(This analysis contains heavy season 2 spoilers! Please only read this article if you have completed season 2!)
Courtney is a character who is rude, snarky, and selfish in nature. You may read this as an insult, or as me disliking Courtney. It is not either of those things.
(And I promise this is going somewhere other than stating the obvious.)
Now that we are all on the same page, let us move on to the meat of this analysis.
It takes effort for Courtney to act good; it doesn’t come naturally to them. It’s not in their nature to be good, and that’s not a bad thing. It doesn’t matter if goodness doesn’t come naturally to someone, so long as, in the end, they do act good.
And we know that natural ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ have nothing to do with species in this universe, either. We see Courtney directly assuming that their feelings of being ‘softened’ by the neutral plane are also felt by Temeluchus. They, of course, assume that the same thing must have happened to Temeluchus because they are the same. They are both demons who have lived in the neutral plane for a long time. But they’re not the same in this way. As revealed at the end of season 2, Courtney is a fallen angel.
But, despite this, they end up being RIGHT about Temeluchus being softened. Not because they and Temeluchus were both demons, but because they were both naturally cruel creatures before coming into contact with the rest of the DE:PP cast. Regardless of their species.
We also see this, of course, in Fingers; a so-called “angel” who manipulated, harmed and tortured others in order to get what he wanted from them.
Kindness is associated generally with angels, and cruelness and rowdiness generally associated with demons, but these traits are NOT required for these species.
But it is because cruelness, rowdiness and all of the things Courtney naturally is are all assumed to naturally come to demons, that Courtney assumed that they are a demon. They align themselves with demons, relate to them (especially when contrasted with how they view angels). Despite Courtney never seeing a demon who looked like them, Courtney assumed that they HAD to be one. That’s why, as their “good twin” says, they “wanted” to be a demon. It’s because it was with demons that Courtney felt they should be. They have no memories of before they were banished. They would have nothing to go off of except for… Who they felt they belonged with.
And this is one of the major themes of Courtney’s character.
Courtney, more than anything, wants a place where they feel like they belong.
This is why a major part of Courtney’s arc in season 2 revolves around them trying to find others of their species, and season 1’s, around their desire to go to the lower plane. Especially when the truth is that they have no way of knowing that the lower plane was EVER their home. They have no memories of it. But it is where demons are SUPPOSED to be. It is where they will find belonging, with other demons like them.
You can see this idea; the idea that it is not the lower plane that Courtney wants, but what the lower plane REPRESENTS (a place of belonging); VERY plainly in the lyrics of their song about this desire, “Somewhere Down There.” With lyrics including:
“Down there’s a place where I know I belong / Because demons are meant to burn”
“I’ll be one of the guys with the Lord of the Flies”
“Down where it’s molten, fire and brimstone / That’s where I know that I’m meant to make my home!”
“Down where I'll finally feel I belong...!”
“I will be home / And never alone!”
When they aren’t talking about what they have read about the lower plane, they are describing a longing for a home.
And this is why Courtney feels nothing when they actually do get to go to the lower plane. Because they discover that this plane, too, is a place where they are an outcast.
And this is also why it was so crucial that Pauline approached Courtney right after their big blowup with Barney and Norma. Their feeling of unbelonging where they were; and thus, their desire to go to the lower plane; had been exacerbated.
To continue with this line of thinking, their actions and dialogue with said blowup is telling.
Courtney tends to tell (oftentimes dark) jokes at the expense of others to lighten the mood. At the time of the fight, they had even done it just a few scenes before, with their ‘haha, you can run away from me!’ quip while Barney talked about Norma running away from her demons.
Courtney does not have enough of a grasp on human social rules and what is and isn’t acceptable to say in what situations, to know their jokes were wrong. When they were joking about how much they admired Pauline now, they really thought they were helping. They even state as much plainly: “You love it when I do that (make jokes)!”
They thought that they were doing the good and correct thing, but were instead met with hostility. They are notably treated as if they knew what they were doing was wrong. As if their intentions were cruel. Not good.
And we know who tend to have cruel intentions, don’t we? Demons.
THIS is why Courtney immediately brings up being a demon in this situation. They feel as if they are being othered because of their “cruelness” (though this was not their intention in this scene), when they think cruelness is inherent to them and is unable to be changed. They think of this as an example of their oppression as a demon. (And, indeed, demons are oppressed in the society that we are presented with in DE:PP. And, indeed, despite not being a demon, Courtney IS still oppressed in this society. More on this later.)
So, when Courtney voices that they are feeling othered and pushed out because of their species, with: “You still see me as less than you, don’t you? I didn’t realize this was a secret human-only club!”
And Pugsley replies, “Humans AND dogs,” affirming, yes, they DO look down on them for being a demon. Yes, this IS a “club” that excludes demons.
Yes. Courtney does NOT have the place of belonging that they thought they did with them.
It’s no wonder why they’re brought close to tears. And it’s no wonder their desire to go to the lower plane; the place where they KNOW they simply MUST belong; becomes so strong in the aftermath of this fight, that they are willing to side with Pauline.
To be clear, I am not saying that Courtney did nothing wrong in this situation. I’d hope that would be obvious. Instead, I am stating that their intentions with their jokes were kind, even if the intention doesn’t change how they made Norma feel. And then, the resulting exchange had the perfect mix of all of the exact wrong elements for the situation at hand; Pugsley’s doggy-mind-driven prioritization of humans and Courtney’s existing inferiority complex about not belonging due to being a demon; for Courtney to come away feeling as if they were shunned and attacked for being a demon, and for all of the humans and Pugsley to feel firmly in the moral right.
