Get Out: The Importance of Black Friendship

Over the years, its been a thing for White people to ask, “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the lunchroom?” A question that’s almost as famous as “Why is there no White history month?” When I was asked that first question, in my youth, I had no answer. I knew there was a reason for it, and I tried to articulate why, but in the early 90s, words like micro-aggressions, and implicit bias, had  either not been  invented yet, or were not widely known to the public.

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An analogy: In my last post about American Gods, I addressed the issue of why we’re never seen Shadow Moon interacting with other PoC, or human beings, and I connected that to how “marginalized people”  need each other to touch base with, and ground them in their sense of reality, as they navigate spaces that are not considered to be theirs. An excellent illustration of this is Shadow believing he is slowly losing his mind in the presence of the supernatural creatures he is surrounded by.  Shadow isn’t only isolated from a racial standpoint, he is isolated from a human standpoint.

However, as a Black man, Shadow has had many years of practice  navigating White spaces, and no experience, at all, navigating supernatural ones, as a human being, and as a result, believes he’s losing his grasp on sanity. Without other humans present to acknowledge the events he’s been experiencing, he can only rely on his own shaky understanding of reality, which is not strong enough to keep him from believing that he’s losing his sanity. He cannot hold onto his sense of self. He can  adopt the prevailing attitudes of the supernatural creatures surrounding him, (just give in and accept it, which he has done by the end of the season), or he can declare that none of what he has experienced is real, and that he is actually insane, or he can find some human beings to ground him, and shore up the  assurance of his own humanity.

And this is not unlike the kind of choices that PoC make when we have no option but to navigate White spaces. (By White spaces, I mean public places, primarily populated and run by White people, like school and work, where close contact between Whites, and PoC is encouraged.) Do we adopt the prevailing attitude of the people around us, even if it’s detrimental to our sense of self, and well being, or do we retreat to more comfortable spaces with other members of our specific ethnicity (i.e. run away).

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This is one of the choices that Chris has to make in the movie Get Out.  A choice between an assimilation that will destroy his sense of self, or flight. During the course of the film, Chris wavers between these two impulses, but it’s his relationship with his best friend Rod, rather than his romantic relationship with Rose, that prompts him to not only deeply question what is happening to him, but to make the choice to flee (almost too late.)

One of the reasons that movie has such a resonance for Black people is that  we recognize, not just ourselves in much the same situations, but our “ride or die” friends, who we often commiserate with, after being in such spaces. Our friends help us  confirm our reality,  and criticize, and fight back, against our experiences, when we’ve been pressured to conform, or accept, that what’s happening to us is normal.

In the movie Get Out, Chris has such  a “ride or die” friend in TSA worker, Rod, played by actor/comedian LilRel, who also functions as the movies comic relief, and another version of the Everyman, with which we’re meant to identify. Rod is the character who explicitly states what the Black audience is thinking, and you could also argue that  Rod is  the hero of the movie.  Chris, alone in the wilds of White suburbia, often calls  on Rod, to touch base, to check facts, to affirm his experiences, and to confirm his sense that he is not the one who is crazy. It is everyone else.

Chris calls Rod after every questionable event, and Rod makes an effort to assure Chris that not only are his experiences are real, they are not normal, thereby confirming for Chris that his feelings are valid.  If you watch carefully, Rose does not do this. Chris calls Rod after his first meeting with Rose’s family, and Rod warns him against being hypnotized, elucidating all the things that could go wrong. Although Rod’s suppositions are comical, his distrust of someone hypnotizing Chris is spot on. Rose, however,  considers hypnotism harmless, and makes no effort to talk Chris out of  his misgivings. Instead, she deflects their discussion of how he feels, to how embarrassed SHE is  about her family, thereby derailing the discussion onto her feelings..

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Chris also calls Rod after he meets the other Black people there, because their behavior is unusual, and Rod assures him that his feelings are correct. Their behavior is wrong. Rose, while agreeing that the behavior is unusual, makes excuses for why it happened.

It is Rod who first warns Chris that he needs to leave, after he does a basic search on one of the Black people Chris met that weekend. Rod also confronts Rose about Chris whereabouts, when he can no longer contact him, and tries to trick her into giving herself away. He researches the other people Chris has met, and goes to the police with his concerns. When the police don’t respond, he takes it upon himself to find and rescue his friend, if that’s what’s necessary.

Shadow Moon, in American Gods, has no such friend. There’s no one to turn to to confirm the weirdness he just saw, and there’s no one to rescue him from an environment that is emotionally, and physically, dangerous to him.  Mr. Wednesday acts very much the way Rose does. He deflects , glosses over, and occasionally outright lies to Shadow, to keep him from fleeing the situation. Shadow eventually chooses to believe what’s happening to him. He assimilates. You can see the parallels to the victims who came before Chris,  but thanks to Rod,  he gets saved.

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Chris is in an environment where he is pressured to keep silent about his misgivings because he doesn’t want to make a scene, or upset Rose. Whenever he expresses doubts or misgivings, they’re rationalized away, not acknowledged, or dismissed as not being real.

Chris’ feelings are invalidated by the White people around him, with every one of the tactics used to discredit PoC feelings, in racial discussions with White people. The Black men and women  who are present, may look like him, but have been fully assimilated into that environment, and cannot be trusted. Chris needs Rod’s distance from the event,  emotional grounding, encouragement, and support, if he is to get out of the situation with his “self” intact. Shadow’s friends were killed (by Mr. Wednesday for the express purpose of isolating him from other humans), so Shadow has no touchstone, and the result  is Shadow BELIEVES, thereby ensuring his eventual downfall.

This is no different from Rose choosing her family’s victims based on how isolated they are from other Black people. The people she chooses don’t have close ties to their own family, or community. She chooses people that won’t be missed, that no one will look for. In Chris, she made a mistake in thinking him isolated. He has Rod, and she did not appreciate how far Rod would go for his friend. Rose’s brother isn’t so discerning. Lacking the ability to cajole, or seduce Black people, into being friends with him, he randomly ambushes isolated individuals. That was a mistake, because it’s his lack of discernment, that allows Rod to research his last victim. His family was looking for him.

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The movie resonates with Black people, in particular, because any one of us, who has been in such a situation, can identify with Chris , but we can also identify with Rod.There have been times when we’ve had to be that comic relief for a friend, the anchor that grounds their emotions, and lifts their spirits. Or we have had to be the touchstone that acknowledges that what happened to them that day, was actually real, and wrong. We have had to affirm a friend’s sense of normalcy, after a long day of working in a White corporate environment, where they are pressured to not speak out against the micro-aggressions lobbed in their direction.

It feels good to vent to friends about the insanity, and frustrations, of the job. It’s those Black friends who will  confirm that:

“Well, yeah, Becky was wrong to tell you to go get her coffee when you’re the only Black Executive Sales Manager, and she never makes that request of anyone else with your job description. ” (Confirmation of micro-aggressions)

“Yes, it is  horribly wrong for Coby, from Accounting, to keep calling you LaQuetta, when your name is Felicia. LaQuetta is the Secretary five cubicles down from you, is five inches shorter, three shades lighter, and has a French accent!”

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In the movie Hidden Figures, the women have not only a strong sense of their inner selves, Kathryn, Dorothy, and Mary, also have a strong bond with each other. There’s a scene of the three women drinking and dancing at home. Their friendship (something rarely shown of Black women in films) uplifts them, and confirms their humanity, in an environment that does nothing but try to undermine it. Many of us work in such environments, and its our friendships with members of our own race, that make such circumstances bearable.

For those who are absent a strong sense of self, or are unused to navigating White spaces, a lack of Black friends would have you thinking that sort of treatment was perfectly okay. It might have you joining in, instead of questioning, whether or not it’s a good idea to rub soup in your hair,  before your next date.

Black people have kept each other sane, supported each other, and confirmed our reality for each other, since our beginnings in this country, and it has helped us to survive tremendous hardship. Black friendship doesn’t just save one’s sanity, but in the movies, as in real life Black friendship can often save a life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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American Gods: Of Gods and Shadow Moon (Come To Jesus – Pt. 2)

 

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I’m  going to maybe do a little spoiling ,so if you didn’t read the book….best check out now, although just because it’s in the book, doesn’t  mean it will play out on the show. However, the show is following the spirit of the book, and some of the major plot points  of the book have been struck.

At the end of this first season, it’s difficult to say where we are in the book because the series is showing events out of order. A significant middle portion of the book is taken up with Shadow, alone in a small town, waiting for Wednesday to contact him, as he goes about gathering together the various gods.

One of the major changes from the book is Shadow is with Wednesday, as he attempts to round up the various gods for his war. The end result of this decision by the show’s writers,  is that the focus is now on Shadow’s relationship with Wednesday. Their relationship was not something that was elaborated upon in the book, so by focusing on the closeness of Shadow’s friendship with Wednesday, we can better understand  at least one of the key decisions that Shadow will make in the next season.

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In the Bone Orchard, we’re introduced to Shadow while he’s in prison. The way we see him there, is how we’ll see him for most of the season, reacting to something that’s being done to him. He essentially moves from one kind of prison to another, where he is not in control of any of the events that are happening to him, from his wife’s death, to his early release from prison, to his meeting with Wednesday, and he spends almost all of his time being fought over by various gods, and  reacting, or not reacting, to someone, or something. From the disrespectful airport lady, to Audrey’s attempted rape, to Wednesday roping him into his deal as a bodyguard, to fighting with Mad Sweeney., Shadow spends the entire season reacting to things others are doing to him. (The most decisive things he did all season was to accept Wednesday’s job offer, and Believe.)

How Shadow reacts to the world around him in those first 30 minutes is key to realizing how shaken he is by the events of this season, and what a huge turnaround it is for him to say those words to Wednesday in the season finale. From his early reactions, we understand that Shadow is not a stupid man. He thinks about what’s happening to him, and how he should feel, or respond to it.

For example the airport scene where he thinks back on Lowkey’s warning not to piss off airport ladies, despite that woman’s blatant disrespect of him. He understands that the survival behavior he developed in prison is not going to work outside of it, and adapts his behavior accordingly. You can almost see the exact moment when he backs down from going off on the woman, realizing that more than a few ex-cons ended up right back in jail because they were unable to adapt their prison behavior to their new situations. It is his intelligence and adaptability that will stand him in good stead on his journey into the realm of the gods.

When Sweeney tries to provoke him in the bar, Shadow tries to stand down, because he wants to learn Sweeney’s coin trick, but after a moment, he figures out that Wednesday is testing him, and steps up. When Technical Boy threatens him, he remains calm and  unruffled by TB’s threats, mouthing off to TB as he would to any other convict who tried to scare him. Once again reading the situation correctly, and then adapting his behavior to suit it.

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I said in an earlier post that Shadow Moon is the show’s Everyman. Every fantastic, supernatural show, must have one. They function as a lens through which the fantastic is experienced by the audience. We’re meant to identify, and empathize with this character. Shadow is  remarkable  because the vast majority of such characters are often Average White Guys. It’s  extraordinary for us that a Black man has been cast in such a role because the audience is supposed to project themselves onto his character, and identify with him, and the decisions he makes.

