Did Satan Even Have Feet?
Lil Nas X’s latest song and subsequent sneaker design have certain corners of American conservatism in a huff. But there may be an ever more fundamental question needing an answer.
The world was swept up in a mini-Satanic Panic this Holy Week when Lil Nas X released an exclusive limited edition “Satan sneaker” that features a pentagram and a drop of blood in the sole. The announcement provoked a shrill backlash from conservative commentators and politicians. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem complained that, “We are in a fight for the soul of our nation” while Candace Owens inexplicably linked the shoes to the murder of George Floyd and suggested that their valorization contributes to “keeping Black America behind.” A public that has no problem with a blonde Sabrina sitting on the throne of Satan is suddenly up in arms about a queer Black rendition of our religious history. If the devil isn’t wearing Prada, it seems, we are faintly horrified.
The shoes, which were at first advertised as Nike but have since been disavowed by the athleticwear giant, sold out in under a minute. Their announcement corresponds to the release of the music video for Lil Nas X’s (real name Montero Lamar Hill) ‘MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).’ While the music video initially drew attention for the controversial scene in which Lil Nas X gives Satan a lapdance, the video is filled with Greek, Latin, and Christian imagery and motifs. Everything from the Garden of Eden to early Christian martyrdom to Plato and Aristophanes make an appearance. As an excellent piece in Time unpacked, this isn’t just about shock value: the three-minute video intelligently recasts classical and religious concepts and subversively overlays them with queer iconography and self-love.
The shoes themselves are relatively innocuous. The limited edition run of 666 pairs of customized Air Max 97 sneakers retailed for $1,018 a pop. The red and Black sneakers, which allegedly contain a drop of blood and 60cc of red ink in the heel, are individually numbered and are most distinctive for the inclusion of a pentagram on the laces. The shoes also include a reference to Luke 10:18 (in which Jesus says “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”).