Wednesday, May 31, 2017
In Which I Review American Gods (1x5)
--The CGI/stop animation/whatever it was of the opening "Coming to America" was amazingly well done. There's a takeaway from this scene that the old cannot stand against the new, at least not without a great sacrifice.
--"The gods are great, but people are greater for it is in their hearts that gods are born and it is to their hearts that gods return."
--Laura's heart beats while kissing Shadow. That's a bit different than it is in the novel. I enjoy that her role has been expanded in the TV series to make her more complex, not just a literal ghost who shows up wherever Shadow might be.
--Media has been around since at least the 1930 "War of the Worlds" drama, one of the first (if not the first?) time millions of people gathered around a media outlet--radio--and not only listened but truly believed what the media was telling them.
--Media as Bowie is also fairy ironic, no? These new gods wish to strip Mr. Wednesday of his individuality. Bowie was nothing if not an individual.
--In Gaiman's novel, there are more new gods than just Mr. World, Media, and Technology but it's a smart move on the TV show to really focus on those three and make them out to be a sort of dysfunctional family. Mr. World talks about how everything is a system interlaced and surely globalization is helped--and perhaps even caused--by media and technology. Could the world be as connected and known without those two?
--"You're a fucking asshole, dead wife!" I enjoy that, so far, Mad Sweeney's only role is to get beat up.
--"All you do is occupy their time; we gave back, we gave them meaning."
He often wears a small pin, either on his hat or his jacket of a large tree who's branches run deep into the earth. This tree is the World Tree, Yggdrasil, which is said to hold the nine realms of the universe together. From the Voluspa: "There stands an ash called Yggdrasil/ A mighty tree showered in white hail/ From there come the dews that fall in the valleys/ It stands evergreen above Urd’s Well." The tree, then, is at the center of the cosmos and it too has a story of Odin's quest for knowledge. In this case, his quest to understand the mysterious runes of the Norns, the female maidens who spin out destiny and fate while sitting at the base of Yggdrasil. Like with his eye, Odin had to sacrifice something in order to obtain the wisdom of the runes. This time he didn't just sacrifice a body part; he sacrificed himself. Odin hung himself from Yggdrasil, pierced his side with a spear and hung there for nine days and nine nights slowly dying, waiting for the universe to accept his "sacrifice of himself to himself" and eventually he was rewarded with knowledge of the runes. There is nothing stronger in mythology than a god sacrificing himself; it's a moment of intense mythological significance that usually heralds a new era (think, Jesus on the Cross or any iteration of a John Barleycorn vegetation god). There are other stories about Odin and his importance is not just as a seeker of wisdom. He's also a creator god; he built this realm's land and sky out of a giant called Ymir. Odin also created the first man and woman out of an ash tree and an alder tree. He's also at the head of countless lineages of gods; it's because of this that he is often referred to as the All-Father. Popularly, Odin is known as a war god though not necessarily as a god who enjoys strategy and the outcome of war; Germanic men and women offered up prayers and praises to Odin before a battle in hopes that he would grant them victory but Odin was more concerned with the chaotic frenzy that war inspired. The famous berserkers were held in particular regard by Odin. When a hero or warrior of renown fell in battle and had died a good Viking death, they would be transported to Odin's hall Valhalla in the realm of Asgard where they might drink and play war games for all of time. There are many more stories about Odin, more than I could relate here. He is also associated with poetry (there's a nifty tale there too!), kingship, and with the dead. He has several other animal familiars, a unique relationship with several of his children (like Thor and Baldur) and his ultimate demise at Ragnarok is also fascinating.