American Gods

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WORKING (TV SERIES)

Gaiman, Neil. American Gods. New York City: William Morrow, 2001. UK: Hodder Headline 2001. See Internet Speculative Fiction Database for reprints, translations, awards, and reviews.[1] Note that the tenth anniversary edition (William Morrow, 2011; available in an audiobook, which we use) gives the author's preferred text. "A comic book series, American Gods: Shadows, was published by Dark Horse Comics starting in March 2017. A book of the same name, collecting issues 1 through 9 of the comic book series, was published by Dark Horse Books in February 2018."[2] There is also a TV series on Starz ("Stars Originals Presents), three seasons as of this date: 2017, 2019, 2021,[3] with announcement of cancellation.[4] See below.

Theological fantasy, relevant here for the New Gods, including "Technical Boy" — god of technology and the Internet — and Media, opposing the more traditional Old (Odin, Loki, Bastet, Thoth, Anansi, Kali, et al.).[5] Significant scene at the House on the Rock, which houses among much else a carousel — billed as "world's largest" — that is a portal to the real reality of the Old Gods; so there is both opposition of the technological and low-level divine and an overlapping (for which see J. Riskin's The Restless Clock, including the discussion on Leibniz in ch. 3).

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Of interest in the TV series for visuals and audio:

* Season 1, episode 2, "The Secret of Spoons": The protagonist Shadow is in the electronics aisle of a big-box store and then — from Devan Coggan's "recap" on Explore Entertainment (7 May 2017):

There’s an old I Love Lucy rerun airing on the TVs, and Lucy herself [...] is calling out to Shadow in crisp black and white. [...]

“The screen’s the altar. I’m the one they sacrifice to,” she explains [...]. "Then ‘til now, golden age to golden age. They sit side by side, ignore each other, and give it up to me. Now they hold a smaller screen in their lap or in the palm of their hand so they don’t get bored watching the big one. Time and attention, better than lamb’s blood.”

And so begins our introduction to Media, one of the most powerful and omnipresent new gods. If Technical Boy[6] [introduced in episode 1][7] was all holograms and vaping, Media is far more charming — and seductive. She’s the personification of television, of film, of every piece of content we devote our time to.[8]

* Season 1, episode 6, "A Murder of Gods": Episode features Vulcan (not in the novel), described in a useful review (at link) as "god of weaponry and fire." In the earlier "Coming to America" part of the episode, we've seen the murderous potential of weaponry as firearms and bullets, so Vulcan as an arms-producer, especially of bullets, will be problematic. More traditionally, Vulcan also forges a sword. Note that "a murder of crows" is just the expression for a small flock of crows; "A Murder of Gods" has additional possibilities. We see Mexican Jesus — Jesus comes in different ethnicities — shot down earlier in the episode; in a literalizing of a figure of speech (a standard move in satire), "Those who live by the sword die by the sword" and making "gods" into a plural, blood-thirsty Vulcan is murdered with the sword he has forged.[9] So note episode for the interface of the old gods and the industrial, specifically the weapons industry, from the archetypal Vulcan/Hephaistos at his forge to a cutting-edge bullet factory.[10]
* Season 2, episode 1, "House on the Rock":[11][12] • In this carnivalesque/carnival space, Mr. Wednesday (now more clearly Odin) takes Shadow and some others to consult the Norns,[13] incarnated, so to speak, in nothing like flesh but as a mechanical carnival fortune-teller, with the visuals stressing the mechanism. • We see the carousel — see above — in colorful detail, with the carousel sequence intercut with Mr. World at an equally subterranean military space, Black Briar Bunker,[14] with few people but some ominous electronic equipment, suggesting a launch site for missiles — and serving for surveillance — in subdued colors or varieties of grey.
* Season 2, episode 2, "The Beguiling Man.:[15]
 {Note: The Netflix DVD jacket has the title "The Begulling Man," and, depending on the font, there's a potential visual ambiguity/pun in "beguiling" and "begulling,' with "to gull" as a once-fashionable term for fooling and cheating someone.}
See for scenes of Shadow being interrogated and tortured while held suspended, with his arms out, and wired up, apparently both for input of pain and output of information fed into what may be a high-tech, cybernetic polygraph. The episode includes a quick shot or two of crucifixes with Jesus on the cross, so see here the trope of a man held down (or up) and having high-tech imposed upon him, but in this case a man with transcendent aspects. Along with Jesus (and all the other thousands crucified in various times and cultures), cf. and contrast electro-torture of Flash Gordon at the hands of Prince/King Vultan[16] in the 1936 Serial.[17][18][19] (This last, however, raises the question, "If an allusion falls in an audience and no one gets it — especially if unintended by the artists involved — is there an allusion?" Certainly, there's an analog.) Mr. Wednesday earlier refers to Odin's hanging on the World Tree to get knowledge.[20] 
* Season 2, episode 3, "Muninn."[21][22] Surveillance is a key issue in this episode, but there are separate images of interest. Early on, "Mr. Ibis uses a praxinoscope to tell [...] the tale of Argus, symbolized by a peacock" (Fandom entry, linked immediately above). The praxinoscope here — picture a fancier zoetrope — animates a carousal that suggests the carousal from "House on the Rock," but without the magic and large SpFx: instead we get glimpses of the mechanism of the device, primarily gears: machinery apparently congenial to the Old Gods in America ca. 2019 C.E. There is also the (temporary) sacrifice of Betty, Wednesday's "1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham":[23] being put across the railroad tracks to be hit by the train carrying Shadow, those torturing him, and Laura and Mad Sweeney: trying to save Shadow. Among the New Gods, note image of Argus Panoptes[24] doing a panopticon[25] thing at what could pass for the center of a labyrinth: blind and connected to the system used by Mr. World. Note also introduction of the New God, New Media: television in "The Secret of Spoons" here replaced by what Technical Boy doubts is an upgrade, "the goddess of social media, global content, Internet and information, a "cyberspace chameleon" and "master of manipulation."[26]
* Season 2, episode 4, "The Greatest Story Ever Told"[27] (31 March 2019).[28] [29] Minor point, but by this episode the shots of a toy train separating plot segments have made it to a motif; note the moderately-large model-train set, including in its meaning: a synecdoche for old technology. From Diana Keng, TV Fanatic, 31 March 2019, updated 16 April 2019.