This is only the first season, so much of our time has been spent establishing the world that Shadow has joined. A a result,  Shadow is often a passive, rather than a dynamic character, which I know sometimes frustrated some viewers, but this is quite common.  He’s done very little to move the plot forward, which is in keeping within the tenets of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Think of Luke Skywalker, who starts off Star Wars as a somewhat passive character, who is mostly reacting to things being done to him.

This season has been a journey to get Shadow to do one thing. Make one big decision of his own volition. Believe! After this, much like Luke, in The Empire Strikes Back, Shadow should become a much more active participant in the proceedings, and Bryan Fuller promises that he will.

Like Luke Skywalker, Shadow receives the call to adventure (from Wednesday). As soon as he agrees to it, he’s given supernatural aid, in the form of a magical coin by Sweeney, after his first challenge, which is besting Sweeney in a fight. (Giving the coin away is what actually aids him, at the end of The Bone Orchard. Had that coin never resurrected Laura, Shadow would have died on the tree.)

His second challenge is his checkers game with Czernobog, which he loses. He is then given a second gift in the form of a silver coin, that helps him best Czernobog, when he challenges him to another game. Technical Boy is the Guardian of the first threshold. Shadow has  fully committed to the adventure by the time they meet.  His lynching is his entrance into the Belly of the Whale. He couldn’t back out of the adventure now, even if he wanted to, because the new gods are aware of his presence. Shadow has to keep moving forward now, just like Luke had no choice but to keep moving forward after his first encounter with Darth Vader. Once you become known to the major players, its impossible to back out of  events, as they will keep drawing you back into the game, by coercion, or force, if necessary.

As Shadow moves forward, he is beset by  temptations and challenges, which occur in threes. The first temptation is in the cemetery with Audrey, while one of the challenges is his game of checkers with Czernobog.   Along the way, there are two other temptations: Laura’s return, and Media’s seduction to the dark side, both of which Shadow successfully withstands. Another of his three challenges is the  bank heist, which is successful, and Mr World makes, yet another, offering to him, of flesh and blood,  in the form of Technical Boy’s teeth. So Shadow withstands three temptations, overcomes three challenges, and receives three gifts. Along the way, he is aided by his assistant (Helper), Laura, and mentored by Wednesday.

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Shadow is also shown to have gifts of his own, an ability to prophecy, control of the weather, the ability to do coin tricks, to heal quickly, and to See. One of the  first things we know about Shadow is that he has prophetic/mystical dreams. He dreams about Laura’s death, telling her on the phone, and in his dream that he has a feeling of dread, that something bad is about to happen. The Bone Orchard is his dream about impending danger, of being attacked by Technical Boy’s white clad droogs, in a meadow, next to a tree. In the dream, Shadow stands in a blood covered orchard with bones, while he is attacked by white, bone-like hands reaching out of the trees. Shadow doesn’t know it, but the Bone Orchard represents the deaths of TB’s drones, at Laura’s hands. Later, he dreams about the same Buffalo God that denied entry into America to Nunyunnini, the forgotten god of Lemon Scented You. In his dreams this  god tells Shadow to “Believe.”

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During the scenes where Laura visited her family, Wednesday asks Shadow if he can see her, and Shadow, through glowing  eyelids, perfectly describes Laura, looking through her family’s front window, and deciding that she can’t join them. . So far, he has been shown as having the powers of many of the beings he has seen or met. His ability to prophesy mimics the Zorya Sisters powers. The coin tricks mimic Sweeney’s abilities with coins. Laura’s one heartbeat, when he kisses her, implies he has the powers of Anubis, or Easter, to resurrect the dead. (It is definitely Shadow who resurrects her because the power of  Sweeney’s  coin does not entail resurrection. )The trick with the snow is an echo of the powers of a certain storm god we all know, but who has, conspicuously,  never been mentioned.

We’ve also seen that Shadow is able to heal very quickly. When he was attacked by TB’s henchmen he suffered a stab wound in his side that needed to be stapled shut, but by the time we see Wednesday healing him in Murder of Gods, he only has the tree wound, which is healed by the time of Come to Jesus. Shadow doesn’t act, or move as if he’s in pain, or wounded, shortly after these events.

Not only do we know Shadow through his actions, but we also know him through his emotions. Ricky Whittle gives a beautiful performance  of a man who is hanging on to his sanity by his fingernails. Whittle’s portrayal is remarkable for the depth and breadth of emotions he brings to his character. He’s allowed to be tough and snarky, just like your typical hero character, but he’s also allowed to express vulnerability, without coming across as weak.

Not only is Shadow allowed to be tired, upset, angry, happy, hopeful, and even fearful, he is allowed to express these emotions without censure from the other characters. And even when he’s not openly expressing his emotions, in some of the first episodes we have some idea of what he’s feeling through the weather around him. Whenever we see Shadow trying to keep control of his emotions, the scene transitions indicate his inner turmoil, with shots of heavy clouds and storms. This is also indicated by followup shots that move from Shadows facial expressions to shots of the sky just above him.

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In one of the first scenes in The Bone Orchard, Shadow gives full vent to his emotions on a hilltop, which is followed by a shot of clouds clearing from a blue sky. When he vents, skies tend to be clear. When he tries to suppress or control his emotions, the weather is often an indicator of his inner turmoil. When he first meets Wednesday, their plane is flying through a storm, as he deals with the aftermath of Laura’s death, and this annoying stranger he’s trying not to snap at.

In Secret of the Spoons, we see clouds form, and a storm occurs, just after he is kissed by The Midnight Star, from a sky that was  clear a moment before. He must be feeling a great deal of fear, dread, and grief and guilt, after his wife dies, being threatened by Czernobog and his bleeding hammer, and having some strange girl kiss him. And there are other scenes where we are meant to directly attach the weather conditions to whatever Shadow is feeling at that moment.

In A Murder of Gods,  and The Bone Orchard, we get to see Shadow be scared, and apprehensive. We get to see him react in a realistic manner to the craziness, and potential danger around him. This is a man who, while always acutely aware of his Blackness, doesn’t let that define him, or limit his actions. Shadow is secure in who he is as a Black man, and doesn’t seem to care to engage in fake posturing, or in trying to convince everyone that he’s not weak. This is a man who simply knows he can handle himself. He is not at all intimidated by TB’s bluster, or Sweeney’s rants, and it’s that self-assurance that makes his vulnerable moments all the more touching.

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From  his guarded response to Czernobog’s questioning of his race in Secret of the Spoons, to his naked fear at being in a town with so many White people fondling guns, in A Murder of Gods, he doesn’t hold back from showing what he really feels when in Wednesday’s company. This emotional openness is part of the reason Wednesday likes him. Wednesday is almost never perturbed by Shadow’s feelings about anything. He often steps back and just lets Shadow handle his own business.

One of the highlights, and a subject of some concern to the fans, is Shadow’s relationship to Wednesday. I really want to like it. Actually, I do like it, sort of, but I also  keep in mind the Wednesday is a con man. A user, who is grooming Shadow for some dark purpose. Nevertheless, you can see the genuine affection he has towards Shadow. You know Shadow needs to separate himself from this man who orchestrated, not just his sojourn in a prison cell, but the deaths of his entire family while he was away. It’s easy to forget that when watching the two of them together though. I have to keep in mind that Wednesday thinks like a god,  and is not held to  human morality. He did what gods have always done, which is manipulating humans to suit their needs. I dislike Wednesday because he’s a manipulative narcissist.  He cares about Shadow because it’s in his best interests to care, and yet all of that doesn’t make me actually hate him, probably because there is  a genuine liking for Shadow in his demeanor.

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Shadow’s relationship with Wednesday is complicated. He knows what kind of person he’s with, which is the reason he’s so often angry with him. He knows Wednesday is a con man, a liar, a thief, and a user, but seems unable, or unwilling, to pull himself from Wednesday’s orbit. This isn’t because Shadow is stupid. It’s the opposite. It’s because Shadow is curious about the larger, weirder world, he’s been glimpsing over Wednesday’s shoulder, and he’s drawn to it, even if he resists believing in it. How many of us, if given a glimpse of such a world, could resist becoming a part of it? Of wanting to?

It’s the reason people worship gods in the first place, for a glimpse of something bigger than themselves. Shadow was mostly godless before he met Wednesday. The closest thing to a god he believed in was Laura, and that was smashed by learning of her infidelity. (See how Wednesday needed to squash that belief before recruiting Shadow to his cause? And how Wednesday warns Shadow about getting close too close to Ostara? He is a jealous god, who does not want Shadow setting any other gods before him.)

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Now for some speculation.

My speculations are entirely based on the book, and are subject to total reinterpretation next season. So this will contain spoilers from the book, and maybe, or maybe not, spoilers for the future of the show.

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One of the reasons Wednesday needs Shadow to believe is Shadow agreed to perform Wednesday’s Vigil should anything happen to him. Its part of the bargain Wednesday quietly slips  in,  at the beginning of Shadow’s employment, in The Bone Orchard. A Vigil, at least in Norse culture, is done over the body of a  dead relative. And yes, Shadow is Wednesday’s son.

I have speculated if the writers will make Bilquis Shadow’s mother, as we keep being given subtle hints that the she may well be. That Disco scene in the finale with Bilquis, with the huge Afro, morphing out of a lunar eclipse (which is another term for a shadow moon) is one such hint, and Wednesday speculating about Shadows mother having an Afro, in The Bone Orchard, is another. And having a son is something that could have happened to Bilquis during her fall from power, in the late eighties/early nineties, which would put Shadow at just the right age to be her son. But this is just me speculating. (If this is so, Shadow would be a true-God, not a Demi-god.)


Fuller has promised that Bilquis has an important part to play in the narrative, so everything we’ve seen of her so far, is all setup for a later reveal. Notice how women are instantly sexually attracted to Shadow (outside of Shadow looking like the extremely hot Ricky Whittle). I think this is  deliberate on the part of the writers. From the waitress at the Crocodile Bar who openly flirts with him,  to Audrey’s attempted rape, to Ostara being instantly smitten with him, and Laura’s new obsession ( Is the reason she sees him as an eclipse a sign of his godhood?) women have had strong sexual reactions to him, which could be a sing of Bilquis’ influence, as she is a Love Goddess.

Let me be more specific here: white women all have strong sexual reactions to him, as he hasn’t had any interactions with WoC, yet. If Bilquis is his mother that would explain much of the behavior we’ve seen, and could also be a deliberate statement on the  white supremacy which sees Black men as hypersexual stereotypes. We’ll see!

In the book, Wednesday is killed by the new gods,  to be used by Loki as a martyr, to help facilitate their war. Shadow is the one who performs this Vigil, by being hung on a tree for nine days, just like in Odin’s mythological backstory. Odin hung on the World Tree, for nine days, to receive wisdom, and the price paid, was the loss of his eye.

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In the book, Shadow hangs on an Ash tree for nine days. During that time, he receives wisdom about who and what he is, while traveling through the underworld. Shadow dies, but is resurrected by Ostara, and her fondness for Shadow, in Come to Jesus, is a nice setup for why she would decide to do that.