Not only does Courtney align themselves firmly with demons, but they also don’t like the angels.
The angels as an oppressive class are established in a few different ways; the idea that the word “angel” is propaganda to make them sound better than they are, the fact that demons are raided and then locked away in prisons for something as simple as a Sweet 16 party, and the framing of the demons escaping the angel prison as “the underdogs punching up”. The angels are intended to be the oppressors of demons.
Despite the video for the Fallen Angel Work Program stating that fallen angels “will always be one of us (angels),” it’s also very clear that, like demons, fallen angels are also oppressed in this system. Their bodies are described and framed as “damaged” and “broken” by angels, now that they are fallen. And they are then mandatorily put into nearly-unending labor, with lunch breaks only once every 500 years. Not only that, but they are brainwashed to think that they LIKE these working conditions, as we see when Courtney tries to start an uprising with their fellow fallen angels.
Angels claim that fallen angels are still viewed as angels, but it is clear that this could not be farther from the truth.
After being oppressed as a demon, of course Courtney hates angels. And, after seeing what fallen angels like them are forcibly subjected to, they continue to feel this way. They do not belong with angels, just as they do not belong with demons. They refuse to align themselves with their oppressors.
… Or do they?
As, aside from yearning for a place to belong, there is another theme we have yet to touch on: assimilation and shame.
It is stated multiple times that Courtney suffers from self-loathing. The first time, in season 1, where they say that they just want to hate themselves in peace, and the second one, in season 2, where they use it as an example of one of their worst qualities.
Why is this?
This is the question that Courtney’s “good twin” proposes for Courtney directly. After all, in the good twin’s words, “This world isn’t meant for us demons! We can choose to be outcasts, or we can adapt, evolve, assimilate, and maybe then find happiness!”
But Courtney HAS assimilated! As Courtney points out in this scene, they have been very good since season 2 began.
So, then, why aren’t they happy? Why do they continue to hate themselves, and feel such guilt over their banishment which they can’t even remember?
Why? When Courtney has assimilated?
That word got stuck in my head: “assimilated”. That, and the line that one of the demons says about not being ashamed about being a demon, but, rather, wishing that society treated them kinder.
This theme about being not ashamed to be a demon, continued throughout the episode.
And then, the “good twin” saying that demons need to “push down” the guilt they feel. Not “cope with”. Not “deal with”.
Push it down.
Put it away. Ignore it. Don’t address it. Assimilate.
Courtney is not a demon, but they are perceived as one. And I don’t think that the “good twin’s” advice for demonhood is good advice. Rather, it is the main (though not sole) root of Courtney’s self-loathing.
This desire to assimilate. This desire to fit in.
And while Courtney later goes on in this episode to try and prove that they are not ashamed of being a demon like their “good twin” wants, we later see this idea popping up again, when Courtney victim-blames demons for their oppression (when they still thought that they, themselves, were a demon).
In this moment, Courtney plays at ‘respectability politics’; saying that the demons like the ones that they were talking to were the reason that the angels hated demons. They say, “Maybe if we stop breaking the rules on purpose…”
Another demon rightfully interrupts them: “Then they’d find another reason to treat us like dirt.”
However, unlike with the episode with their “good twin”, Courtney’s internalized shame doesn’t get addressed at all beyond that response. This shame Courtney feels around being a demon is still there, but it’s not being addressed any further. In season 2, at least.
Because, if Courtney acts this way about a species that they chose… That they relate to, that they align themselves with…
How in the world are they going to feel once they’re able to slow down and properly process that they are an angel? A species that they hate? Not just that; a “broken” version OF that species??
As such, I can only imagine that the theme of Courtney having internalized shame over their species will continue, if / when we get a season 3. Them not being a demon will not just ‘fix’ this issue; especially not when being a demon was what Courtney wanted.
However, all of these things; the intense desire for a place of belonging, the guilt they feel over whatever they did to get banished, the self-loathing stemming from internalized shame; are subjects all very much avoided by Courtney.
(“Pushed down”, if you will.)
When they begin to cry while describing their feelings of guilt, they seem completely unfamiliar with the sensation; demanding to know what is happening to their eyes, and if someone else has cast a spell on them.
Then, just the next scene, when prompted to open up more, Courtney completely shuts down, saying, “Nope, I’m closed. Shut down, out of service.”
We also can see this sort of shutting down to avoid painful subjects in scenes like the blowup with Norma, Barney and Pugsley, where we see Courtney putting up a front of anger.
We can see through their hesitance to leave, dialogue and body language that they want one of the others to reassure them, comfort them, say that they are wanted there. But they don’t directly ask for any of that. They just silently stick around, after having announced that they are going to leave, and hope for it.
And when they’re told that they aren’t welcome, Courtney tells the group that they had almost gotten them caught up in their human feelings and friendships, but it didn’t work.
They lie. And I don’t think that it’s for the others. Rather, it was for Courtney themselves; telling themselves that, rather than confront the pain of this rejection.
Courtney is a character who so badly longs for a place they belong, but they can’t find that with demons or with angels. In the neutral plane, they feel the need to assimilate to cope with their internalized shame over their species. They feel an intense guilt over the unknown deed that got them banished, but they repress that; right along with their true self; so they can avoid the pain that comes with confronting it, or any of these negative feelings.
But maybe this repression is the exact reason why Courtney has been unable to find a place they feel like they belong in the first place.
I’m aware that this analysis has been lengthy, so thank you for sticking with me until the end! I find Courtney to be a very interesting character, and I really am looking forward to seeing how all of these themes are expanded upon in the season 3 that we, hopefully, will get. Knock on wood!