'American Gods' season 2: Neil Gaiman's words vs its on-screen political representation
The series stays true to its source when it comes to the plot, but it's the characteristics of individuals who play pivotal roles that adds great value to the show.
Neil Gaiman's book titled 'American Gods' was published in 2001 and won many literary awards including Bram Stoker and Hugo award. The TV show materialized quite recently and the first season premiered in 2018. The show received a warm response for its visual treatment and impactful narrative. The plotline is bizarre - where else would you see a media God appear in the form of David Bowie, or a Marilyn Monroe? Only in 'American Gods'. As it is based on a book by a celebrated author, the question of which is better is expected. It must, however, be noted that Gaiman served as one of the executive producers of the show and made relevant changes to suit today's time and age. They are not major on the surface, but it validates 'American Gods' as one of the more intelligent political commentaries.
The book was written just when the internet had boomed, and many of the references that the author makes are subtle and cloaked with humor. The television series adapts itself to the time and has uncloaked humor with satire. Especially, Wednesday, played by Ian McShane is a bit restrained in the book in comparison to his onscreen portrayal.
The series stays true to its source when it comes to the plot, but it's the characteristics of individuals who play pivotal roles that adds great value to the show. For instance, Bilquis, who is one of the old gods (goddess of love - The Queen of Sheba) in the book is a prostitute who stalks the streets of Los Angeles for prey. In the series, she uses a dating app to seduce men into giving their lives for her. One of the many standout moments of the first season features Bilquis devouring a man in the throes of lovemaking.
Also, the Media God (one of the new Gods) takes only two significant outer appearances in the book. One is of Lucille Ball of 'I Love Lucy' and second is Diane from 'Cheers'. On TV, however, we saw the Media God take the form of David Bowie, Marilyn Monroe, Lucy and as Judy Garland in 'Easter Parade'.
One of the things the show achieved is great visual treatment. It compliments the narrative of the book in an unexpected way. The show succeeds as a satire on the happenings of today, which similar to 'The Handmaid's Tale' turned out to be successful. 'American Gods' is not only about the fight between the Old and New Gods, but also addresses immigration, American xenophobia and champions inclusivity through dark humor. And so, the book and the series complimented each other instead of competing.
Gaiman had, in fact, spoken about this to Vice and said, "The thing that baffles me mostly now is, stuff that I wrote 17 years ago that I did not think was in the slightest bit contentious suddenly is. Like the idea that immigration is a good thing. That people have been coming to America from all over the world for years and years, voluntarily and involuntarily, and bringing wonderful things with them, and making this country richer — I didn’t think that was open to debate."
He added, "I didn’t think it was in any way contentious having characters from all different beliefs and cultures and skin tones, because that makes America. I didn’t think it would be contentious having a mixed-race lead, because that is America. All of that stuff, which seems to me the least controversial stuff in the world… I’m seeing headlines now like, “Is ‘American Gods’ the most political series of 2017?” Maybe we are, but these are truths that I thought we held as self-evident, as the phrase goes. We were describing the world we saw, and we’re now running into people that have other beliefs."
The first season consisting of eight episodes has covered one-third of the book and so, we can expect another two seasons of the series. The second season will premiere on March 10 on Starz.