‘American Gods’: It’s your lucky day

American Gods
“The Bone Orchard”
April 30, 2017

Short version:

After his wife dies unexpectedly, a taciturn Shadow Moon is released from prison early and accepts a job with mysterious Mr. Wednesday. Shadow gets into a fight with a tall leprechaun and wins from him a magical coin. Shadow goes to his wife’s funeral where he learns she was having an affair with his best friend, who is also now dead. Shadow is then kidnapped by some weird kid who might be the internet, let’s call him Technology Boy, who wants to know a bunch of stuff about Mr. Wednesday, but Shadow’s like, IDK LOL. Technology Boy has his faceless thugs hang Shadow Moon, but before Shadow actually dies, the thugs are slaughtered by some mystery assailant. Also, this one goddess, Bilquis, has sex with a guy and devours him with her vagina.

Long Version:

SO LOOK. I’m not going to lie to you, this recap is pretty long. I did my best to avoid rewriting the first few chapters of American God, because heaven knows I’m no Neil Gaiman, but the thing is there is so much in this episode, so many allusions and symbols that I found myself rewriting every single scene in excruciating detail. So! If rereading a description of something that you’ve already watched and maybe have already read seems like a huge waste of your time, may I suggest you scroll down until you see the words: “Hey, I Watched the Episode, I Don’t Need You to Tell Me What I Saw, Get to the Analysis Already.” Just trying to be servicey!

Coming to America: 813 C.E.

SO IT WAS WRITTEN.

Meet the Vikings! According to our story, nearly 700 years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” the “New” World, a bunch of hairy Vikings sailed over here expecting to find riches and women. Instead, they found a barren land, a bunch of stingy bugs and invisible attackers who filled them with arrows.

Sadly for our Viking friends, they were unable to just load up the boat and go home as the weather became disagreeable and the wind completely died. So they appealed to their God, carving a wooden idol in his image, and, just to make sure he paid attention, blinding themselves in their left eyes with a hot poker.

But, the blinding, it does nothing.

They up their game, setting one of the men on fire as a sacrifice.

seth-meyers-ya-burnt

The sacrifice, it does nothing.

Then the Vikings decide that they are going about this all wrong: their God is a war god, maybe he’s looking for a little warring. To this end, they war each other.

Fighting fighting fighting comically violent fighting.

And Hey! Guess what! It does the trick! The wind returns and the Vikings are like, “OH, THANK ODIN, LET’S GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE. IMMEDIATELY.” And they sailed back to Vikinglandia where they never spoke of that nightmare land again, leaving so quickly they forget to take their little carving with them. Which actually works out, because when Leif Erikson returned, he “found his God waiting along with his war.”

rhianna wave hello hi.gif

Somewhere in America, Present Day

Meet our hero, Shadow Moon. Shadow is a strapping African-American guy, who is quiet, pensive and observant, and he happens to be in prison for aggravated assault and battery. His ferrety little cellmate, Low Key Lyesmith, is a philosophical type, noting that the only good thing about being in prison is that don’t have to worry that they are going to “get you,” and that a death sentence is even better: it’s the worst that can happen. Low Key adds that the country went to hell when we stopped having public hangings: no gallows dirt, no gallows humor. Which, I think we can all agree, we could probably live without if it meant no more public lynchings, you know?

As for Shadow, he notes that he’s not a superstitious type, he doesn’t believe in what he can’t see, but he can’t help but feel like he has an axe hanging over his head — he can smell snow coming.

Fortunately for Shadow, he won’t be in prison to be menaced by noose-waving skinheads for much longer, as he is to be released in five days time. And he goes to bed dreaming of his beloved wife, Laura, and of a strange forest that houses a giant celestial tree, from which a hangman’s noose dangles.

Shadow is awoken by a guard who leads him to the warden, passing those pesky skinheads again, motioning like they want to hang him. But no time for chitchat, the warden has great news! Shadow is getting out of prison early! As in, right now! But the warden also has horrific news! Shadow is being released early because his wife died in a car accident the night before. Sorry! OK! Bye!

rupaul-byeeee-drag-race

Shadow heads to the airport where he is informed by Hey! It’s That Lady! that he can’t change his flight to today even though it’s for a funeral, and, remembering Low Key’s advice to “not piss off those bitches in the airport” lest he find himself back in prison …

… Shadow agrees to wait until the flight the next day. He then spends a long, boring, uncomfortable night in the airport which really is the worst.

