The Christian Right is in an uproar after this year’s Grammy Awards, but it’s not because they think Beyoncé was robbed of album of the year. They think the event organizers, in conjunction with Pfizer, were trying to summon the antichrist. From Sam Smith’s red leather and devil horns to Kim Petras’ cage of flames, this year’s ceremony had a satanic tinge that has the Right worried. In this blog post, we’ll explore the resurgence of Satanic panic conspiracies, and the fear of the unholy alliance between Pfizer and the Grammy’s.
Sam Smith and Kim Petras made Grammy history with their fiery performance of their award-winning single “Unholy.” Smith wore red leather and donned a top hat replete with devil horns, while Petras danced in a cage surrounded by flames. Dominatrix-esque dancers wearing horns and holding riding crops surrounded them, and Smith finished the performance with a dance and a cane.
The Right was quick to point out the unholy alliance of everything they hate. Firstly, Pfizer—the pharmaceutical company that came out with the first COVID-19 vaccine—was among this year’s event sponsors. Then there was Smith, who’s been targeted by culture warriors since coming out as gender queer in 2019. Smith has since celebrated their identity with playful, flamboyant fashion. In a recent sexy music video, they wore everything pink, fluffy gowns and daring, burlesque-style outfits and was accused of “normalizing pornography.”
Earlier in the evening on Sunday, Smith and Petras also won the award for “best pop duo.” Petras, who accepted the award, made Grammy history by becoming the first transgender woman to win an award. So when the devil horns and flames came out, the Right became apoplectic.
Satanic panic conspiracies have seen a resurgence in the past decade, thanks to the rise of QAnon, which borrowed many decades-old themes and fears of secret, powerful Satanic cabals preying on children’s innocence. Satanic panic has also seeped into mainstream Christian nationalism in the U.S. The movement deems any cultural or political institutions that don’t reflect evangelical Christian values as “satanic” or “anti-Christ.” This has included everything from school kids learning about LGBTQ issues, to vaccines, to drag queens.
Turning Point USA founder and conservative influencer Charlie Kirk went on a multi-part tweet storm, in which he attempted to draw a connection between the satanic themes in Smith and Petra’s performance, and the fact that Pfizer was among this year’s sponsors of the Grammy’s. Kirk also posted a screenshot of the performance, with the caption “definitely not a spiritual war.”
Right-wing commentator Liz Wheeler also weighed in. “Don’t fight the culture wars, they say,” she wrote on Twitter. “Meanwhile demons are teaching your kids to worship Satan. I could throw up.”
Following Smith and Petras’ performance, host Trevor Noah, seemingly anticipating the backlash, pretended to receive a phone call from his mother. “No, mom, it wasn’t the actual devil,” he said in the pretend phone call. “Yeah, you did warn me about Hollywood.”
So what do the Grammy’s, Pfizer, and Sam Smith have to do with the antichrist? And why are religious conservatives so worried? Read on to find out why the Right is in a tailspin after this year’s Grammy Awards.