A Review of American Gods…
The television series American Gods, first originated from Neil Gaiman’s books before finding success in television. Upon first hearing of the series, I was excited. Firstly because I love fantasy. Anything supernatural or otherworldly captures my interest quite easily. Secondly, it focuses on mythology and incorporates all kinds of myths and gods from various cultures. I find it difficult to encounter a type of tale like this one that draw from so many different sources for one, singular story. However, despite my initial impression of the show based on it’s title and description, the show itself threw me for a loop. As I expect it did for a great many people who hadn’t first read the book.
When I finally watched the trailer, I was initially caught off guard by how vulgar this series can be. Do not misunderstand me when I say this. I am just as much a fan of Game of Thrones as the next person. It just simply was not what I was expecting in this show. The swearing? Not a problem, but the incorporation of blood was a very dramatic and often disturbing, element of the show. However, while it was over exaggerated, for the purpose of film/television, this added an artistic element. Yes that may sound pretty strange to think of blood and gore as being “artistic”. But let us consider how exactly the blood is used.
Within the first episode, the newly released prisoner named Shadow, is beaten up by the faceless men of the god of technology. Then he is saved by a mysterious being who causes a giant bloodbath. I recall blood practically raining in that scene. Yet was it the same quality of gore as a 80’s or 90’s low budget slasher film? Most definitely not. The blood actually made the scene more dramatic and as I have said previously, artful.
Another element of the show I would like to consider would be the characters themselves. The gods to be more specific. Within all the Marvel films I have seen I found that it was fairly easy to determine a good character from a bad character (with the exception of Loki of course because really, who knows what he is thinking). They typically have rather clear morals of what is good and bad. More importantly, these morals are revealed to us quite clearly. Within American Gods, it is difficult to determine whose side we are supposed to be on. The lines of good and bad are blurred.
Is Wednesday a good god?
Are Shadow Moon and Laura Moon good people?
Is anyone in this series truly innocent of selfish motives or sin?
I believe that is for the viewer to decide.
Gaiman, Neil. American gods: a novel. Turtleback Books, 2017.
Fuller, Bryan, director. American gods. Stars, 2017.
A review of “The Bear and The Nightingale” by Katherine Arden…
The first book in the series by Katherine Arden takes hold of its readers and carries them away on a truly inspirational journey. The young Vasilisa grows up in her fathers village listening to the stories her nurse tells her family. They are tales of Russian folklore with ancient gods that walk the winter woods, tend to fires, and protect the household. With the arrival of one priest however, their belief system becomes altered. They are encouraged to honour Christianity as their sole belief and leave behind the household “demons” as they are called.
The concept of belief is a powerful one in this book. The creatures of the household that so few are able to see, were called upon long ago from the need for something to believe in. They were willed to existence by necessity and the less offerings they receive, the weaker they become. Even the frost demon himself, the king of winter, otherwise known as Death, was created. He says this to Vasya claiming he was born from the minds of those who believe. They wanted to believe that when they or their loved ones die, they are led peacefully into the afterlife.
Another overlying theme that is present in this book is magic. Vasyla struggles with acceptance in her community because they believe she is a witch. However, when examining her actions throughout the book, it can be found that she was simply more attentive and determined than most. She learned how to ride tackless which may seem shocking to those in the story. But it is indeed possible in real life, it takes trust and experience between the horse and rider. Vasyla possesses a rare gift with these beautiful creatures that only a “man” would be congratulated for in this time period. Overall, was her gift really magic? No. Magic was not involved in her learning to ride (with the exception of her enhanced ability to communicate with the creatures which the villagers did not know about anyway).
Fear was also a prominent theme within Arden’s book. It appeared as a weakness that brought its victims closer to death. In this story, fear attracts evil because without someone fearing them, they lose some of their power. The priest was a figure who was inhabited wholly (holy aha) by fear. The goddess of the lake was attracted to this fear and planned on eating him before Vasyla saved him. He as a character, brought fear with him into the village. Spreading it amongst the people so that they too felt that pain. The more fearful they grew, the more susceptible to great evil they became.
Arden, Katherine. The Bear and the Nightingale: a novel. Del Rey, 2017.