Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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Deities of the USA

Apparently you can't watch STARZ online internationally, so I went back to American Gods after a long hiatus with just half an episode left (I don't usually start watching if I don't have time for the whole thing but there were Circumstances), and then realized I had accidentally skipped Episode 8 so I watched that before finishing up with the second half of the finale.

All I'm saying is, I'm well aware I may have ruined the whole viewing experience for myself, but right now I'm leaning toward just not being that happy with the show.

I've been getting the impression that everyone else really liked the finale/show overall, so I apologize if my reaction is a little too ranty. I mean, overall I liked it too, at least to the point where I'm pretty likely to keep watching for as long as it's a show to watch. I just feel like there was so much untapped material in the book, and what we got instead was episode after episode of Shadow and Wednesday meeting another god and having a talk (or hearing a monologue) about conviction and worship while tense music plays.

The main question on my mind, and I'm kind of surprised I've never thought about this before, is why this fascination with 'belief' seems to be exclusive to people who don't believe. It's like the way some adults will really push the Santa Claus stories on children just due to some vague notion that childhood should be magical. I always like hearing about all the differences in world religions, but examining why people subscribe to religion in the first place frankly bores me. It's the first answer you get when you begin to explore faith and there's no other way to get it, so hearing other people talk about how you might get there is pretty pointless.

Neil Gaiman tends to use religion disdainfully, but rationally. He left Jesus out of American Gods because he thought Christianity in America was too big of a topic to include. So the book is adapted into a show and the producers, faced with the same problem, decide that it's too big of a topic not to include. Gotta sympathize: Jesus in this context invites controversy. Cha-ching! Potluck pantheons are basically a modern SFF staple, so this is one way to set a story apart. I remember an indy comic doing the same thing around the turn of the century but whatever. The episode only graduated from dull to cringeworthy when I got to the behind-the-scenes interview at the end and found out those bumbling producers actually thought they were being respectful. Oh, honey.

The really compelling thing about the Shadow Moon of the book is that he's largely unaffected by the impossible things happening around him, to the point that Wednesday asks him why he isn't in denial or even very awed. Shadow's response is that nothing surprises him since he found out that Laura was cheating on him.

That one little conversation ties everything together. We see what kind of person Shadow is. We know what kind of relationship that he and Laura had, even though we barely see her, and we can hurt for him instead of wondering why he ever liked her in the first place. We're explicitly shown that his desensitized attitude isn't meant to be normal, and neither is his new life or anything in it. He still gets a full range of emotion and motivation, but when we find out near the end that something was missing all along, it shines a new light on his character rather than undermining it.

Not to mention, when we're seeing the gods through Shadow's eyes it's a really useful narrative device to have his own reactions remain mild so the story keeps coming instead of stopping to deal with him panicking or demanding explanations like a normal person would.

The show just ditched all that entirely and I don't understand why. Look, I love The Matrix, but I've already seen enough handsome men thrown into scary magical worlds to fulfill their destinies. This book wasn't special because it was about forgotten gods in present-day America. It was about the humans, the little lives, and the land around them, and speaking of which, for goodness sake could we please have a recognizable US landmark once in a while in this road trip show?

Also, more ravens. More Huginn more Muninn. Thank you.
Tags: a book i read, a show i watched, six steps to neil gaiman

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