Tonight, the foxes hunt the hounds
American Gods is amazing in both print and on TV. It gets very meta at times, as the gods are extremely genre savvy. The most basic premise of the story is how legends are created, live, and die. It’s about what humans do for the gods, and what the gods do for us. It works spectacularly well in a visual medium. There are flashbacks, called Coming to America, that narrate not only how a people but how their gods ad legends got to America. In the show, each segment is done in a different style. One uses live action, and never actually has a god in it. Just things that the characters think are actions of the god, which makes quite a brilliant point on how gods come to be. Another segment is animated, and includes the spirits/gods involved. They match the style of the segment, and the whole thing is beautifully poignant.In my favorite segment, done in live action, the god Anansi appears, but in anachronistic clothing, telling the captured Africans their grim future. Anansi is my favorite, hands down, with Easter a close second.
The directors use the visual medium to its fullest, including little Easter (Ha!) eggs (One of Mr. Wednesday’s eyes briefly looks milky white in the correct lighting), wardrobe, even using one actress for two characters. For a fiction story, it uses a lot of truth, such as the reinvention of gods like Ostara into the mainstream Easter, and the presence of multiple version of Christ. There is literally a scene with at least a dozen different Christs in the same room. It’s fantastic. And it makes a point without having to say the actual words. American Gods is also a great example of building a story out of other, preexisting stories. Neil Gaiman took myths and legends from around the world and locked them in the proverbial room together, building his own story out of them.
The self awareness of the gods is well done, and entertaining. It’s also a great use of the trope, as only the gods display this awareness (genre savvy). The human characters don’t, and it makes a subtle distinction between them. And makes a certain amount of sense, because they are gods. It even effects the reader/watcher, because we all think when we first hear it that Shadow Moon is an improbable name, and Mr. Wednesday comments on that himself. I believe the trope is called lampshading, and it’s hard to do, but also amazing when it’s done right.
I could honestly write a dissertation on how much I love American Gods. I highly recommend both reading and watching it.