One of my goals here at Hell Mythos is to explore all aspects of Hell in popular culture, even the comic ones. There’s have been a few standout “funny” depictions of Hell in recent years. I guess Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) kicked this trend off, but we’ve had lots of Hell in South Park, including the South Park movie (1999).
But it might just be the TV show Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell that has set a new standard for an absurdist, comic Hell. Part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming, this is a live-action sitcom that depicts Hell as an office workplace. Episode are short (11-12 minutes), the special effects crude (red paint and horns), but there’s a madcap zaniness and violence to the series, all underlined by a kind of surreal horror. Whatever else it is, it’s certainly unusual.
The Set-Up: Pretty Face imagines Hell as an office job, with Satan your typical asshole boss grinding down the little man. Our main character is Gary, a completely incompetent demon who messes up every assignment he’s given. He has an intern, Claude, who is far better than him at the job, and each brief episode usually has them trying (and failing) to carry out some damnation related task set by Satan. They have to tempt a baseball player, put on a demonic musical, get Satan’s face on the nickel, etc. Gary messes everything up, Claude succeeds, comedy ensues. 7/10.
Scope: A typical episode has some scenes in Hell, with deliberately crude CGI and your standard office cubicles. Then Gary and Claude will usually held up topside to try and mess around with humans. There’s an endearing quality to the relative lack of money being spent on the series; these aren’t slick Hollywood effects, but their slapdash quality makes the series funnier. This isn’t the first work of the imagination to show Hell as a bureaucracy, but I don’t think I’ve seen Hell depicted as kind of demented Dilbert comic before. 7/10.
Horror: Your Pretty Face is casually horrific. While the aim here is definitely comedy, to make us laugh at the sufferings of our bumbling demons, there’s a desperate undercurrent. Gary sometimes has to go to the “break room,” a cube of whirling blades. Everyone, demons and damned alike, are constantly being tortured. The series can be quite disturbing in its depiction of casual violence, so be warned. 6/10.
Originality: Hell hasn’t been adapted to the sitcom format often, if ever, so you’ve got to get points for that. The different pieces aren’t particularly original—this is part The Office, part Dilbert, part South Park—but putting them together in this way is. 7/10.
Enjoyability: I like this series in short doses. The jokes can get a little repetitive, and it’s more of an absurd diversion than a serious inquiry. If you can get past the effects and are able to laugh at some of the crude jokes, this is a surprisingly solid (if light) contribution to the literature of Hell. 7/10.
Overall: 34/50. This isn’t a classic of Hell literature by any means, but it’s definitely above average take on the afterlife. I’m not sure what it says about Hell that we’re now laughing at it . . .