Charmed has often been accused of depicting the magical world in starkly black and white. Demons are all things evil. Witches, especially the Charmed Ones, are all things good. Each is locked in an eternal struggle where the balance between good and evil is maintained. Belthazor/Cole was the first demon hybrid who upset this crisp division between good and evil. Drake was another demon who briefly bridged the divide. Do demons have a soul? Are they capable of performing random acts of kindness? Ljones, writing in the Charmed Cafe, launched the discussion. Here is her contribution:
"Cole had a soul. That's why he wasn't immediately killed in the Wasteland.
Why was it so important that demons be betrayed as having no soul? For me, anyone who acts like a sentient being with emotions - both negative and positive - and desires . . . has a soul, as far as I'm concerned."
vandergraafk found this explanation problematic and offered the following assessment:
I guess there are two responses. First, it may simply have been one of the biases of Charmed that demons have no soul. Certainly, the struggle between Belthazor and Cole suggests that had Belthazor been able to strip himself of his human half, he would have been a happier demon. I haven't really taken the time to analyze each of the demons in Charmed, but my suspicion is that none of them has a soul, certainly not a soul worth saving. Perhaps the Wasteland was confused when Cole arrived. Here was a soul worth saving, and maybe the Wasteland was the place for souls not worth saving to go in order to be consumed in, recycled by and reintroduced from the Wasteland. Personally, I don't think we know enough about the Wasteland to answer any such question definitely, though I recall Xenith and I spent a fair chunk of time trying to make sense of the Wasteland in light of the Source's brief resurrection in Season 8.
The second point concerns sentient entities. I suspect no one would argue that sentient beings lack an awareness of their surroundings, as well as some sense about themselves. But awareness of self is not limited to humans. No longer do scientists believe that humans have an exclusive privilege in this regard. What we possess may differ in degree, but perhaps not in kind from what many animals experience. Modern research on the behavior of elephants is most telling in this regard, especially as it pertains to elephants seeing a reflection of themselves in mirrors and the way these great animals tend to the deceased among them.
Now are awareness of self and empathy towards others constituent elements of what we might call a soul? Perhaps. In some major religions, I assume that many believers accept that their "souls" will either go to heaven or descend to the depths of hell upon the end of their natural lives. Me? As a non-believing agnostic, I find no evidence crying out for a belief in an after-life for good or bad souls. Others do. That's their choice! I choose to believe that when I'm dead and gone, my sentient state will cease as well. There will be no afterlife, no reincarnation, no nothing.
In society, unfortunately, there are many, many people who lack one of the two important elements of a "soul". Far too many criminally convinced members of society exhibit a total lack of empathy towards members of their own species or towards other species. They are called sociopaths. Charmed calls them demons and infuses them with supernatural powers. Fortunately, there are good, sentient beings who protect the Innocent and possess supernatural powers to beat back demonic desire for discord, destruction or depravity.
Demons, warlocks, witches all: of course, they are fantasy elements. True-believing witches probably don't believe that they have fantastic powers, but they may have mastery over a bunch of folk remedies and concoctions that are only vaguely understood by science. Charlie Manson probably believes he is the devil incarnate. Who knows? All I know is that he was one very sick, twisted individual whose charisma caused many followers to commit despicable acts of indecency and murder.
So, in answer to your question: why is it so important that demons be betrayed (sic) (I think you mean portrayed) as having no soul, the question itself misses the point. Demons, as well as warlocks, are sentient beings. They lack however empathy for others. That's why they are able to engage in each of the duplicitous deeds they are infamous for. They can lust after things: riches, power, or even male/female companionship. But they can never love another human being or witch, for that matter. Riches and power, on the other hand, are ends in and of themselves. They are not elements or instruments to be used to ameliorate the human condition, a goal that no demon accepts. They are the be all and end all of demonic existence.
Witches, however, if they wish to remain good witches, cannot detach powers and personal gain from the consequences of their usage. Witches who pursue for power for its own sake become evil (future Wyatt) or those who abuse their abilities for personal gain on an increasingly repeated and egregious basis cease to be witches, but become warlocks (good witches gone bad).
I don't think my explanation has gone beyond what Charmed presents. Cole is the odd entity in all of this because he is half human and half demon. His demon half is incapable of empathy. His human half is. Even in Black as Cole, when Belthazor seemingly defends the sisters from Sykes, Belthazor is used as an instrument to defeat the demon. Cole, the human, is still in control. The human frets that if he relies on Belthazor too much, Cole will lose control and he will become the instrument of a demon. In other words, Cole would revert to his status prior to his fateful encounter with Phoebe.
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