This also ties into the lynching imagery throughout the series, because that is foreshadowing for when Shadow will choose to hang on a tree for Wednesday, despite the naked fear we see in him. This lynching imagery is used throughout the series as a dreadful reminder of Shadows future. It is literally hanging over his head in his scenes in the jail courtyard, and Vulcan’s front yard. You are meant to be afraid for him. He is being manipulated to sacrifice himself for Wednesday, and cannot do so, if he doesn’t fully understand who Wednesday is, which is why Wednesday’s reveal, and Shadows statement are so awful. Wednesday is that much closer to realizing his plans for Shadow.


All season long Shadow has been admonished to Believe. So yes, even though believing is his downfall, it’s also the only way he can be saved. He has to believe in something, not necessarily Wednesday, but something, or he will never get through any of this intact.

Through the efforts of the other gods, Shadow survives the Vigil. Earlier in the series, Wednesday mentioned that there’s no King of America, which is why the philosophical discussions that happen between Wednesday and Shadow need to be attended closely. They offer clues to Shadows future. Shadow ends the book as a kind of Demi-god, a new King of America, who can see lies, and expose the truth. And this  is also the reason Shadow had to be a Black man. It’s a statement on how Black men are one of the few marginalized groups that have most often spoken truth to power. A black man who can see Truth is just keeping it real.

In the next few seasons we may or may not get to see the war, (in the book, there’s no war), but I’m not very concerned about that, because I don’t think that’s really the series end game either. I’m speculating that Shadow’s  birth as a kind of God of all gods, (sort of like Odin) is what’s at stake on the show. At least that’s where I’d like to see the future of this series turn.

American Gods Season One : Come to Jesus (Part One)

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This  took some time to write because so many delicious things happened in the finale. I’ve been pretty busy and tired this week, but I’m determined to get this post out, doggonit! I’m also  going to have to do this in installments, because its already long enough. The next post is about the series as a whole, including its future incarnations, and an entire post devoted to speculation about the show’s lead, Shadow Moon, and his relationship with Wednesday.

Fuller and Green pulled out every stop in Come to Jesus. This episode was funny, cute, and awesome, in ways I wasn’t expecting. And that ending? Wow! This episode was also just gorgeous. The cinematography was  incredible, from Bilquis backstory, to the final scenes featuring Ostara,  tonight’s episode belonged to the women.

We open with Shadow and Wednesday, looking bored, while Nancy crafts new suits for them from spider silk, of course. Why am I not even surprised that he’s a tailor? It’s Easter holiday, and the two men plan to visit the goddess for which the holiday is named. For that, they need to look presentable. Nancy’s  house is an arachnophobic nightmare, though. All of his tailoring scenes, and even the clothing, is crawling with tiny spiders. (I think the spider’s are making the fabric, and there’s a giant loom in the background. How do I know this? I used to have  that kind of loom when I was a child.) I was a little squicked out by the spiders, though. If you have severe anxiety about spiders, then skip this scene. What’s interesting is that all of these gods have animals associated with them, and that they communicate with. Wednesday has his ravens, and the wolf we saw in A Murder of Gods, Nancy has his spiders, Ostara has bunnies.

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Afterward, we get another gorgeous scene of Nancy telling a story, despite Wednesday’s protestations, and Nancy’s  signature catchphrase, “Angry gets shit done!” is aimed, this time, at Shadow, who is pissed at Wednesday for killing Vulcan. This episode has so many favorite moments, this is simply the best episode of the season. Mr. Nancy generating his own spotlight is hilarious! (I just love this character!) At first I thought Nancy was going to tell the story he told in the book, about how the monkey got the lion’s balls, but no, he tells Bilquis’ tragic backstory, which is a very neat way to tie her to the other characters we’ve met this season, and tie her presence in this episode to Easter. How he knows her backstory is anyone’s guess, unless he’s making it up (in the book, he and Bilquis never meet) but it’s fitting that he be the one to tell her story here. I think Nancy is probably a little in love with her too, and it makes sense, in this series universe, they would’ve met.

Note: Once again, only the barest bones of this comes from the book. This series follows the foundation, and spirit, of the books, but is very heavily embellished with lots of extra stuff.

http://nerdist.com/american-gods-history-primer-bilquis-a-k-a-queen-of-sheba/

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Bilquis  is a very, very old Queen, (Sheba) with her own temple, and congregation. We’re talking about 3,000 years ago, in ancient Iran, where she was incredibly powerful, and openly worshiped. Of course, you could visit her temple, and worship her if you wanted, but you would very probably be eaten. It’s a beautiful, sensual scene that doesn’t feel gratuitous. Fuller has an unerring talent for crafting sex scenes that are titillating, without being raunchy. Bilquis was so powerful then, like a spider, she just liquefied her companions (whole groups of people), before sucking them into her vagina. Where, according to Technical Boy, they spend an eternity worshiping her in the Vagina Nebula, as she feeds off their energy.

Nancy narrates how various patriarchies went out of their way to destroy her, and failed. That handsome young man with the crown, I believe just represents royalty in general, and no God in particular. At the height of her powers, she devoured kings too. Later, as men became more and more desperate to control and contain her and her followers, out of fear and hatred, they resorted to violence, which seemed to work. As the centuries passed she fell on harder and harder times and, like Nunyunnini, was slowly forgotten, even by herself. Unlike him, she was still potent enough to be revived. As long as people wanted what she had to give she could still take sustenance. Bilquis’ story is a perfect metaphor  of the suppression of female sexual agency and  power by patriarchy, which is why it was important to Fuller that she be a  dark skinned Black woman. In the history of America, Black women have had little sexual agency, they’re bodies often exploited by men for labor and reproductive purposes. We’ve all been taught that woman’s sexuality needs to be carefully harnessed, and are only just now moving away from this concept in the US.

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Also, women who look like the gorgeous Yetide Badaki, are rarely shown as sexual icons in  media, or  as women who own their sexuality, serving no one but themselves. Women  who use their sexuality for their own ends, often have their sexuality heavily policed by men and women of all races. Witness how black women like Beyoncé, and Serena Williams have been vilified by social media for expressing themselves, slut shamed by respectability politics, and made to seem less than white women who have engaged in the exact same behavior, but are considered empowered when they do it. The true irony,  in this scenario, are white women who think the freedom to express their sexuality is something only reserved for them, and who seek to suppress and castigate WoC for expressing theirs.  Bilquis story is all the more tragic because, as Bilquis’ power diminishes, she comes to accept this shame and self hatred, along with her lowly status. She isn’t just forgotten by the world. She forgets her power.

The  passing eras, and her rise to power again, are beautifully rendered by the changes in costume and makeup. We see her in her original jewelry, at the temple. There’s a scene of her in a disco, with a huge Afro,  reminding me of Wednesday’s first statements to Shadow about his mother. (I do wonder if the show will go that route with her. It would be a nice touch, and explain a number of odd things about Shadow, who we still have no backstory for.) She even takes another WoC ,as her lover and I’m sure there are fans who loved this representation of WoC pansexuality. In 1979, during the Iranian Revolt,  she is exiled from her homeland, along with many of her followers, and years later, watches in despair, as ISIL destroys her last temple. Later, she finds her lover again, but she is dying from AIDS, which has been seen a punishment for people  who are considered too free with their sexuality.

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Bilquis is, once again, visiting her display at the museum. She is so ancient, that almost no one now alive knows what any of the  objects representing her were for. She is visited by Technical Boy, (who is wearing yet another shitty, ridiculous hairstyle) to whom she owes a huge favor, as he was the one who found her when she was at her absolute lowest ebb, homeless, and sleeping in the gutter. He offers her tribute in the form of a modern dating app, which is where we find her in episode one. What he has tasked her to do, we’re not sure, but she’s meant to meet everyone at the House on the Rock, a place of major importance in the book.

Nancy says Bilquis is reluctantly on the side of the new gods, and that Wednesday needs to collect another ancient goddess as her counterpoint.  During all Bilquis’ scenes, we get some idea of what her powers are, and while she’s not at her height, she possesses the ability to charm, beguile, or seduce any human being. Who she is meant to turn this power to at House on the Rock, is unclear. Wednesday, or Shadow? Nevertheless, it’s clear she’s not entirely willing to do Technical Boy’s bidding, and there is hope for her breaking her deal with TB, because we notice she is not carrying her phone, or using her app, when she seduces one of her travel companions.

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On the way to Easter, Shadow dreams about climbing a mountain of skulls. This is his prophecy about the war, hanging  over his subconscious like Wednesday’s storms. On some level, he knows and believes in what’s happening, but refuses to commit, and Wednesday calls him out on this. No matter how angry he gets at Wednesday, or pretends to, he still likes the old con, and I think Wednesday is counting on that fondness to keep him by his side.  Shadow also sees the White Buffalo again, and the World tree, Yggdrasil, which is also a representation of the War of the Gods (Ragnarok) spoken of in Norse mythology.

**Ragnarok (Old Norse Ragnarök, “The Doom of the Gods”) is the name the pre-Christian Norse gave to the end of their mythical cycle, during which the cosmos is destroyed and is subsequently re-created.

—– http://norse-mythology.org/tales/ragnarok/

When Shadow wakes up, he finds that he and Wednesday are being chased by bunnies. It turns out that the bunny that overturned Laura’s truck was not sent by Easter, although it is her animal to call, and they report to her. I thought that was one of the cutest things ever. The bunnies try to stop Wednesday  from reaching his destination too, but unlike Laura, he is unimpressed. He just runs them over, which makes Shadow give him the side eye. So the bunny’s job seems to be stopping uninvited  people from reaching Easter’s home, I guess.

Obstructionist Bunnies!

Easter is, naturally, celebrating Easter, but she’s celebrating it with all the various Jesuses, which I thought was hilarious. This is notable because Jesus is treated just like any of the other gods in the narrative, and most of the current versions are present at the party. The whole damn thing was just deeply, deeply funny to me, including the scenes where, whenever any of the Jesuses got near a light source, a halo would appear, and Shadow’s meeting with Jeremy Davis’ regular white guy Jesus, AKA Jesus Prime, for some reason. I did see Hippie Jesus, Black Jesus, and even a baby Jesus. Some of the Jesuses I couldn’t pinpoint, although I am told Mexican Jesus managed to resurrect long enough to show up.

Your basic guide to Jesus:

 

What do you call them? A flock? A gaggle? A Halo of Jesi?  But it’s the details that really fetched me up, and made me laugh out loud. From the flock of sheep that follow Ostara in all her outdoor background shots, to the tiny halo on the infant Jesus, being nursed by a woman dressed like old-school Mary, to  the jellybean stigmata of the Russian Orthodox Jesus, and the bunnies that poop jellybeans, it’s an incredibly rich, and thoroughly charming backdrop. And if I was a bit dubious about Ostara, at first, I was totally in love with her by the end of the episode.

 

On Ostara:

https://www.thoughtco.com/eostre-spring-goddess-or-neopagan-fancy-2562488

https://www.themonastery.org/blog/2013/03/easter-and-ostara-converging-traditions/

Easter receives several uninvited guests, along with Shadow and Wednesday. Laura and Mad Sweeney, Media and Technical Boy also arrive. The meeting of Shadow and Easter is just cute in the books but they’re shown here as being much more smitten with each other, which is a good foundation for Easter’s actions towards Shadow later in the series. In the book, she is delighted to meet Shadow and flirts shamelessly, in that way that only Southern Belles can get away with. The two of them are just the most darling thing I’ve ever seen on this show. Shadow blushes like a shy teenager with his first crush, and while she offensively refers to him as pink chocolate! she gets a pass, because I wholeheartedly agree.