The next morning, Shadow notices an older man pleading with the gate agent for a first class seat to go to his son’s christening. The gate woman wonders if he really should be traveling alone, to which the man insists he always travels with his son … who is nowhere to be seen. Finally, the gate agent just agrees to put him in first class? Because he seems crazy and sad? Which is a tactic to get upgraded that I’ve never considered?

As for Shadow, he is also upgraded to first class when he finds someone in his seat– and not, as it is the policy of some airlines that shall go nameless, kicked off the flight. There, he’s seated next to the guy from the counter who, SURPRISE!, is not actually demented, which I am sure you did not see coming. When Shadow declines the man’s offer of a drink, the man is offended: he offers Shadow a drink and Shadow looks at him like he “fucked [his] mom?” Uncool, bro.

Shadow compliments the man on the “sympathy play” at the airport, and the pair compare scam techniques for a while. The man then makes a passing comment about Shadow’s time in prison, noting that Shadow has that look about him, which Shadow just accepts as an answer? Instead of being weirded out that this guy knew he was just released from prison?

Finally, they exchange names: Shadow Moon, meet, let’s call him “Mr. Wednesday” because that’s “his day.” Mr. Wednesday marvels at Shadow’s name, which is quite the name, and imagines his mother with a full afro, the ultimate dancing queen.

Mr. Wednesday asks Shadow about his downfall, and Shadow reveals it was in small time casinos, while showing Mr. Wednesday a quick coin trick. Mr. Wednesday explains that his own talents include being able to sleep anywhere, and usually getting what he wants. The secret is making people believe in you, that faith is everything.

Mr. Wednesday then offers Shadow a job: to be his body man as he travels around the country. Shadow could make good money and eventually become “King of America,” according to Mr. Wednesday. But Shadow politely declines, pulls down his sleep mask, and dreams another strange dream that involves Shdaow emerging from a cave to find a buffalo with flames shooting out of his eyes urging Shadow to “BELIEVE.”

When Shadow wakes up, the plane has made an emergency landing, but rather than wait for the next flight on the following day, Shadow opts to rent a car and drive the rest of the way from wherever the hell he is to wherever the hell he’s supposed to be going.

Book note: In the novel, Shadow is in prison in Oklahoma; his plane is diverted to St. Louis; and his ultimate destination is Eagle Point, Indiana. In the show, his prison is in ???; his plane appears to be diverted to the western desert of ???; and his ultimate destination is Eagle Point, ??. I only point this out because geography plays a role — often a significant one — in the novel, but here at least, the series seems to be mostly concerned with the aesthetics of the visuals.*

Anyhoo, Shadow makes a pit stop at Jack’s Crocodile Bar which feels like it belongs in Florida, but I’m pretty sure is supposed to be in the midwest somewhere, see above. A kindly waitress played by Hey! It’s That Lady! tells Shadow to not worry about not having enough money for a full meal, to just stiff her on the tip and “not make a mess.” Spoiler alert: He’s going to make a mess.

Because when he goes to the men’s room, who should confront him but Mr. Wednesday of all people, who comes bearing Shadow’s wife’s obituary, as well as the obituary of Shadow’s best friend, Robbie, who Shadow did not know was dead — and for whom he planned to work. SO NOW WHAT. (Again, at no point does Shadow ask what the hell Mr. Wednesday is doing with his wife’s obituary, and why Mr. Wendesday is so interested in him or how Mr. Wednesday knows so much about him, BUT OK.)

Left with few other options, Shadow agrees to flip a coin to see if he’ll work for Mr. Wednesday, and whaddya know, but Mr. Wednesday wins the first two flips. The third toss is caught in the air by a giant Irishman, Mad Sweeney, who claims he’s a leprechaun. He wonders if Mr. Wednesday has told Shadow who “he really is,” as Mr. Wednesday returns to the table with three shots of mead wine for Shadow.

