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Good Angel, Bad Angel

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"Don't listen to that guy. He's trying to lead you down the path of righteousness. I'm gonna lead you down the path that rocks!"
Kronk's Shoulder Devil, The Emperor's New Groove

When someone wrestles with a temptation, two miniature versions of the character’s self, an Angel and a Devil, sit on each shoulder and try to pull the character in different directions. The Devil will invariably be on the left (the conflicted character's left, or "sinister") shoulder. Alternatively, as in Full House ("The Devil Made Me Do It"), the Angel and the Devil may manifest as life-sized people on either side of the conflicted character rather than as miniatures on the character's shoulders.

Expect a female character's Devil to dress all Stripperiffic, to invoke Evil Is Sexy, Horny Devils, Hot as Hell, and Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains. Thanks to how common this trope is, it's generally given some kind of parodic twist. If a character is particularly bad, it's common is to give that character two Devils (and vice versa for particularly good characters). Another is for the Devil to kill, injure or incapacitate the Angel, leaving only the devil as counsel (or vice versa). Occasionally, the two may end up agreeing, usually in the form of the Angel giving in to a violent choice, particularly if it's well deserved. Sometimes the Devil for a male character mentions that the angel wears a "dress." ("It's a robe.") It is far less common for the angel to tell the Devil to Please Put Some Clothes On. As the conversation among the three progresses, it may drift away from anything to do with good or evil and resemble a Seinfeldian Conversation involving Metaphorgotten or Sidetracked by the Analogy. That being said, it is Played for Drama occasionally. In this case, the trope is still likely to be played with, since it's very hard to write shoulder advisors seriously; the Good Angel and Bad Angels are likely two separate characters, a well-meaning friend and a Token Evil Teammate respectively trying to sway the protagonist to their side and arguing over the best action. If still part of the protagonist's mind, the Good Angel and Bad Angel are likely hallucinations or encountered in a Journey to the Center of the Mind, and usually something far more abstract than an angelic and devilish version of the character.


The technical, if somewhat dated, term for this is the Psychomachia ("Battle of the Soul"); in its original version, this implied a full-scale war between all of an individual's personified virtues (such as Humility, Chastity, Patience, etc.) against his personified vices (Pride, Lust, Anger, etc.).

To put in more or less psychological terms, what we have is a kind of Freudian Trio, with the Devil as the Id, the Angel as the Superego and the person whose shoulders they stand on as the Ego.

Compare Floating Advice Reminder and Ghost in the Machine. When an external character takes it upon oneself to play the Bad Angel, that character is The Corrupter. When an external character takes it upon oneself to play the Good Angel, that character is The Conscience. Consider Right Way/Wrong Way Pair.

Has nothing to do with Angel/Angelus from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel nor the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine.


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    Asian Animation 
  • 4 Angies: In episode 8, a shoulder devil and angel appear to convince Kalamare to cheat on a test by copying from Nina's work, and to do the opposite, respectively. Eventually Kalamare gets so fed up with the shoulder devil as she and the shoulder angel give her conflicting advice throughout the episode that she grabs her and throws her out of the way, onto the branch of a tree.
  • Banzi's Secret Diary: In episode 31, Banzi has a crisis relating to spending her allowance on a new backpack on sale, as she had promised herself not to spend more than 45 cents a day so as not to spend all her money at once. An angel appears to her right, telling her that she should save her money; a devil appears to her left, proposing she purchase it anyway since "smart consumers always buy at bargain prices". She purchases the bag and is promptly shocked the next day at school to find she only has a single coin on her.
  • Crazy Candies: In the first episode, during the race, Marshyo sees a candy struggling to make it out of a chocolate lake. A devil version of him appears and tells him not to save her, since she'll have a higher chance of winning if he does. Then an angel version of him appears and tells him to save the candy since she's a friend of his. The devil and angel butt heads with their differing choices for a few seconds before Marshyo decides to save the candy.
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 3 episode 18, Smart S. tries to withdraw money from an ATM machine to buy a super-alloy screw. A shoulder angel and devil resembling him appear, with the devil trying to persuade him to withdraw the money and the angel trying to persuade him not to since he can only withdraw money several times and this is his only remaining chance to do so. This being the very vain Smart S., the devil reminding him that he won't be able to buy his special shampoo without the money and enamoring the angel with the thought of this shampoo is enough to make him withdraw the money anyway.
  • Motu Patlu: In "Motu Banega Don", Motu is thinking of ways to become a Don like John, and a devil resembling him appears and gives him the idea to rob Furfuri Nagar's bank. An angel resembling Patlu then appears and objects to the Motu devil's idea, but Motu tries to rob the bank anyway. Later in the same episode, the Motu devil and the Patlu angel reappear when Motu is given the idea to smuggle gold that is being shipped nearby.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In episode 361, Paddi gives the bib he wears around his neck to Jodie. Later, a shoulder angel and devil appear when he is eating donuts and remembers that he gave the bib to Jodie, so now he doesn't have anything to use as a napkin; the shoulder angel tries to get Paddi to forget about the bib while the shoulder devil tries to get him to steal it back from Jodie. Paddi goes with the latter option, much to the surprise of the shoulder angel.