That boy is foine!

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Kristen Chenoweth is wonderful in this role. I was prepared to be annoyed by her because of the trailer, (and because Chenoweth has a sordid past as a Broadway singer),  but she turned out to be a delightful character who, like a lot of southern women, is warm, gracious, and mushy, on the surface, but has a backbone of pure steel underneath. Easter is not happy that Wednesday is crashing her party, and upsetting the Jesuses, who are very nice men.

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Laura and Sweeney also arrive, but unfortunately, Easter is unable to resurrect Laura, as Sweeney requests. Looking deeply into Laura’s eyes, Ostara sees the shadow of a raven, and the face of Mad Sweeney, and determines  that Laura was killed by a god. Since Laura was killed through Wednesday’s machinations, Ostara cannot interfere in  another god’s plans. Laura figures that Sweeney knows more than he’s been telling her and tortures the truth out of him. It turns out, Wednesday isn’t just responsible for Laura’s death, but just as I suspected, is also responsible for that perfect casino heist that went horribly wrong, that landed Shadow in prison, being guarded over by Loki. You need to ask yourself why Wednesday would go through so much trouble, to procure a nobody, from nowhere. Easter also admits that the other gods have been talking about Shadow too, speculating who he is, and why he’s with Wednesday.

I like how they’ve kept Laura’s decomposition consistent. She’s definitely getting to the liquid stage, as her eyes have become milky, and she coughs up maggots. She can’t even begin to hide her smell now, (in the books she covered it up with perfume), and she has her own halo of flies. In the meantime, Shadow has a conversation with one of the Jesuses about the nature of belief. I laughed too hard at Jesus setting his drink down, and losing it in the pool he was floating on top of,  because Drunk Jesus!

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One of Easter’s bunnies whispers in her ear that Media has arrived, also without  invitation. Before I start gushing about Gillian Anderson in this role, I need to give some backstory. Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade was released in 1948, and starred Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. The plot involves an older veteran dancer, who replaces his older partner with a young dancer, he hopes to mold in his image, until he finds himself falling in love with her. The faceless drone we see Media dancing with, is dressed in a replica of his suit, from the movie, and Gillian is wearing a pink replica of Judy Garland’s dress from the movie’s title scene, at the end. The drones are even attempting to dance like Astaire. Media mostly speaks in quotes from the movie. From her opening statement about Easter’s heart beating faster, to the mention of their date, these are all quotes from the movie. Guess how I know this!😊😊😊

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Unlike Wednesday, Easter didn’t turn down Media’s offer of aid, although she never asked for it either. In exchange for making certain that Easter traditions remain popular (eggs and chocolate), Easter has gotten a significant boost in her reputation, and followers, even if she has to share her holiday with the Jesuses. In exchange, Media requests her loyalty. When Wednesday approaches, he is confronted by Media and Technical Boy, but he upsets their plans, winning Easter’s loyalty with a combination of lies and tribute. He tells  her the Shadow-unapproved story, that Vulcan was killed by the New Gods, for taking his side in the coming war, and making him a sword. He also offers her a sacrifice.

Here, we see Odin for the first time this season. In an awesome display of power,Wednesday shows Shadow his true face, and speaks his many names.

 

 Odin’s backstory:

http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/odin/

Now once again we come back to the idea of sacrifice. By offering Easter the  deaths of his enemies, he gives her enough power to free her from the bargain she made with Media. Throughout the series, he has outlined the basic idea of godhood, and how it works. Give a little, and get a little in return, whether it be worship, tribute, prayer, or sacrifice. It’s fairly simple. Quid pro quo! If you dedicate something precious to a god, you will receive something in return, although not necessarily what you asked for. Media, Technical Boy, and the other new gods, have corrupted this arrangement, and think this makes them more powerful than the old ones. They have never seen the old gods powers fully unleashed, and have nothing but disdain for creatures they see as old and weak, the way so many young people view the elderly.

It’s not that Media and Technology don’t affect the world in some way, but they can’t control the seasons, rainfall, or lightning. They cannot truly control anything on the physical plane, and are not grounded in the real world of human physical sensation. Bilquis can compel people to love her and eats them, Wednesday can control the weather and destroy them, Vulcan can make weapons that kill them. As I said in an earlier post, the old gods are physical in a way the the new gods are not. The new gods are virtual, ephemeral. They promise dreams and fantasies, but give little or nothing  in return, for all the attention humans give them. Or rather, what they give in return for human attention is just as ephemeral, shallow, and unreal as they are.

And this is Wednesday’s key to his argument with Easter. Media can’t really give her power. She can influence humanity and she can tug on their bargain to procure Easter’s loyalty, but with the influx of direct power from Wednesday’s sacrifice, she no longer needs Media. The new gods can aid and abet, cajole, promise and seduce, but they can’t really offer her a sacrifice. It’s not just about human attention. Power comes from being offered tribute.We saw this with Bilquis and Technical Boy earlier. If it weren’t for the bargain she made with him, she would be capable of devouring him too. He doesn’t have nearly as much control over Bilquis as he thinks he does, and he is too shallow, and ignorant, of who she is, to know what he has awakened. The same way he underestimated Wednesday,  in A Murder of Gods, Media has underestimated the degree of power she is dealing with regarding Easter.

But I also said that neither side in this war is  good or bad. There’s no right or wrong from a human perspective. Gods have their own concerns and most are only concerned with what humans  can give them. This mindset (and Wednesday’s actions towards Easter) is the key to understanding why Wednesday wants this war, and why he’s willing to kill Laura to procure Shadow for himself, and is also willing to unleash untold misery on humanity, by encouraging Easter to take away the harvest season.

Wednesday did the same thing to Shadow that TB did to Bilquis. He found her at her lowest point and offered her a chance to regain power. Wednesday orchestrates the complete destruction  of Shadow’s life, and at his lowest point, when Shadow has nothing and no one, he steps in, and offers him a way out, winning his loyalty. If you want a clue as to who Shadow is, think about why Wednesday would want to collect him, and why he needs Shadow to believe.

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We see an awesome display of power, and some truly gorgeous cinematography, as Easter, high on the sacrifices given to her by Wednesday, unleashes the full meaning of her name, as Goddess of the Dawn, and kills off all the plant life in a several mile radius of her home. Humanity can have Spring back when they pray to her for it.

 

My  favorite moments were all the wonderful details like:

Mr. Nancy’s interjections in his scenes with Shadow.

Media’s presence this entire season, which is in keeping with the fact that Fuller is an out gay man, has been a showcase of gay icons. Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, David Bowie, and Judy Garland, are all extremely popular gay icons, from the forties through the sixties.

The Security Rabbits jobs are to stop traffic on the road to Easter’s home, so they can see who is in the vehicle, and then report the occupants back to Easter. I suspect this is what the rabbit that caused Laura’s accident was trying to do. No one approaches her home without her knowing about it , except in the case where Wednesday killed them all.

The deviled eggs at Easters party. It was a tradition in our house to eat those every Spring.

Easter’s tiny halo.

The tiny polka dots on Shadow’s suit.

That poor waiter who was wearing an egg shaped helmet.

The tiny cookies shaped like hands with red centers representing the stigmata.

Wednesday connecting Spring Break raunchiness to the worship of Easter.

The diversity of Easter’s party guests.

Those ridiculous striped silk robes Nancy made Shadow and Wednesday wear while awaiting their new outfits.

Easters slightly tattered finery. If you look closely enough, the flower in her hat has just a bit of rough edging.

When Media’s hat blows off during the storm, that’s also a scene from  a Judy Garland movie.

Shadow disapproves of Wednesday’s buunycidal behavior.

*In part two, I’ll discuss my thoughts about Shadow Moon, and in part three I’ll talk about the costumes, cinematography, and visual aesthetics.

 

American Gods Season One: A Murder of Gods

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This episode is a big fuck you to American politics, and its Ra-Ra Americana, Gun Loving, Make America Great Again, America is for White people aesthetic. That it puts a Black man right in the middle of all this is no accident. Outside of Mr. Nancy’s speech in episode three, this is one of the more politically blatant episodes this season, as Fuller usually tries to keep his social sensibilities clear, but a little more subtle.

In the opening scene, we meet the Mexican version of Jesus, as he shepherds a group of Mexican immigrants across the border. I thought this was a respectful depiction, even though I’m not a believer. Nevertheless, I know that these beliefs are important to someone, and should be treated with a certain amount of respect. One of the immigrants doesn’t know how to swim, nearly drowning while crossing a river, but is saved by Jesus. Even I had to admit to feeling a tiny bit of a thrill with the walking on water scene. That was kinda cool.

Everyone makes it to shore but they are fired upon by a group of White men wearing badges with the word Vulcan on them. This is Fuller’s open political statement of how immigrants who came here earlier like to set themselves against the immigrants who come after them. This was the primary theme of the movie Gangs of New York, with gangs of White people calling themselves Natives, fighting with the more recent Irish immigrants. The irony in this episode is that the Mexicans are the real Natives, as they were living in this country before White people got here.

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The very nature of Jesus is sacrifice, and is illustrated in this scene of him protecting his followers with his life.  Here you have two  old gods who are diametrically opposed to each other. One of them is symbolized by fire and violence, and the other by peace and water, but both of them are willing to make sacrifices. One of them does so for the benefit of others,  and the other does it only for himself. The followers of Vulcan are  older immigrants than the ones they’re killing that night, but nevertheless feel that they have staked a claim to American soil and don’t want to share it with any others, who came here later than them. They’re devoted to the idea of America, only their version bears no resemblance to what America actually is. The Mexican immigrants have a much clearer idea of what America is but their god isn’t as powerful as the one who has decided to profit from racism,  and xenophobia, and has a lot of guns. There is a reason Vulcan has to die at the end of this episode. He has been complicit in corruption the very nature of sacrifice.

Also, keep in mind that Vulcan is Roman in origin. So what you have here is also a reenactment of the Crucifixion, with the followers of a Roman god killing the followers of the Christian God.

Shadow and Wednesday are walking back to the motel, to retrieve their car, after their escape from the police station. Wednesday still has not noticed that Shadow is injured, as they discuss what happened at the station. Wednesday still refuses to tell Shadow what to think, insisting that Shadow make up his own mind about what’s happening. He insists that Shadow has to believe to understand,  but Shadow doesn’t want to go there. It’s just too much. Gods are actual real beings, and Wednesday is one of them!

Note that most of the events in tonight’s episode are made up of whole cloth by the writers. With the exception of some verbatim conversations and dialogue, none of the events, from Wednesday’s healing  session with Shadow, to the return of Salim, to Laura’s road trip with Sweeney, to Wednesday’s meeting with Vulcan, is in the book. Fuller’s general method, regarding adaptations, is to expand on the source material in ways that enhance and deepen the story. In the original narrative, almost the entire book is from Shadow’s point of view, but Fuller has changed things here to make the show, an ensemble piece, where we get to see different points of view.

