Please note that the title was to be read ironically. Please.
The more I think about it, the more astounded I am by how sympathetic a character Satan truly is. I often think that if he were the protagonist of a movie or television show made today, he’d probably be played by a Jake Gyllenhaal-type and you’d undoubtedly have hundreds of little Satan stan accounts (I’m deeply sorry I even typed this) running around on Twitter and Tumblr talking about how hot and tortured he is. Seriously, the way the Satan thinks through issues isn’t unlike characters like Bojack from Bojack Horseman or Don Draper from Mad Men.
I think Don Draper is self-destructive in a different way than Satan. Definitely still self-destructive, but I think more often than Satan he wants to believe he’s a good man and the actions he’s doing aren’t inherently bad. Bojack, on the other hand, frequently does things for his own pleasure though he knows they are bad and has quotes such as, “I come from poison, I have poison inside me, I destroy everything I touch. That’s my legacy” Which, if you look at it at its core, isn’t so different from the description of Satan in Book IV: “… stir the Hell within him, for within him Hell He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell one step no more then from himself can fly by change of place” (20-23).
Satan isn’t a man without conscience — in Book IV, it says: “Now conscience wakes despair that slumberd, wakes the bitter memorie of what he was, what is, and what must be.” This idea that he’s plagued by the “what must be,” the role he’s created for himself, is incredibly relatable. It, actually, so frequently torments the aforementioned characters that it’s usually their downfall. Bojack says in Season 3 episode 12, “I don’t know how to be. It doesn’t get better, it doesn’t get easier. I can’t keep lying to myself saying I’m gonna change.” But it’s actually that mentality that causes him to be so self-destructive — his inability to accept that he can change. Instead of grasping onto something empowering, he grasps on to all he knows, the “what must be” — which is this idea that he is poison.
I think charismatic, self-destructive antiheroes can be very attractive to young readers because of their relatability — we relate to the flaws. We like the idea of the not so perfect somebody who can still win at the end of the day — antiheroes are just a different kind of underdog. Just off the top of my head, I can think of several antiheroes in pop-culture — Don Draper, Thomas Shelby, Sherlock Holmes, Deadpool, and Bojack — that have garnered largely sympathetic & romantically interested fan bases. And so I just wonder (from a very ACADEMIC PERSPECTIVE!), based on how Milton wrote Satan, if a modern audience would have received the character in the way Milton intended… or
if we would have had Satan stans running around Comic Con.