On the recommendation from someone outside my usual geeky friends, I started watching American Gods last night. It’s been on my radar for a bit, as all my usual geeky friends have been talking about it, but I’ve been holding off for reasons I’ll get into shortly.
Suffice it to say that I binged through all 8 episodes straight…..
Around 15 years ago, or so, I read American Gods. And it really just annoyed the crap out of me, mostly (in retrospect) due a lack of introspection on my part. Some background.
As a young kid in Primary (aka Elementary) school, I was pretty fascinated by world religions, especially the pantheistic ones, like the Greek, Roman, Norse, etc. I devoured every book I could get on the topic. I loved learning the different names, and the variations on the different stories each had, and how the stories changed when they were supposed to be the same god (i.e. when the Greek gods became part of the Roman pantheon). So I was pretty well read on the topic of deities prior to reading American Gods.
My lack of introspection was that I was not the intended audience for American Gods. When Mr Wednesday introduces himself by saying “this is my day, Wednesday” (and coupling that with the title of the book) it was beyond obvious to me who the character was. That Gaiman then spent pages and pages (and pages) dancing around this just frustrated me. I knew who he was, so could we stop pretending there’s a mystery here? It just struck me as pretentious.
Now, being older, I get that Gaiman isn’t writing for people for whom this is obvious, or who are well-read on the topic. He wants to build a bit of mystery and introduce people to these deities and their domains. I still feel that it’s drawn out waaay too much (it’s not until the end of the **8th** episode that Mr Wednesday does the big reveal….. seriously? 8 hours of TV time???), but it certainly frustrates me far less now than it did all those years ago.
There’s still a large pile of, frankly, British bullshit in there, a need to chest pound and declare things, to tell rather than to show. And I say British bullshit because I don’t see it even a tenth as much in fiction from other anglo countries. Another example would be Doctor Who, who in later episodes takes to yelling “Don’t you know who I am?!?!?” at his enemies. Why yes, Doctor, I do: you’re the guy who runs away from everything until you stumble across a random Plot Device that allows you to defeat the bad guys. If people would just stop littering the universe with random Plot Devices, you’d be entirely powerless (bar running away). American Gods is still pretty rife with ‘you don’t know who I am?’ or ‘No, I can’t tell you who I am, you wouldn’t believe me’: aka ‘I know stuff and you don’t; I’m happy with this arrangement, and I’ll hold you in contempt for it, even though I could rectify it with a simple sentence or two’. (See also Alan Moore and Warren Ellis, two otherwise fantastic authors)
Anywho. Just one particular pet peeve of mine.
The cast of the supernatural are beyond perfect. Ian McShane was a perfect choice. Gillian Anderson is beyond amazing. And I had to look up Mad Sweeney to find out who this fantastic Irish actor was, only to discover that Pablo Schreiber is Canadian with every 2nd EU country listed in his ancestry, none of which are Ireland. Mr Schreiber, sir, we could have had a conversation in-person for an hour, and I’d have walked away thinking I was speaking to a fellow ex-pat Paddy.
I really think that this is a story that is much better told in television than in text, and I’m enjoying the production immensely.