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Shadow and Wednesday make it back to the motel, where Shadow confesses that he was visited by Laura. Wednesday claims to be surprised, but still gives no set answer to Shadow about her resurrection. He eventually pressures Shadow into leaving with him. When Wednesday looks in the rearview mirror, he can see Laura chasing after their car, and turns up the volume on the stereo, so Shadow can’t hear her. He is determined that the two of them stay far away from each other. Either he’s concerned that Lara would be a distraction from him, and he does not want to share Shadow’s attention, or he thinks that Laura is working for his enemies and trying to seduce Shadow to their side.

Notice that up to now, there has been no emphasis on weather phenomena during this episode. No transitioning from sky to sky, or shots of storm clouds, as in previous episodes. Instead we often get shots of sun and clear blue skies, along Laura’s road trip, and in Vulcan. I can’t help but think that must be on purpose. Whenever Shadow is holding his emotions in we often get shots of turbulent weather, but when he’s openly expressing what he’s feeling, the skies are often very calm and clear.

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Shadow isn’t your typical hyper masculine asshole, with a stiff upper lip. Nor is he weak. He won’t allow himself to be preyed upon, but fights only when he absolutely has to. I like that the show allows him to not only have feelings, but openly expresses them, and that this is never sided as a weakness. When he’s afraid, he’s allowed to say so. When he’s overwhelmed, we get to see it. We’ve spent the past two episodes watching him hanging on to reality by his fingernails, and that’s kind of refreshing. Shadow isn’t trying to be “Shaft of the Supernatural”, and I like that. He’s just some guy, thrown into extraordinary circumstances, trying to make sense of it all.

While we’re on the subject I want to address some concerns some people have shown about Shadow not interacting with any PoC in the show. I had the impression that Shadow’s lack of interaction with any other black people is meant to parallel his lack of interaction with normalcy, since he signed on to work with Wednesday.

Before Shadow met Wednesday he often operated in all white environments, so he  is used to navigating racial dynamics, while holding on to his sense of self. That’s not a problem for him. Shadow is always acutely aware of who he is,  and where his place is in American society.  Here,  he’s thrown into an environment,  where he’s the only regular human being. He has to renegotiate reality now, to encompass the idea that gods exist, the television will personally talk to you, dead people can walk, and trees can come to life, plus this entire ordeal has been incredibly violent towards him, as he has been attacked multiple times. So while he is very used  to navigating racial politics, navigating the world of gods is some brand new shit he’s got no experience with, and he’s barely holding onto what is real.

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Often in situations where black people are in a minority of two or three, you’ll see us touch base with each other, to reassure ourselves of our reality, to help each other emotionally navigate an all white environment. As an example of this, see the movie Get Out. Chris regularly touches base with his friend Rod, while trying to navigate an all white environment where he is questioning what’s happening to him, and his doubts are being dismissed by the White people around him, and the black people are not reliable either. Shadow is a player in two separate environments, one of them is whiteness, and the other is the supernatural. He is alone in both spheres, as there are no normal human beings for him to interact with, just as there are no PoC for him to touch base with.  I’d like to see him interact with some people of color, but Shadow doesn’t actually need to do that. He knows how to navigate the color line. He’s got that part down. It’s the world of the gods he’s having trouble with.

The only assurance he has of the reality he’s experiencing, is coming from beings he can’t trust, because none of them are human. Notice that Wednesday behaves exactly the same way about Shadow’s reactions to the supernatural as he does to all of the racial things Shadow has mentioned.  You could substitute just about any discussion they’ve had about the supernatural, with discussions that many blacks have had with whites about race. Wednesday uses deflection, derailment, defensiveness, obtuseness, and gas lighting,  to not tell Shadow what’s happening to him. Laura also does this in their brief conversation in the last episode.

Notice how the gods in Shadow’s presence all speak to one another. It’s obvious that none of them think themselves human, but absolutely none of them come right out and say to Shadow, “Hey! I’m the God of Media! Or I’m the God of Commerce! I’m the God of War!” Nobody speaks directly to him about a state of being, that they consider to be obvious. Except for Wednesday everyone makes the assumption that Shadow knows what’s going on. Its like one of those conversations where everyone knows everyone but you, and they keep referencing events you were never a part of, in  short hand, as if you had been there.

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And there are other parallels too. When Vulcan makes his remarks about the hanging,  Wednesday narcissistically makes Shadow’s pain and suffering about himself. White people will often make the pain and suffering of PoC about themselves. (Well okay, in this case, it’s actually true. Most of Shadow’s suffering is a direct consequence of knowing Wednesday, or is used to insult him.) Nevertheless,  this makes Wednesday an unreliable indicator of whether or not he is insane.

Without any normal humans to touch base with, to confirm what he’s been experiencing, Shadow begins to doubt reality, which is something that can  happen to PoC in all white environments, where there’s not another marginalized person to keep them grounded, or affirm something they just experienced. That Shadow has not interacted with any black people may be something that’s just as on purpose as his not interacting with regular humans. I think we’re supposed to see that Shadow is twice a fish out of water, navigating two, separate environments, only one of which he has mastered.

 

On the drive to their next assignment, Wednesday finally notices Shadow is bleeding profusely, and stops the car to check his wounds. It turns out that the creature that attacked Shadow at the police station is some type of forest god, named Mr. Wood, who used to be the spirit of the woods, but sacrificed his trees for greater power. Once again we have a story about a god sacrificing a part of himself for greater power, and a parallel of Vulcan’s story.  Mr. Wood  injected a tree root into Shadow’s wound when it attacked him, and Wednesday pulls it out. This scene is so touching and funny. I can’t have any idea what Wednesday is thinking in this scene, as he kisses Shadow on his forehead, and shushes him, like an indulgent uncle, but Shadow’s level of trust in him is interesting.
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Laura returns to the motel to find her car, but encounters Sweeney again. He makes all kinds of promises this evening. He tells her he knows someone who can resurrect her,  while name dropping Jesus Christ. While trying to steal an old taxi, with a toilet for a backseat, they are interrupted by Salim. I was really glad to see him again as this meeting between the three of them doesn’t happen anywhere in the book. Salim, overhearing that Sweeney is a leprechaun, asks if he knows where to find the Jinn who left him his taxi. Salim has been searching for him ever since, and Sweeny promises that he will tell Salim where to find the Jinn, if Salim drives  the three of them to Kentucky. Salim agrees, but doesn’t go to Kentucky.

 

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Meanwhile at the Vulcan weapons manufacturing plant one of the employees falls to his death in a vat of molten metal, to the incongruous tune of C’mon Get Happy, by The Partridge Family. They were like a white version of The Jackson Five, only with worse outfits. I know this because  I watched this show, religiously, when I was about 8. To say that I enjoyed it, would be too strong an expression. Most likely it was the only thing on TV in that time slot. Anyway this is a singularly horrific death, especially once you realize the guy has just been baked into the factory product: bullets.

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When Shadow and Wednesday reach Vulcan West Virginia (Yes, this is an actual place! I checked.) they find the townsfolk having a memorial for their fallen co-worker. Shadow becomes acutely aware that he is a man out-of-place, as the entire town is covered in flags, and everyone, from the smallest child to the oldest grandparent is carrying a gun. It’s so over the top ridiculous that it’s almost funny, except this is how some Americans actually believe we should all be living. I was uncomfortable on Shadow’s behalf, because this very much reminded me of Sundown Towns:

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At the memorial, which is really a celebration of the sacrifice to Vulcan, there’s a gun salute and Wednesday warns Shadow to stay in the vehicle. At first I thought he was warning Shadow to stay hidden, but unlike me, Shadow remembers what goes up, must come down, and he decides to sit it out, as Vulcan and Wednesday greet each other in the middle of the street. There’s a hailstorm of bullets, none of which ever touch either of the two gods.

On their road trip, Sweeney, Laura and Salim get to know each other. Salim figures out that Laura is dead, and takes it in stride. After all, he met a Jinn. I think Salim is very lonely, as  he never stops talking the whole time, while Sweeney snarks at the two of them from the back seat. Sweeney ending up in the back, when he insisted that Laura would be the one, is deeply hilarious to me, for some reason.

Salim proves to be a precious cinnamon roll of sweetness, while Sweeney is the exact opposite of all decency. Yes, I would love it if Laura ripped his lips off, whether he uses the “C” word or not, but we need Sweeney to be the “truth teller”. Every Bryan Fuller show has at least one of these, a character who tells the blunt-faced, unbridled truth to the other characters, no matter how much pain it causes, or who it hurts. Salim and Laura bond over their belief that their past is gone, and so are the family members  who were a part of it. When Laura has a chance to visit her family, she changes her mind. She and Salim both agree that they can, “Fuck those assholes!”

The three of them end up at the Crocodile Bar where Sweeney lost his coin. It’s like a horrible joke. A leprechaun, a zombie, and a Muslim walk into a bar…

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Wednesday and Shadow go  Vulcan’s home, where Vulcan keeps assuring Shadow that he’s safe, but Shadow ain’t buying it. He knows badness when he feels it, and insists that the two of them leave. His instincts are correct because things are not as they seem, especially when Vulcan alludes to events to which he was never a witness, like Shadow’s lynching. That was number one. Number two is when Vulcan refuses to drink the Soma that Wednesday brought as a gift, substituting his own instead. Notice that Wednesday tells Shadow that Soma is not  the drink for him. Soma is a drink only for gods.

 

Soma was a fermented juice drink which was believed to have been consumed by the Hindu gods and their ancient priests, the brahmanas, during rituals. Thought to be an elixir its consumption not only healed illness but also brought great riches. Soma is personified by the god of the same name who is also the god of sacrifices and who may, in some texts, be associated with the Moon.

Not only drunk by priests for its sacred nature it was also credited with uplifting qualities, giving the drinker a boost in energy and alertness. These effects meant that the drink has been considered divine since ancient times; a beverage which brought humans closer to the divine.

——-     http://www.ancient.eu/Soma/

Soma is also another word for “body” and may represent the physical body of humans, in a pagan parallel of the Christian Communion ritual.  Vulcan can’t drink the Soma that Wednesday brought, even though he promises to support Wednesday in his war. Vulcan  already made a deal with the new gods, who have set up this system of worship for him, in the town of the same name. He claims that every bullet fired from one of his weapons, is a sacrifice to him.

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Wednesday tasks Vulcan to make a sword for him that can kill a god, and he does so. It’s a gorgeous specimen, and I want one. (Never mind what I’d do with it! Smite my enemies! What else?) After Vulcan confesses that he betrayed Wednesday to the new gods, Wednesday, in one lightning swift move, cuts Vulcan’s  throat and tosses his body into  one of the vats. Shadow freaks the fuck out, which is an entirely appropriate response. We’ve seen Shadow unhinged from the first episode, but this is really the first time we’ve seen him totally lose his shit. It will be interesting to see how he behaves in the next two episodes.

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Wednesday expresses his complete contempt for not just Vulcan’s actions, but an entire setup that’s basically a shiny, automated, bloodless form of sacrifice, that gives nothing back to the people who worship him. Wednesday said this to Vulcan earlier, that the new gods take, and promise,  but do not give anything in return, and that the old gods at least did something for their worshipers, which makes them less corrupt.

Wednesday curses the entire enterprise by pissing into the vat. This is probably a pretty good idea of Bryan Fulelr’s sentiments, too.

Laura, Salim, and Sweeney are still heading West. They stop to see the sunrise as Salim says his morning prayers.

