Billie Eilish, God, The Devil, and Climate Change
The 2018 wildfire season was one of the deadliest and most destructive seasons in California history with a total of 103 confirmed fatalities, 24,226 structures damaged/destroyed, and 8,527 forest fires burning over 1.9 million acres. A leading cause of this mass destruction was climate change. In 2019, American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish released the song “All The Good Girls Go To Hell” as a wake-up call to the effects of climate change, especially in California. Billie attempts to raise awareness by creating a dialogue between God and Satan, who are disappointed in mankind. This narration offers a religious perspective on global warming and emphasizes the failure of humanity to take care of our planet.
Through a spiritual lens, Billie utilizes Biblical characters to provoke emotions of vexation within her audience. The narration she has created in “All The Good Girls Go to Hell” portrays Satan and God as dismayed by the way humans have destroyed their planet. The idea of Satan being disappointed in humans is unexpected because we are supposed to have the moral high-ground over Satan. However, Billie is suggesting that our actions make us worse than the Devil. I argue that Billie created this perspective as a consequence of both our destructive actions and failure to protect our planet. Her goal with this perspective is to spread awareness about the severity of climate change by encouraging listeners to realize that our society has made a mistake detrimental to our survival, thus influencing us to want to create change.
In the music video for “All The Good Girls Go to Hell,” Billie is subjected to medical technologies that turn her into a broken angel (like Lucifer) who then falls out of heaven. Crashing into Earth she creates a crater that fills with oil which fuels the fires on Earth. This imagery casts blame on us for our fossil fuel addiction that has caused our planet to slowly perish. Similar to the video, our advances in technology have hastened the destruction of our planet with unintended consequences. Billie also sings, through the devils perspective, “Standing there, killing time / can’t commit to anything but a crime.” This lyric is an accusation against our nation’s leader’s inability to come to a consensus in regards to fighting climate change and its effects. Furthermore, the lyric, “My Lucifer is lonely,” suggests that humans are exterminating themselves and Lucifer will soon be alone as there will be no one left to dominate.
In another lyric from the Devils perspective, Billie says, “Man is such a fool, why are we saving him? / Poisoning themselves now / Begging for our help, wow.” Billies use of the idea that the Devil is taking a step back from his spiritual role within humanity because we have done his job for him allows her to create emotions of anger and guilt within the audience. Billie positions the Devil as a voice of reason, causing us to self-reflect, and then utilizes these emotions to support her claim that if we do not do something to fix our planet, we are worse than the Devil. In creating this narrative, Billie would hope to encourage people to make a change to protect our planet.
In the pre-chorus of “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” Billie flouts social norms by suggesting that God is a woman. This suggestion allows the audience to think about God through a modernized spiritual lens that combats traditional views of religious figures. In Billies narrative, environmental destruction is equated to sin. The Devil in the song even points out to God that humans are constantly committing the sin of environmental destruction and we cannot be trusted to do good. In response, God takes a step back from her spiritual role as humanity’s protector and states, “Hills burn in California / My turn to ignore ya / Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.” This section of the song is suggesting that God is not going to help us with this disaster because we created it and we ignored the signs leading up to this point. These lyrics take us back to the Genesis flood narrative through which God spares Noah, his family, and examples of all the world’s animals from a world-engulfing flood. God created this flood so that humanity may experience the consequences of their sins. In Billies narrative, God is taking a step back from humanity and willingly ignoring our pleas for help so that we can experience the consequences for our sin. Through this perspective Billie is challenging the idea that God will be our savior and protect us from global warming. This contradicts the typical Christian understanding of God as the supreme being. Most people look to God for help because they believe that he has all the answers. However, I argue that Billie is trying to prove that global warming is not God’s problem and we cannot entrust in God to fix everything for us. Climate change cannot be solved with religion.
Through reworking the spiritual roles of God and the Devil, Billie spins on the idea of good and evil by playing with Biblical imagery of judgment. From a religious perspective, being “good” means putting your faith and trust in God, and your behavior mirrors societies ideas of good morality. Someone who is “bad” lives a life of sin by committing acts of offense against God through profound immoralities. However, in “All The Good Girls Go to Hell”, Billie illustrates a belief that individual moral acts are futile when creation is doomed to burn. In the end the good and bad will burn together. This is a nihilistic perspective. However, I argue that Billie is reflecting on this to show that humans, as individuals, cannot solve the problem of climate change alone. Furthermore, we cannot expect anyone, not even God, to solve our problems. To combat climate change, mankind must work together.
“All The Good Girls Go To Hell” is a wake-up call for humanity. By suggesting that humankind is worse than the Devil, Billie attempts to encourage people to step up and make a change. We have caused temperatures to rise, placing humanity in danger. However, one person is not going to make a difference all by themselves. In creating the narrative of God and the Devil disappointed in humans, Billie is trying to relay that we cannot expect others to solve our problems. To combat climate change, we must come together and take action. If we do not act now to fix our mistakes we will burn in the hell we created.