It was fascinating and engrossing how American Gods Season 2 Episode 4 opened with a god origin story that was the hallmark of many of the episodes on American Gods Season 1.

Here we see Technical Boy manifest through the worship, and attention of a boy who falls in love with Pong then progresses through his Gameboy years to become a programmer who realizes the potential of technology to change the world.

Inspired by Bach and his father's own worship of music, he [the gamer, credited as "The Son" young and older] writes a program which can compose new Bach-like music. Through that act of creation and devotion, Technical Boy is born.

"I translated all of Bach's cantatas into a database then wrote a program that segmented the notes into digital objects the way that Bach statistically intended to. But everything it created was mechanical, artificial. The real insight was in programming violations to the predictable variations. I gave it permission to shatter the rules." — Quoted as "the CEO" or "Mr. Xie" on the fandom wiki.[30]


Among the Old Gods, Mr. Wednesday makes a foundational point in illustrating to Shadow how the value of money is a form of belief (when we stop believing in the value of money — that other people will take paper with symbols on it in exchange for real stuff in the world — money has no value beyond "the paper it's printed on" or the basic-commodity price of the gold it is stamped on). As with money, so with gods: belief is what counts, in an episode introducing the high god of America: Money.

Technical Boy, the god of Pong, is obsolescent and when Mr. World shows the now-grown, now-ultra-rich Gamer/Son new possibilities — we've seen New Media — so the Gamer can drop Technical Boy immediately, which leads to his demise (at least for now). Diana Keng comments, "For Technical Boy's CEO worshipper to jump deity ships so quickly was a harsh and sudden reality check for the God of Entitlement. ¶ He just didn't have the glamor to retain that attention anymore." 
* Season 2, episode 8, "Moon Shadow" (28 April 2019).[31] Much intercutting between parallel stories of Old and New Gods, plus a kind of flashback to the old media of radio (Orson Welles's War of the Worlds broadcast, 1938) and the movies (IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, 1953, according to the IMDb entry). We see New Media manifesting while US (world?) communications media and financial institutions (right down to ATMs) are hacked. Mr. Xie[32] is working on ... something, conjuring up what we'll call Technical Boy 2.x: dressed all in white with apparently fiber-optic or electrical cables worked into the surface of his (Technical Boy's) clothing (possibly with a visual allusion to TRON). Xie and Tech Boy 2.x discuss the Biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32.22–32): a messenger or personification of God, or a god, or God. In any event, Jacob is renamed "Israel," interpreted in the passage: "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."[33] 


RDE, finishing, 16Ap21, 8/27May22