 

 On guns:

https://www.bustle.com/p/american-gods-statement-on-americas-gun-obsession-takes-no-prisoners-61502

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/06/157569/american-gods-vulcan-gun-culture-season-1-episode-6

http://io9.gizmodo.com/american-gods-vulcan-is-everything-that-scares-me-abou-1795761610

 

American Gods Season One: Lemon Scented You

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In tonight’s episode the New Gods and Old Gods meet for the first time in the narrative. This episode is a lot less confusing for some people in that it’s pretty straightforward. (Okay, except for that crawling tree-thing in the police station. ) Anyway since the plot was actually understandable, I can focus on the characters. Namely, the gods who are the four main players in both the book, and the series. They will be joined by others later, like Anansi and Easter, who both have  big parts to play, but for now, the major characters are Technical Boy, Media, Mr. World, Wednesday, and I’m including Shadow.

While we were not confused by the plot, Shadow spent most of the episode reeling and coping with the strangenesses around him. Til now he’s been a real trooper, handling all this batshitness like a boss, but I think this episode knocked him for a loop, because the hits just kept coming. He’s visited by his dead wife, and it’s not a dream; he’s arrested by the police after trusting Wednesday; the man who tried to lynch him apologizes for it; Marilyn Monroe is floating into his jail cell; there’s spiders running around; all the police are massacred; he gets attacked by a giant crawling tree. It’s not that weird stuff hasn’t happened before it just didn’t happen all at once. There was time to digest.

That was all a bit much for one night!

The episode isn’t frantic, or fast paced, but there is a lot to understand. There’s no plot movement but Fuller and Green are very aware that, at this point, the viewers need a breather, so some shit can get spelled out for us, we can take a minute to absorb, see where everybody is standing, and get some idea of the layout.

For four episodes now we’ve had Wednesday telling us of how frightened he is of being forgotten. Remember, the gods don’t die like humans do, there is no afterlife for them. When humans have forgotten about their existence they become nothing, which speaks to their non-corporeal existence. They come from nothing, are only what we make them out to be, and go back to nothing. And we witness this in the prologue of tonight’s episode, in a scene taken directly from the book.

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Nunyunnini (NUN – you – nini) was worshiped by the first people to cross the land bridge to what is now America. Notice the ritual where the priestess calls on the god to inhabit her and how it involves smoke. Remember what I said, in an earlier post, about smoke/and smoking being a part of many summoning rituals, and how when we’re introduced to a lot of these gods and goddesses, on the show,  there is smoking involved.

After facing many hardships, including the death of their priestess by the Buffalo god ( in the book he’s called a spirit of the land) N’s worshipers are offered a new god by the people already living there, in exchange for survival. Eventually, it is never remembered that N was worshiped at all, and  his name is forgotten. This is what Wednesday is afraid of, and this is important because he wants to be relevant again, and his war is one way  to accomplish that. The choice to make this scene animated was a deliberate choice on the part of the creators. Using live action would’ve given a modernity and immediacy to Nunyunnini’s story that would not have reflected its great age.

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Shadow walks into his motel room to see his dead wife and takes it rather well, I think. He seems more focused on her having cheated on him, than the how and why of her return. Shadow is the protagonist of the show, but he’s also our stand-in. Our Everyman character we’re meant to identify with, and through whose mind we’re meant to process the craziness happening on the show. Til now, no one has bothered to explain what’s going on to him. If you’ve read the book, you know more than Shadow, which changes the dynamic of your relationship to the character, than if you didn’t read the book.

Laura is unable to manipulate Shadow the way she has in the past. He stays focused and blunt with her, insisting she answer for having cheated on him with his best friend.. At one point she asks for cigarettes, and after smoking one, (she doesn’t exhale any smoke, which is a nice detail), she kisses Shadow, and her heart beats. Once. (Many viewers found it remarkable that cigarette machines still exist in that world, along with pay phones that still work, but Shadow seems okay with it.) When he goes back to his room you’ll notice the number 55 is prominently displayed. I’m told that if you go to page 55 of the author’s preferred version of the book, you’ll be at the exact scene in the show, where Laura and Shadow meet. Later, in his convo with Laura, Shadow tells her he is no longer her puppy. I know a bunch of people stood and applauded this moment, since they see Laura as a manipulative user, who didn’t love him. I personally don’t care what she was, as long as she’s on his side right now.

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Technoboy is having a meeting with Media, and this is one of my favorite scenes from this episode because I’m a huge Bowie fan. Gillian Anderson turns in a wonderful performance as David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, imparting to TB that he fucked up (when he tried to lynch Shadow), while using nothing but David Bowie song cues, which I thought was pretty clever. Mr. World is mentioned for the first time, requiring that TB apologize to Shadow for what he’s done. Even TB has a master, it seems.

Wednesday’s raven spy knocks on his door, and either snitches to him that Shadow has company, or that the motel is under surveillance. I prefer the former because it just tickles me to think that. If the raven is telling him about Laura, than Wednesday was attempting to get Shadow out of the room and away from her, which is how I initially interpreted that scene. But if the raven was telling him about the police, then he was trying to get Shadow to escape with him before they got caught. It doesn’t work anyway.  They are both promptly arrested and taken to the little podunk police station.

They’re interrogated and Wednesday puts on his forgetful old man act, while at the same time, he completely explains what’s happening, knowing the officer won’t believe him. Shadow refuses to speak at first,  but is finally convinced, by the detective questioning him, that Wednesday has some pretty huge enemies, because they were tipped off to their whereabouts by satellite surveillance photos, and GPS coordinates of their location. Of course not everything in the episode makes sense. Why don’t the police search Shadows motel room if they though he’d stolen money? They didn’t even bother to go inside his room until much later.

While Shadow and Wednesday are being detained, Sweeney finally catches up with Laura, and demands his coin back. One of the funniest moments for me is Laura throwing Sweeney across the room by popping her finger at him. She’s got some idea of her strength now, and no, Laura is not a nice person. She taunts Sweeney about the coin and he tries to choke her in the bathtub. It is then that he is interrupted by the police, who naturally think he’s insane for trying  to choke a dead woman, in a tub full of water. Why the police show up at that particular moment is still a mystery. Is that just more of Sweeney’s bad luck?

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Back at the station, Wednesday is frantic to leave before company arrives. He’s helped by a tiny friend of Compe Anansi,who unlocks his cuffs. But it’s too late. There’s the sounds of fighting and screams from the rest of the station, and Media arrives in the form of Marilyn Monroe, dressed like her character from Some Like It Hot, and while I admire and applaud Gillian Anderson’s mimicry, I have never been impressed by Marilyn. (Personally, I prefer Eartha Kitt.) I think she broke Shadow, because he nearly loses his shit at the sight of I Love Lucy literally floating into the interrogation room. Apparently, Marilyn was the last straw, after his dead wife. Shadow doesn’t regain his equilibrium for the rest of the episode.

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We finally meet Mr World who walks in on glowing floor tiles like Michael Jackson in Billie Jean. It’s a lovely entrance, (☺️) but not as impressive as Anansi’s. World and Media explain to Wednesday that they don’t want a war, and offer him a merger in the form of a missile named after him. But their charms don’t work on him or Shadow. Mr World calls TB who offers an insincere apology to Shadow for lynching him. World offers Shadow the opportunity to knock out a couple of TBs teeth, and Shadow looks appalled, but when TB disrespects Mr. Wednesday, like the little shit that he is, Mr. World gives him the business end of his tongue, then has Media knock those same teeth out with a blown kiss. Shadow gets his offering anyway. The three new gods exit the station.

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Shadow and Wednesday try to escape, but the police show up with Sweeney before they can get out the front door. They head to the back door, but before they reach it,  Shadow is stabbed in the same spot in his side as his earlier wound , by a giant tree creature, that grew out of one of the desks in the station. They escape via the back door into a thick ground fog, that I suspect was conjured, like the snow in the episode Head Full of Snow, by Shadow.

The police who are dropping off Sweeney are alarmed by the silence at the station. They abandon their suspect, and charge into the station,  guns ablazing. Sweeney escapes the patrol car and runs off into the night, determined to get his coin back. Laura has been taken to the local morgue, where she accidentally kills the nightman when she breaks out of one of the drawers. She gets dressed  but not before examining herself in a mirror. A nice little detail is Laura trying to breathe on the mirror, but there’s no moisture, or warmth, in her to create any condensation, so the mirror doesn’t fog. She walks out into the night. She and Sweeney are on another collision course.

Note:

To those of you who haven’t read the book, how is it going? Was this episode at all helpful? I mean I read the book, and have some frame of reference, and  sometimes even  I’m confused, so I can’t imagine what y’all must be thinking if you have no context . Oh, and it turns out that the tree-thing, that attacked Shadow, might have been Yggdrasil. Yggdrasil is an Ash tree that connecting the nine worlds of Norse mythology, the nine worlds consisting of the various heavens, earth, hells, and the  tributaries of knowledge referenced in The Prose Edda. If the tree thing is Yggdrasil then there’s great significance in its attack on Shadow.

 

New Gods vs. Old Gods

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Mr. World is the god of global capitalism, which is the master of media and the internet, which makes him Media’s and Technoboy’s boss. He knows everything. Just by touching Shadow, he knew everything Shadow liked, loved, hated, how many men his momma slept with, and what he looks like when he masturbates. He’s also a world class shapeshifter. Those of you who’ve read the book already know his real name. Crispin Glover is known for playing eccentric characters and he’s perfect here, smooth, polished, charming, and just a little bit unhinged..

Media and Technical Boy are the new gods everyone is worshiping without knowing they’re doing it. As media says, all she requires is time and attention. She’s the god of television, and movies, which is why she keeps showing up as iconic characters, or people who have used the media to great effect. What better person to chastise Technical Boy over his image problem than the master of his own image, David Bowie. Btw, the songs referenced in Media’s conversation with TB are: Starman, Under Pressure, Cat People, Rebel Rebel, Life on Mars, Space Oddity, and Oh, You Pretty Things.

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The New Gods are not corporeal in the same sense as the old gods. The old gods feed off more material things, like blood and flesh, and as Wednesday says, grant boons and wishes to their supplicants. The new gods give nothing back and take the energy and attention of their worshipers. Notice how the old gods are so physical. Lusty, hungry, angry, dirty, sarcastic, violent, in ways the new gods aren’t. The old gods are sensationalist creatures who are messy, emotional, love blood, sex, a good cigar, and  liquor. They enjoy interacting on the physical plane with their subjects. More human than human. Which is entirely in keeping with the eras in which they were created, when humans had more concrete, basic concerns.

The new gods are cool dispassionate creatures. Technical Boy likes to do his dirty in a virtual, bloodless realm of his own control. Media has no real face of her own, and is a consummate shapeshifter herself. They’re not physical the way the old gods are physical. They’re clean, polished, bloodless, and pretty beings, who do not require physical sacrifices, as they feed on far more intangible things, like time sacrificed to them. But, and here is what they have in common with the old ones, they are just as much grifters and con artists. Especially Media. They both promise all manner of things, power, money, sex, but the problem is they don’t actually deliver those things. The old gods, when they are sacrificed to, give back something physical in return for their worship. Bilquis gives unending orgasmic bliss, Odin will help you out of a tight spot, Anansi will tell you the truth. Even the Zorya sisters tell fortunes. Sure, it’s a con, but it’s a real one. The new gods seduce, cajole, and charm,they promise much, but largely give back nothing in exchange. Some of the other new gods like commerce, or the stock market are even less tangible. Those gods don’t exist on the physical plane at all.

