Every week at the Cinema Sangha Patreon I recommend something to subscribers at the $5 and above level. Sometimes it’s a book, sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a movie. Every time I try to write in depth about the thing and what it means. This week I’m recommending the documentary Hail Satan?, despite having some criticisms. This is an excerpt; to read the entire review, become a Patron at www.patreon.com/cinemasangha.
Hail Satan?’s cutesy question mark isn’t really that cutesy; the documentary about the Satanic Temple, which has become famous as a major player in church-state battles, tries to demystify the whole Satanism thing. This isn’t devil worship in the traditional sense… or is it?
Here’s something that frustrated me about Penny Lane’s fairly propaganda-ish doc about the Satanic Temple: it touches on but never explores the idea that you become what you say you are. While the founders of the Satanic Temple started the organization as a Yippie!-ish media stunt, having no actual belief in Lucifer or His devils, the group has attracted more and more people who seem to be quite taken with a more traditional Satanic lifestyle. The guys who launched the whole thing, including Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves, come across sort of like dorks (it’s interesting seeing Greaves, who has one sinister milky eye, grow a bit into his role as the head of the Satanic Temple and dress more for the part, but he’s still a dork), but many of the people who joined the Temple as it grew look like your standard idea of what a modern Satanist would be – the kind of people you would find at a Slayer show, or engaging in public BDSM at a club in the warehouse district.
Then there’s Jex Blackmore. Performance artist and activist, Jex operated the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple, which she seemed interested in using in a different way than the main Satanic Temple operated. Where Greaves and friends were trying to use media stunts to call attention to religious plurality and to battle the establishment of state religion, Blackmore is more interested in attacking the very roots of the modern political and social system. She ends up being booted out of the Temple when, during a performance, she calls for the murder of Donald Trump.
What’s interesting to me is the idea that this church, which was created in emulation of the greatest rebel in cosmic history, should end up banishing its own rebel. The Temple eventually has to create a centralized ruling body to make sure that the disparate local temples and churches don’t say anything too wild or that violate Temple pronouncements. It’s a philosophically intriguing turn of events – the solidification of a belief system in a group that is trying to undermine belief systems – but Lane doesn’t really go there.
I mean, it’s in the movie. I’m talking about it. But the tension at the heart of the Satanic Temple – the tension between rebels and the establishment the Temple has become, the tension I imagine must exist between the non-theistic and rationalist central committee and some members who likely edge in chaos magick territory – doesn’t really get addressed. Maybe I’m just looking for a different movie than the one Lane made, which is a pretty by-the-numbers history of/explanation of the Satanic Temple, but the fact that this material is in the movie as it exists is frustrating.
To read the rest of this review, become a Patron at the $5 or greater level at www.patreon.com/cinemasangha. If you can’t become a Patron at that amount, please know that all levels of support are financially and emotionally meaningful.