suggests that Daria take over the role of teacher since her intellect is so obviously ahead of most of the other students. The devil on Daria’s shoulders tempt with the enticement of getting out of gym. The angel on Daria’s shoulder counters by appealing to Daria’s inflated sense of moral superiority by reminding her that taking the job would essentially make her a scab and thus she would be betraying her teachers. To which the devil appeal to Daria’s inescapable reality of being a teenager by selling her on the fact that, hey, she’d be betraying her teacher. A burgeoning debate over how Daria would be contributing to the legacy of worker exploitation by management quickly collapses under the weight of her inherent nihilism to the point where shoulder angel and devil agree to leave the comfort of their host’s shoulders and go get a bite to eat. It is worth noting that both devil and angel speak in Daria’s characteristic monotone.
Ned’s Declassified Survival Guide
Middle school student is faced with the typical moral crisis one finds in such a setting: to cheat on a history test or not. The standard shoulder debate between angel and devil gets a historical tweaking in the form of Honest Abe Lincoln urging Ned to take the high ground. And the devil’s role is take by none other than one of American history’s most Satanic figures: Benedict Arnold.
That 70’s Show
“That 70s Show” also take a pop culture approach to subverting the debate between shoulder angel and shoulder devil. When Fez is faced with the potential for taking sexual advantage of one those very rare occasions when Jackie got wasted (she dated Kelso, I’m pretty she lived in an eternally recurring state of wastedness), he must engage in a debate between his higher and lower brain functions. In this case, the angel appears at Batman and the devil shows up in the form of the Riddler as played by Frank Gorshin. The disturbing nature of these replacements is almost enough to warrant a law against replacement of the angel and devil.