Next week we get to meet one of my favorite old gods: Hephaestus, the Roman version of the god of weaponry, Vulcan.

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American Gods Season One: Git Gone

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This episode is all about Laura and it’s a pretty good episode. I enjoyed it. I initially thought it would be rather boring because I wasn’t particularly interested in Laura Moon. I’m still not a huge fan but I like and understand her a little bit more. In the book, Laura has no backstory. We hardly know anything about her other than Shadow loves her, and she cheated on him with his best friend. So kudos to Bryan Fuller for fleshing her out for the show, and making her as richly complicated as any female character I’ve ever seen, on TV.

I don’t want to get into diagnostic behavior but Laura shows all of the Classic signs of clinical depression. She’s low energy, she’s got no hobbies, she’s bored, sad, and at one point tries to commit suicide in her hot tub,using a bug spray called Git Gone. She’s looking for meaning. She’s looking to believe in something. Depression is often signified not so much by not wanting to do something, so much as just not caring about what you’re doing.  Much of the decision making on Laura’s part arises out of boredom, and apathy, and I understood that.

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Laura at the Casino

She works in what some people consider the most exciting place on Earth; Las Vegas, as a dealer in a cheesy, Egyptian themed casino. For Laura,  it’s just any other old job until Shadow walks in, and tries to scam money from her Blackjack table. Like Wednesday, Shadow lived his life conning people out of their money. She warns him against that, and  afterwards, he approaches her in the parking lot,  to thank her. She takes him home with her, they have sex, and begin a relationship. One of the clues I had for Laura’s sense of apathy is she goads Shadow into being rough with her. This means she’s looking for excitement. For something to break up the endless tedium of her life. She takes home a stranger she knows is a criminal, so perhaps she was hoping he would kill her.

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Rob and Shadow

Over the four years they’re together, Shadow meets her friends, a couple named Robbie and Audrey, and they become Shadow’s friends too. Robbie offers him a job at his gym, and Shadow is happy. Shadow, as it stands in the narrative right now, has no backstory. As far as we can tell, he’s all alone. His mother is dead (or so he believes) and he doesn’t seem to come from anywhere, and appeared to be going no where in particular,when he met Laura. Laura becomes his home, and he cares deeply, not just about her, but the idea of her. He idealizes her and she is perfect in his eyes. Shadow isn’t just in love with Laura, he’s in love with being in love, as he really doesn’t know a whole lot about her. In other words, he BELIEVES in Laura, even after he finds out about her infidelity. I think this is what allowed the coin to resurrect her.

The first time Laura approaches Shadow, with the idea that she is unhappy, he doesn’t understand. He simply took it for granted that she was happy because he was happy with their life. She tries to explain that she is depressed but she can’t articulate this to him. She  tells him that it’s not him, but I don’t think Laura fully understands what she’s experiencing either. She knows she’s supposed to be happy, but she isn’t. And she wants to be.  So when we catch her asking Shadow to bring home bug spray, we know her depression is in full force again.

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Instead of suicide, she decides that criminal enterprise is the way to make her life exciting this time. She comes up with what she thinks is a full proof plan for robbing the casino. Shadow initially balks at this (We can see where his reaction to Wednesday robbing a bank comes from. That he ultimately goes along with Wednesday’s plan, proves that Shadow hasn’t learned his lesson, or he actually really trusts him. Pick one!) but he goes along with Laura because he thinks it will make her happy.

It all goes horribly wrong.

Shadow ends up in prison, where Laura says she will wait for him. She does wait, and tells her friends she’s waiting, but Laura is still bored and depressed. One way to alleviate her boredom, if not the actual depression, is to fuck her best friend’s husband. So she begins an affair with Robbie. She keeps saying she wants to break it off but keeps sleeping with him anyway. it the only thing she has to alleviate her ennui.

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All of this is carefully watched over by Hugnin and Munin, Wednesday’s ravens. They’re present at every stage of Shadow and Laura’s relationship; at the barbecue where Shadow meets Robbie, they’re watching from the roof; when Shadow goes off to work they’re watching from the street lamps; when Laura and Robbie have their fatal accident, the birds are following their vehicle. Which means Wednesday didn’t just meet Shadow by chance. He’s known about him for a very long time, although whether or not he caused the car accident is still uncertain. I do wonder if Wednesday had something to do with the heist that went wrong, that landed Shadow in prison, to be conveniently watched over by a man named Low Key (Loki) Liesmith. 

Because Laura believed in nothing, but worked in a casino dedicated to Egyptian gods, it’s  Anubis who comes to retrieve her when she’s dead. She refuses to cooperate with him, she doesn’t want her heart weighed. She wants to be sent back home,  but he tells her she will go into darkness instead. She asks if there will be peace but he doesn’t say, and before he can make her climb into the representative hot tub, in which she tried so often to kill herself, she gets snapped back to Earth when Shadow drops his lucky coin on her grave.

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Laura kicks ass.

Laura crawls out of her grave and is understandably mystified by her return. She sees a beacon of light in the distance and follows it until she comes upon Shadow hanging from the tree, surrounded by his assailants. So it’s Laura who was Shadow’s mystery savior. She discovers she is incredibly fast and strong as she easily bludgeons Shadow’s attackers, then  jumps into the air, and pulls him down. She does lose her arm, though. Unable to face Shadow in her bloody state she eventually finds her way to Audrey’s home.

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I’m still not entirely certain exactly what Laura felt for Shadow. Audrey claims she treated Shadow like a pet, but Laura insists that even if she didn’t love Shadow before, she certainly loves him now, and that appears to be the case. Laura finally BELIEVES in something. In someone. Like she’d always been searching for when she was alive. And remember, in this world,  it’s all about belief. This makes me wonder how her belief in Shadow will express itself in his life. Because all it takes is for just one person to be thoroughly convinced that Shadow is special.

Audrey is freaked out to discover a dead woman, in her house, walking and talking. I love the relationship between these two. They say exactly the kinds of things you expect two such people to say, and are fairly blunt about it. Audrey handles the situation like a boss. I still don’t like her for trying to rape Shadow, but she’s not actually evil. Like Laura, she’s complicated, and so is their relationship.

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Laura and Audrey on a road trip.

Laura convinces Audrey to take her on a road trip but that is interrupted by Anubis and Mr. Ibis. The two of them run a funeral home and they take Laura there and patch up her decaying body, reattaching her arm and giving her a lifelike glow. One of my favorite moments was Anubis low key dragging Laura, while he fixes her up. She gives him the side-eye because shes not sure if he’s being funny. He also says he’ll be there to collect her when her task is over.

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Laura waits for Shadow.

Shadows presence in the world appears to Laura like a beam of sunlight moving in the distance and she is compelled to follow it. I think it’s hilarious that Shadow looks like his name to her. A “Shadow Moon” is basically another term for eclipse, and that’s what he looks like to her, a shadow that’s surrounded by beams of light. Laura eventually makes it to Shadow’s motel room. One of my favorite images is Laura’s point of view of Shadow walking towards her, his light getting brighter and brighter, outlining him in a yellow corona, as he steps into his motel room.

American Gods Season One: Head Full of Snow

 

 

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Anubis

The title of this one is a reference to a scene from the book, when Wednesday tells Shadow to think of snow, but we begin this episode with an introduction to the Egyptian god, Anubis. In the books his name is Mr. Jaquel, and he runs a funeral home with Mr. Ibis (Thoth). Everything I know about this character, I know from a book on Egyptian mythology, and a mediocre episode of Supernatural. Here he is doing his job as a psychopomp, which is a spirit which guides souls to the afterlife, guiding Ms. Fadil to her final fate.

Anubis job is to weigh the evil of the soul, by weighing their heart against a pure white feather. If the soul was heavier than the feather, than the soul was devoured by a demon and destroyed. If the soul is lighter than the feather, than the soul is allowed to move on to the next phase of its existence, in the land of the dead. Ms. Fadil is accompanied by her hairless sphinx, a representative of the goddess Bastet. Bastet was, for a short time, considered the wife of Anubis, and was a Warrior, and Protector of the pharaoh.

 

Anubis usually wears white but Mr. Jaquel shows up at the door wearing black, but still doesn’t look remotely disreputable. I think it’s interesting how they bluntly recognize Ms. Fadil’s anti-blackness. So the showrunners are gonna go the whole route, not just  contrasting how immigrants were treated vs. Black Americans, but  they are  not shying away from the acknowledgement that a lot of immigrants adopted racism towards Black people, as a way to achieve  the privileges of Whiteness.This is a level of honesty I wasn’t expecting as almost  no one in America acknowledges intra-racial discrimination. (That is discrimination and prejudice among PoC towards each other.)

Shadow and Wednesday 

Shadow wakes up after losing his game with Czernobog, and goes to the roof, where he finds the third Zorya sister, also called The Midnight Star. In mythology, there are really only two Zorya sisters, one who opens the gate to let her father rise into the sky in the morning, (The Morning Star) and one who closes the gates when he sets in the evening (The Evening Star). Neil Gaiman and the showrunners simply added the Midnight Star to the other two, and made it her job to watch the heavens at night to make sure that the “great bear” ( Ursa Major) is still chained in place. If he should ever get free, (if the heavens should fall, or the stars go out)  it would be the end of the world.

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This sister gives Shadow a coin, she says,  to replace the one he lost. She plucks the moon right out of the sky and hands it to him, in the form of a silver dollar. (Shadow is being given the sun, the moon, and the stars, right?) This is  something that happens in the book, but you can still get some idea of the showrunner’s sense of whimsy. (This episode was directed by David Slade, who also worked on Hannibal, and he has a rather cheeky visual sense.) Zorya #3 tells Shadow it’s for luck. Shadow wakes the next morning believing he dreamt her, as there’s no way to reach the roof from the apartment, but  feeling lucky, he challenges Czernobog to another checkers game, and wins this time. Czernobog is now obligated to support Wednesday before he can kill Shadow. It’s a testament to the director’s skills that he can make a game of checkers so exciting.

It was pointed out to me, by an astute fan on Tumblr, that this is the second or third time Shadow has been sexually assaulted by a White woman, on the show. Robbie’s wife, Audrey, attacks Shadow in the cemetery, as revenge against her late husband. She tries to get him to have sex with her, grabbing him, pulling at his clothing, and pushing him, while Shadow refuses her overtures. The Zorya sister kisses him without his consent, although she does give him a kind of warning, telling him she wants to be kissed. Her other sister, after Shadow gives her the romance novels Wednesday insisted he buy, blushes nervously in his presence, and Media offers to show him Lucy’s titties.

The OP wondered if this hypersexualization of Shadow was because he was a Black man, although she was also worried that the show was making white women look racist, as so far, Shadow has had no interaction with any WoC (although, I think Laura is Latina.) I’m not certain it’s the second, but I’m fairly sure that these women’s reactions to Shadow has something to do with his secret identity, and his relationship to Mr. Wednesday. I was too busy geeking out over the shows imagery to pay close attention to much of anything else. (I’m just glad Fuller has another show on TV.) If we see WoC act like this way towards Shadow, then my theory may be correct, and if they don’t, then the writers are making some other point.