  • A variation comes up in a Ron White comedy bit where he cheats on his wife with a woman he meets in Ohio after not having sex in three months. As it turns out, the shoulder devil isn't necessary.
    Ron: And you know that little guy that sits on your shoulder and reminds you of your prior commitments and your moral fortitude? I didn't hear a peep out of that guy. He hadn't been laid in three months either. He was speechless for twenty minutes; then he was like, "Suck her titties!" "I was gonna!" I'm having a three-way with my conscience. As soon as the whole thing's over, he's back at his post. "That was WRONG, mister!" "Hey, twenty minutes ago, you were beatin' off on my shoulder, Monkey Boy."
    • This gets illustrated in Ron White's book I Had the Right to Remain Silent...But I Didn't Have the Ability with Devil!Ron egging him on while Angel!Ron conspicuously does nothing.


    Puppet Shows 
  • Used in an episode of Muppets Tonight, with Seymour and Pepe pretending to be Jason Alexander's good and bad conscience in order to convince him to do an act with Gonzo. And some other episodes.
  • The concept appeared in Sesame Street.
  • Spitting Image: Neil Kinnock has Michael Foot as his angel and Jim Callaghan as his devil while he wrestles over whether or not to reappear on The Tube. He compromises by saying that he can't as he is rehearsing for Last of the Summer Wine, which pleases them both.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One supplement for the Mystara setting included creatures called "blue imps" and "red imps", respectively resembling tiny angels or devils, which would covertly approach and pester young apprentice wizards, trying to persuade them to study either good or evil magics. Although such imps had an existence of their own, independent of the people they tried to influence, this trope clearly inspired the concept.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The AIs play with this trope — there's (usually) only one of them to an individual, but they appear floating over the person's shoulder and exist to help and give advice. If you have a good one, great — you don't have to worry about its evil counterpart undermining its efforts. Unfortunately, that same lack of symmetry means that if you get stuck with an evil one, you're pretty much hosed.
    • Season 10 gives us an instance of "Bad Angel, Worse Angel" when Gamma and Sigma team up to dupe Carolina into choosing to have two AI implanted into her.
  • A series of short flash cartoons, entitled Dog, Buddha, Elvis uses the three title figures to represent a man's psyche.
  • Parodied in the machinima series The Strangerhood, where Griggs' Good Angel and Bad Angel get into a fistfight, then the other characters' Good Angels show up and throw a party.
  • The Homestar Runner cartoon "The Baloneyman" uses Strong Bad's good and bad angels together as a (neutral) personification of his brain, which he tries to "fool" into feeling refreshed by rubbing a baloney sandwich shaped like a popsicle on his head:
    Devil Strong Bad: You see this guy? Rubbin' a sammich on his head?
    Angel Strong Bad: I know, I know... just let it go. You gotta pick your battles.
It's probably worth mentioning that Angel Strong Bad is noticeably shorter than Devil Strong Bad.
  • In The Annoying Orange episode "Cruel as a Cucumber," Orange wants to get Cucumber to like him. Angel Orange and Devil Orange both pop up to give him advice, but both of them just suggest ways to annoy Cucumber. Angel Orange's suggestions are nicer, though.
  • In the Napster Bad short "Metallica Millionaire", James Hetfield has just one of these, a devil in the shape of Lars Ulrich.
  • In Chargesdotcomdotbr, there's one story with Corrupt Politician Paulo Maluf receiving visits from these angels. When Maluf stated there was no Money of his in any tax havens, a good angel showed up and told him not to lie. Then a bad angel showed up to point out he's telling the truth. The money he keeps in Cayman Islands isn't his; it's the people's. Then Maluf claims that, if anything on his name is found, he promised to donate everything to Saint House. Upon the good angel's doubts, the bad one claimed he meant the house where Maluf lives with his saint family. Maluf also claimed the accusations are a consequence of the Brazilian Presidential elections of that time because he led the run. The bad angel said it's just someone summon him for an official statement and he runs off to Paris. The good angel quit after that.
  • In the If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device short featuring Sly Marbo, tiny demonic and angelic versions of Sly appear when he's confronted with a Sadistic Choice. Their advice? "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!"
  • Played with in episode 4 of Helluva Boss when the demonic I.M.P. crew are hired to kill a Mad Scientist who's already been Driven to Suicide, and spend the episode trying to convince him to go through with it while a group of cherubs try to talk him out of it.
  • In the Robotzi episode "Sugstanță'', Mo gets both an angel Mo and a devil Mo when he plans to drink the toxic substances prepared by F.O.C.A. However, their personalities are almost the same. Angel Mo at first says they seem very toxic, while Devil Mo wants Mo to drink them and the angel agrees.
  • In the Pucca short "The Usual Ching", when Ching is corrupted by the evil in Doga's sock that was mistakenly put in her laundry, she manifests a devil and an angel, the former of which promptly disintegrates the latter with a blast from her pitchfork.
  • AstroLOLogy:
    • In the short "To Do or Not to Do", while at the store, Libra has both halves of Gemini serving as his angel and devil when he seems to be contemplating taking money from the register while Sagittarius is sleeping at the counter. His devil wins out, but it turns out Libra really just wanted to take a nearby marker and draw on Sagittarius' face in her sleep.
    • "Naughty or Nice" does a variant: as the show is a Mime and Music-Only Cartoon where the only speech is indistinct, Taurus, working as a Mall Santa, asks Capricorn and Gemini if they've been nice or naughty by conjuring angel and devil versions of them and having them pick one.


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Alternative Title(s): Shoulder Angels, Shoulder Demons, Shoulder Angel Shoulder Devil, Shoulder Angel, Shoulder Devil


Whos the Cat & Whos the Mouse?

Tom is upset that Jerry is living luxurious in the hotel. Thatâs when his Angel & Devil selves show up to tell him whatâs the best thing to do?<br><br><br><br>Of course he listens to his very persuasive Devil self.

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Main / GoodAngelBadAngel

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