snl anderson cooper peewee shots andy samberg.gif

Mad Sweeney warns Shadow Mr. Wednesday is a liar, and Mr. Wednesday is all, “That is completely correct,” but that doesn’t dissuade Shadow. As Shadow begins downing the shots, Mr. Wednesday outlines the terms of their contract: Shadow’s duties include driving Mr. Wednesday around, to protect and serve him, and in the unlikely event of Mr. Wednesday’s death, Shadow must hold his vigil. In return, Shadow will be paid $2000 a week, is not required to hurt anyone, and is allowed to attend his wife’s funeral. Shadow drinks the last shot and the deal is sealed.

retta shots drink parks.gif

Meanwhile, Mad Sweeney is pulling coins out of the air, because he can, and Shadow Moon demands to know his trick. Mad Sweeney suggests they fight for it. Fight fight punch fight, and the two make the mess that I mentioned earlier, Shadow Moon eventually taking one of Mad Sweeney’s magical gold coins. YOINK!

Shadow awakens in the back of Mr. Wednesday’s Cadillac hungover and with very little memory of the night before. Mr. Wednesday urges him to get some rest — it’s not every day that a man buries his wife.

They stop at a gas station so that Shadow can clean himself up with the assistance of his first class toiletries kit and I only mention this otherwise meaningless scene because etched into the bathroom mirror is “FUCK GOD CUM HARD,” so that’s charming.

The duo finally arrive in Eagle Point, where Mr. Wednesday sends Shadow Moon to his wife’s funeral. At the church, Shadow takes a seat next to Robbie’s wife, Audrey who breaks some uncomfortable but totally foreseeable news: Shadow’s wife Laura and Robbie were having an affair, and, in fact, died in the car accident together in flagrante delicto. If ya know what I mean.

That night, Shadow gives a long solilioquy at Laura’s grave, wondering if she were in love with Robbie or if it were just a one time thing, adding that he read a bunch in prison, trying to make himself a better man for her. And that’s when Drunk Audrey stumbles over, having just peed on her husband’s grave, looking to get into Shadow’s pants for some revenge fucking. Shadow tosses Mad Sweeney’s coin onto Laura’s grave and then gently convinces Drunk Audrey to go home and drink some water, she seems thirsty, as the kids say these days. (They still say that, right? I am an old.)

thirsty cat is thirsty.gif

As Shadow walks back to the motel, all of the streetlights go out at once, and his attention is drawn to a strange, illuminated box off the side of the road. When he pokes at it with a stick, its turns into a robotic Facehugger from Alien, and Shadow suddenly finds himself in the back seat of a digitized limousine, sitting across from a kid, whose name in the book is Technology Boy, even though his name is never actually given on the show, so for our purposes, we’ll call TechBro.

While he puffs on his synthetic toad skins — the douchiest of all douchey hallucinogens — TechBro blah blahs about language and prayer being viruses, before demanding to know what Mr. Wednesday is up to and threatening to “delete” Shadow Moon. Shadow is like, “Dude, I don’t know and even if I did, I wouldn’t tell your douchey ass. Go back to FyreFest and leave me alone.”

And with that, TechBro ejects Shadow Moon from the TechnoLimo along with a bunch of his faceless TechnoGoons whom he orders to kill our hero. Fight fight fight and eventually the TechnoGoons get the better of Shadow and hang him from a nearby tree.

But! Before Shadow can properly expire, someone, something comes along, eviscerates the TechnoGoons and cuts Shadow free from the noose, hooray, but also, of course, this is only episode one so it’s not like he was really going to die or anything, come on now.

Somewhere Else in America, Specifically Hollywood

At a hotel bar, a woman meets her paunchy, middle-aged Tinder date and immediately takes him to a room, because: no time, must fuck. They get to the business right away, where she demands he “worship” her. After a few moments of not knowing what exactly to say, our middle-aged lothario manages to find the words: “Bilquis, my beloved, I worship your breasts and cunt and worship your thighs and cherry red lips, you are the daughter of the South … queens and concubines and maidens hide in shame from you, the mother of all beauty … I offer you everything, my money, my blood, my life … ” and with that, he climaxes and she pushes him entirely bodily inside of her. As in, she shoves his whole person into her hoo-ha.

anderson-cooper-shock

So that’s …. something.

Hey, I Watched the Episode, I Don’t Need You to Tell Me What I Saw, Get to the Analysis Already

Cool, cool, cool. Before we get started, I’m just going to state that my goal here is to not spoil anything for folks who have not read the books. Look, I know you probably have read American Gods and Ansari Boys and The Monarch of the Glen and YADDA YADDA but for that person out there who hasn’t read any of the books and has the self-control to not go poking around on the internet for spoilers, I’m going to do my best to not reveal anything here that wasn’t revealed in the episode. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to try because that’s how you play nice on the internet.