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While Shadow is visiting with the youngest Zorya, Wednesday is putting the moves on the eldest sister. It’s obvious the two of them are long familiar with each other, and she is both annoyed and charmed by him. She likes him but she worries. Everytime she sees Wednesday, she knows there’s going to be trouble, and she predicted Shadow’s death. The two go out for a walk and it begins to storm. Again! There’s a lot of storm imagery in the show, and over time, the astute watcher will begin to understand why. No, Wednesday is not the one responsible, even if he was ready for it.

Speaking of Wednesday, I understand from Tumblr,  that a lot of people were really confused about the lynching imagery in the last episode, and were puzzled at Wednesday’s offhand attitude, when Shadow confronted him about what happened. Shadow’s reference to Strange Fruit is a shout out to the song made famous by Billie Holliday, about the lynchings of African-Americans in the South. The lynching imagery is a very deliberate statement, directly related to Shadow’s relationship with Mr. Wednesday (which is why Technical Boy chose that particular method of killing.)

I’m trying really hard not to give away Shadow’s secret for those who haven’t read the book. (For reference on Mr. Wednesday, you need to read The Prose Edda, to understand why the symbol of hanging is so important.) No, the writers aren’t simply being insensitive. I know from Fuller’s work on Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, and Hannibal, that he likes to write a lot of foreshadowing and symbolism into his work. Like Joss Whedon, Fuller likes to make his series one long story, with lots of callbacks to previous episodes, (so if you skip a season, you won’t know what the hell is going on.) We will see this imagery again in a later season.

Poor Shadow! Since he’s been employed by Wednesday, he’s been in a barfight, been beat up, sexually assaulted and lynched. (There’s a scene of him having his wounds tended after the lynching. Remember the, now stapled wound, in his side. It’s important.) At any rate, by the end of the episode, he does not appear to be suffering any pains from his wounds, although to be fair, I don’t know how many days its been. It is understandable that he’d have just a tiny bit of resentment towards Wednesday. Personally, I would have quit the job, but I’m more of a scaredy cat than Shadow.

Shadow has lots of discussions with Wednesday about belief. In the last episode, Wednesday was rather nonchalant about Shadow’s belief that he was going insane because Lucy Ricardo propositioned him. Wednesday’s attitude is always, “If you believe it, then it’s real. If you don’t believe it, then it’s not real, and you are going  insane.” He makes this statement to Shadow several times because, as a god himself, belief is everything. For Wednesday belief determines reality. He makes it clear to Shadow that being forgotten is the worst possible thing that could happen, worse than insanity.

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Shadow does not have this particular reaction in the book. That version of him is much more relaxed about meeting gods and goddesses.  I like that this Shadow  questions and challenges Wednesday. I love the chemistry between the two of them, and I like that this  is not an easy relationship, as the two of them continually chafe at each other. Wednesday behaves towards Shadow like an indulgent uncle,  and Shadow knows Wednesday is a liar, so he’s often exasperated with him, but there’s also a part of him that really likes and admires Wednesday.

Shadow isn’t a stupid man. He’s knows something is going on, but he’ll never understand what’s happening, if he refuses to believe in any of it. It doesn’t help that all of the people he’s met don’t just come right out and claim to be gods. As Wednesday tells the elder Zorya, “I’m easing him into it.”

Salim and the Ifrit

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This scene is taken, almost shot for shot, from the book, and it’s an introduction to the Ifrit, giving us his backstory on how he came to drive a taxi. Salim is an  unsuccessful salesman from Oman, trying to make money on behalf of his brother. The two of them recount to each other their misery in America, and after Salim discovers the djinn’s secret, and reaches out to him, to two of them share a sexual interlude. Afterwards, the djinn leaves, taking Salim’s clothes and plane ticket. He leaves Salim his clothes, taxi, and driver’s license instead. Salim sees this for the opportunity it is. He quits his old life and happily drives off into the NY, streets.

This is being touted as one of the most graphic gay sex scenes on television, but it’s much more important than that. Representation matters, and this scene is notable for showing two Men of Color (Middle Eastern) in a non-exploitive, sexual relationship, something almost no one mentions. It’s certainly almost never represented in fiction, or on a mainstream television show. It’s also notable for how it’s filmed. This isn’t sex. This is solace. This is two unhappy men, far from their homeland, seeking comfort from, and giving comfort to, each other. It is interesting that Salim’s  room number is #318. In the Bible,  Job 3:18 is loosely translated as, “There the prisoners rest together and hear not the voice of the oppressor. ” For Salim his oppression is his ties to a family that hates him, and hold his  purse strings; for the djinn, it is a job he hates, with people he despises.

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Salim refers to the djinn as an Ifrit,  which is one of the most powerful types of djinn mentioned in the Koran. They are giant winged creatures made of fire, often depicted as wicked and ruthless. So no. They do not grant wishes, although this djinn is happy to break with tradition and grant Salim’s wish to be free to live the life he wants. (I don’t think the djinn goes back home because this is the guy we saw talking to Wednesday in the diner. We may see him again later.)

 
Mad Sweeney

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As for the lucky coin Shadow lost, Mad Sweeney is having a very bad week. The coin has often served as a protection for him against death, and he inadvertently gave it to Shadow, after their bar fight. He wakes from a drunk, in a filthy bathroom, to the sight of the owner’s rifle. He challenges her, thinking the weapon won’t fire, but it does, and his face gets cut by glass. Later, he hitches a ride with a stranger, but that man gets impaled by some rebar. Sweeeney realizes he has lost his lucky coin and that he must have given it to Shadow.

Shadow and Wednesday 

Wednesday is happy to announce to Shadow that they are about to rob a bank. In the book, Shadow barely protests this, but the series version is a lot more reticent to go back to prison. Wednesday assures him that he will not,  if he thinks of snow, and asks Shadow not just to believe that he won’t go back to jail, but to believe IN him. I love this scene, not because of the robbery, but because of the silliness surrounding it. While preparing for their felonious endeavor, he and Shadow discuss the existence of Jesus in a copy shop, which is appropriate. Apparently there are several copies of Jesus, and Wednesday skirts just a little too close to racism when mentioning Mexican Jesus,  (Yes, there is a Mexican version of Jesus, that we’ll meet in a later episode) for Shadow’s comfort. I was just tickled to find out there’s a bunch of Jesuses: a Black Jesus, a Mexican Jesus, a Catholic Jesus, etc. and why not. Jesus would have different American versions, because it’s all about belief.

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Another favorite moment I thought was hilarious, was Wednesday buying Shadow chocolate, while Shadow embarrassingly admits that he does, indeed, like marshmallows, which I’m glad he does, because Wednesday pretty much just gave him a cup full of marshmallows, with a drop of hot chocolate. Honestly those are the biggest marshmallows that have ever lived, which is then followed by a shot of Shadow intensely concentrating on images of snow, while their car, Betsy, jumps over the mounds of marshmallows in his cup.

It actually does start to snow, and under that cover, Wednesday pretends to be a security guard taking in business pouches, at the broken ATM. (No, this would not work in real life, people.) Shadow gets wrapped up in this scheme when the police, investigating Wednesday, call to verify that he works for him. You can see Shadow  gets a bit enthusiastic about his role. They retire to another diner to count their loot, while Shadow waffles about whether or not he made it snow. Both the show and the book are unclear on this point,  but I like to believe he did, because that makes me happy.

Mad Sweeney

Sweeney finally makes it to Shadow’s side and tries to bully him into giving up the coin he accidentally gave him, but Shadow is  unperturbed and  tells him he threw it on Laura’s grave. Sweeney goes to Laura’s grave but there’s no coin, and no Laura either.

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Back at the hotel Shadow returns to his room, and is surprised to see his dead wife waiting for him. Yes, she is dead. No, she is not a zombie. I think technically she’d be called a revenant or something, I guess. Laura does get to play a pivotal role in Shadow’s story so no, she’s not just a sexy floorlamp.

Next week, we get Laura’s backstory. Why and for how long was she cheating on Shadow with his best friend? What if anything did Wednesday have to do with her death, since he knew about it  ? How did she and Shadow meet? Did she ever love him? How come I’ve never seen that actress before?

TTFN!!!

American Gods

As y’all should be well aware, tomorrow night is the premiere episode of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. TV ads have been hyping the Hell out of this, so I predict that this is going to be cable’s next big hit, and my newest obsession, following close on the heels of Westworld.

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Peter Stormare as Czernobog

 

There are a whole bunch of reason why I know I’m going to love this show. I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman, and have read most, if not all, of his books. I’m also a Bryan Fuller fan. A better marriage between director and writer I couldn’t even make up. The lead character is a Black man named, of all things, Shadow Moon. How cool a name is that? And it features a truly astonishing cast: Ian Mcshane who I fell in love with in Deadwood, is the embodiment of Mr. Wednesday; Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy is absolutely perfect; Crispin Glover is Mr. World (AKA Loki); Gillian Anderson is Media,; and Fuller didn’t forget the sisters, either , as he cast the actress  Yetide Badaki as Bilquist, a fertility goddess.

 

 

I still haven’t finished the book but that’s okay. I’m 3/4 of the way  through the book and will be finished before the second episode airs. For those of you not into the book experience, who haven’t read it, there’s always the audiobook option, or if you’re really pressed for a primer, Wikipedia gives a complete rundown of the book’s plot, which I can attest is accurate.

In anticipation of the premiere, here! Have some links:

Why You Should Read the American Gods Novel Before Watching the TV Show


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Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday (Odin)

American Gods may have finally nailed the modern-fantasy formula on TV

Come for Ian McShane; stay for a faithful, 16-years-later retelling of Gaiman’s classic.


‘I Thought I Understood America’: Talking With Neil Gaiman About ‘American Gods’

As Starz launches its adaptation of the sprawling Gaiman novel, the show’s creators address its new and unexpected meanings in the Trump era.

By David M. Perry

https://psmag.com/i-thought-i-understood-america-talking-with-neil-gaiman-about-american-gods-5f892dab8711


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Crispin Glover as Mr. World (Loki)

American Gods Is a Gorgeous Mess

The new Starz show, adapted from the 2001 book by Neil Gaiman, is extravagantly ambitious and frequently absurd.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/04/american-gods-starz-neil-gaiman-bryan-fuller/524742/


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Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon)

American Gods Star Ricky Whittle on Becoming a Neil Gaiman Fan and on the Non-Book Season Finale


American Gods: Exclusive First Look at Mr. Nancy as Orlando Jones Talks Anansi BoysSpin-Off

Inside the mind of the African trickster god.

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/03/american-gods-mr-nancy-anansi-orlando-jones-anansi-boys-spin-off

 


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TV Review: ‘American Gods’ on Starz


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Yetide Badaki as Bilquist

Neil Gaiman’s obsession with identifying the metaphor, in one Americans Gods passage

http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/4/27/15436034/neil-gaiman-american-gods-metaphor


We’ve Seen Your New Favorite Show, and It’s American Gods

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Gillian Anderson as Media

The Gospel According to Neil Gaiman

The beloved author’s American Gods — now a TV show — is more politically relevant than ever. And that scares him.

By

 

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