Let’s start from the beginning of the episode, with the bloody-minded Vikings and their god to whom they sacrifice waaaay too much: Odin. Now, his name is never given in the scene, but between the fact that they were Vikings in the 9th century and that one of their acts of sacrifice to their anonymous God is to take out an eye, we can safely assume that they were worshipping Odin, the one-eyed Norse God.

Here’s what you need to know about Odin:

In Norse mythology, there are nine realms: Niflheim, a primordial world of ice and snow; Muspelheim, a primordial world of fire and lava; Asgard, the home of the gods, and ruled by the god Odin; Midgard (Earth), the home of humans; Jötunheim, the home of the giants; Vanaheimr, the home of the Vanir (old Gods); Álfheimr, the home of the light elves; Svartálfaheim, the home of the dwarves; and Hel, the home of the dishonorable dead. Holding together these nine worlds is Yggdrasil, or the World Tree, an ash tree which grows out of the Well of Urd, or the Well of Destiny.

It’s all very Lord of the Ringsy, I agree.

Right, so this Odin guy, as noted, is the supreme  Nordic god, the ruler of Asgard which is the home of the Norse Gods — sort of like Mount Olympus, except instead of a mountain, it’s up in the heavens. Located in Asgard is Valhalla, the “hall of the fallen,” where Odin summons dead kings and noble warriors, to spend eternity feasting and fighting and preparing to defend Asgard, which frankly sounds exhausting.

As for Odin himself, he’s a complicated character: as noted, he is a war god, god of wealth, and a protector of kings and warriors. But it should be made clear that Odin is not an honorable war god, meaning he likes war for war’s sake, he enjoys the chaos of it, the violence. He doesn’t care about the reasons for or outcome of a battle, he just likes the bloodlust of it all.

What makes this war god so fascinating is that he also has a bottomless thirst for knowledge and power. In fact, Odin makes two very notable sacrifices in the search for more wisdom: he sacrifices an eye, and he sacrifices himself. Wanting to drink from the Well of Urd and learn its cosmic secrets, Odin cuts out his own eye as an offering to the well’s guardian, hence the common depiction of Odin with only one eye. He sacrifices a common means of perception for a more profound one.

At another time, Odin was desperate to understand the meaning of the runes that these three supernatural maidens called the Norns carve into the Yggdrasil. Understanding the runes and their magic would mean understanding the destiny of everything in the nine worlds. The runes, however, only reveal themselves to those who prove themselves worthy. To do so, Odin hung himself from the branches of Yggdrasil and pierced himself with his own spear. He hung there for nine days and nine nights, refusing aid from the other gods and goddesses. Finally, the runes revealed themselves and with their magic and power, he became one of the most powerful beings in the universe.

Odin is a wanderer, a shaman and a poet, who usually travels with a pair of wolves and a pair of ravens. In fact, to satisfy his need to know what is going on everywhere all the time, Odin sends his ravens off in the morning to serve as his eyes and ears, and to report back to him at dinner each night. It’s also noted that Odin fathered many, many sons, as he had a fondness for the ladies.

A final note about Odin: “Odin” is the modern pronunciation of his name. In Old English and German it was pronounced Wōtan or Wōdan, originating from the word wōđanaz, which came from the stem wōdaz, which means “raging, fury, or ecstasy.” (Interestingly enough, wōdaz is also related to wōde which is where the name “Odell” comes from. So, my family is related to Odin, a fact I just figured out while writing this because I am a dummy.) In fact, whaddya know, but Odin has his own day of the week, wōdnesdæg, also known as Wednesday.

I think you see where I’m going with this.

lucille wink 2

The point is, this first scene in the first episode establishes the entire conceit behind the show: that when immigrants move to a new home, they bring with them their culture and their beliefs and those traditions become a part of this new world. Their customs, their faith are woven into the fabric of this new land. And thus a thousand think pieces about how this show is relevant to today’s political environment are born.

*I wanted to mention that while it’s not in the show,  in the book, Jack’s Crocodile Bar is in a town called Nottamun. This is significant because “Nottamun Town” is actually an English folk song from the medieval period. At some point, someone wrote down the lyrics but the song itself died out because people stopped singing it, and the music was lost to time. However! In the early 20th century, musicologists here in the United States realized that people in the Appalachians were signing this song, it having been passed down orally from generation to generation since the 1600s. In fact, there were people in pockets all over the South who had no contact with one another who all knew and sang the same song — a song that had faded away in its native country centuries before. And that’s what Gaiman and the show are getting at here: that culture can take on a new life in a new land, as long as someone is willing to remember it.

And this idea, that the Gods that immigrants bring with them to this country continue to walk this land — on the condition they are still worshipped by someone here is brought to life in that man-eating vagina scene. So, that was Bilquis, which is another name for the Queen of Sheba (Bilquis is derived from the Greek word for concubine), who was either a historical figure or maybe just a character from folklore, no one really knows for sure. There are a number of weird stories about her which we can get into later. The point is, here Bilquis derives her strength, her life-force from being worshipped sexually, her need for power so overwhelming she literally consumes her worshippers whole. It’s basically the vagina dentata come to very real, terrifying life. I am sure we will discuss Bilquis more in a later post.

Onto other things, like my favorite topic, The Monomyth. For those of you unfamiliar with Joseph Campbell or my long-winded Lost posts, the monomyth is a specific story structure about a quest that a hero embarks upon that seems to repeat itself across many cultures. Joseph Campbell summarized it thusly:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Shadow Moon is certainly a hero on one hell of a journey.

So, the monomyth is broken down into three parts: Departure, Initiation and Return, and hey guess what, this episode is the entire Departure sequence. The Departure is broken down into five distinct sections:

  1. The Call to Adventure
    The hero is somehow enlisted on a journey to leave the life he knows and is comfortable in to go on an adventure into the unknown
  2. Refusal of the Call
    The hero, because he is frightened, has obligations or is insecure, refuses to join the adventure
  3. Supernatural Aid
    After either consciously or unconsciously agreeing to embark on the adventure, the hero meets a magical creature or guide who gives him a supernatural talisman that will aid him later in his journey
  4. Crossing the First Threshold
    The hero finally embarks on the journey, leaving the familiar world and entering into a place where the rules and laws are unknown
  5. Belly of the Whale
    The hero leaves the known world behind entirely. From Joseph Campbell: “The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown and would appear to have died.”

This episode is the Departure beat for beat:

The easy assumption is that Shadow is called to the adventure when Mr. Wednesday offers him a job on the airplane — he is literally calling him to an adventure. However, I would argue that the moment Laura dies, Shadow goes from the known world to the unknown, from a world where he knows what to expect to one where everything he anticipated has been lost. The Refusal of the Call, that’s easy enough: Shadow declines Mr. Wednesday’s offer and then refuses it again for a few more times. The Supernatural Aid takes place after Mr. Wednesday reveals to Shadow that his backup plan, his buddy Robbie, is dead. At that moment Shadow unconsciously agrees to the adventure. It is then that Mad Sweeney appears and Shadow eventually wins his lucky coin from him in a fight — a coin that serves as a supernatural talisman. The moment Shadow wakes up in Mr. Wednesday’s car he has crossed the first threshold — he is now on his way on the journey. Finally, the Belly of the Whale moment: Shadow gives some closure to the known world by burying his wife and best friend. He then he finds himself in Technology Boy’s limousine — he is literally consumed whole, like Jonah, by the TechnoLimo — only to be hung by the TechnoGoons and reborn in their TechnoBlood.

Interestingly, Neil Gaiman claims he’s only read half of A Hero with a Thousand Faces: “I think I got about halfway through The Hero with a Thousand Faces and found myself thinking if this is true—I don’t want to know. I really would rather not know this stuff. I’d rather do it because it’s true and because I accidentally wind up creating something that falls into this pattern than be told what the pattern is.”

neil gaiman not fucking kidding

Let’s talk symbolism, because it’s all over the place, mostly relating to rebirth and illumination. The first obvious symbol is Shadow’s prison: it represents the known world, its limitations, its confinement. It is the world of Man, Midgard, and all of its constraints. The moment Laura dies, Shadow is released from the security of the known, expected world and thrust into the unknown.

Shadow senses a snowstorm coming — storms represent many contradictory things: danger, destruction, change. But they also represent creative energy, fertility, the power of the almighty, all-powerful gods. Add to this the element of snow — snow is pure, it represents new beginnings, transformation, but it can also symbolize hardship and death.

As for the airport, it represents a liminal plane. In the airport, Shadow is trapped between two places, two states of being: the known and the unknown. Shadow is no longer in the safety of the familiar world, but he has not yet arrived in the new unknown world where his beloved wife is dead much less the strange world of Mr. Wednesday.

Mad Sweeney’s coins are a curious symbol: In Christian symbology, coins represent avarice, corruption and betrayal (think your 30 pieces of silver). But here, coins seem to represent the capriciousness of luck and fate. What is interesting is that according to one site that is not particularly verifiable, so take what I am about to tell you with a clump of salt, the ancient Celts had deep regard for coins, engraving them with symbols of great power like horses, bears and trees. In fact, trees were regarded as symbols of knowledge, hence putting a tree on a coin could represent the coin’s power to bring one to a higher state of understanding.

coin sink grave american gods.gif

Speaking of trees, we need to talk about Shadow’s dreams. The tree that figures in two of his dreams is the aforementioned Yggdrasil, the World Tree, the Cosmic Tree. In many mythologies, trees serve as an axial symbol, a conduit between this world, the unreachable heavens and the darkness of the underworld. But aside from an axis mundi, trees also serve as a symbol of the life/death/rebirth cycle: they appear to die in the winter only to be brought back to life in the spring. Fittingly, Shadow is hung from a tree only to return to life just when all hope appeared to be lost.

It is one of many rebirth symbols in the episode, another one being in the second dream when Shadow appears to emerge from a cave. Caves represent both the womb and the tomb; caves contain the concentrated powers of the earth, and the darkest secrets of the unconscious, they serve as access points to the dark mysteries of the underworld. In ancient ceremonies, initiates were placed in caves to ceremoniously “die” and be “reborn” into a higher level of spiritual understanding. Thus when Shadow emerges from the cave in his dream he is being reborn into a new world of perception and knowledge.

And what about that buffalo with the flaming eyes? First and foremost, buffalo are a symbol of North America itself. To the Native Americans, buffalo represented the plenitude of the land. (That is, until white folks arrived and put a swift end to that.) Interestingly, and perhaps unrelatedly, I read that bulls serve as lunar symbols in part because of the crescent shape their horns. For the record, lunar symbols are associated with female energy and represent change and growth, the life-cycles, and regeneration. But, you know, what stands out to me is that lunar = Moon, meaning the buffalo might serve as a totem, or spirit animal specifically for Shadow.

As for the buffalo’s flaming eyes? Eyes are the center of perception, and represent enlightenment, wisdom and power. Fire is a purifying agent, a masculine element that creates and destroys, and symbolizes revelation and divine energy. Taken together, the buffalo’s flaming eyes suggest a creature of wisdom and fundamental, pure truth.

But by far, the most powerful symbol of the episode is the most recurring one: the hangman’s noose. Shadow is followed by the noose from his conversation with his cellmate about the gallows, through the prison by the skinheads until he is finally lynched by the TechnoGoons at the end of the episode.

Now, the lynching is particularly important symbolically in light of its relationship to Odin as mentioned above: in his quest for knowledge, Odin hung himself and became more powerful as a result. He sacrificed himself to himself — for what greater sacrifice is there to a god than a god? — he died and was reborn all-knowing.

But more than its relation to Odin, the hangman’s noose is an especially profound symbol for African-Americans, representing the vicious mob lynchings that swept the nation following the Civil War, only slowing down sometime after the 1930s. Some 4,700 people, men, women and children, were mutilated and hung from trees in this country between the late 19th century and the early 20th, a full three-quarters of them African-Americans. The noose still represents this country’s dark racist roots, and the impulse in some to terrorize and suppress others to make themselves feel superior. It’s no coincidence that Shadow Moon is an African-American man, an ex-con, a physically intimidating and powerful figure, and that he is threatened at every turn with a hangman’s noose by white men. Shadow’s lynching is symbolic of this racism, this desire to oppress, this urge to commit violence against The Other which like every other belief brought to this country, has woven itself deep into the fabric of this new land.

American Gods airs on Starz on Sundays at 8 p.m. and calls heads.

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