Sunday evening at 8:30PM in the Chastain Ballroom of the Westin, speakers and audience members alike discussed the new Neil Gaiman show, American Gods. Erika A. Pratt, Damian Allen, Father Bryan Small, John Hartness, Wendy Hembrock, and Thomas Mariani were moderated by Carol Malcolm in the panel “Coming to America: An American Gods Fan Panel.”
Though based on the book by the same name, American Gods is much more visceral than the source material. The imagery in the opening credits sets the mood for the show with a surreal, almost psychedelic aesthetic. With so much symbolism wound up in the dreamlike, stream of consciousness sequences which make up the show, the viewer has to devote their full attention to each episode in order to follow along.
One subject of interest for the panel was the Americana road trip–style adventure the characters Shadow Moon and Wednesday embark upon. It was compared to the early seasons of Supernatural, with similar crisscrossing of the country while searching out, in this case, deities. The creatures Shadow and Wednesday encounter include the old gods as well as the new. We learn about these almighty beings through the personal journey Shadow makes.
Through the immigration theme that is prevalent through the show, we see that gods travel with their people while at the same time the people create their gods. The panel discussed the new gods, like Techno Boy and Media, and how they are taking power away from the old gods by transference of devotion. This is the “drug of choice” for these beings, not necessarily physical manifestations like money or sacrifice.
The banter back and forth between the panel and the audience regarding watching the show without knowledge of the source material was somewhat predictable. Those who read the book understandably had an idea of what to expect in the show, though there are some changes. Those who have not read the book mentioned it took a couple of episodes to truly understand the premise.
The most interesting discussion was around the growth of new gods in technology. Whether the large flat screen televisions, the computers, the gaming systems, or the small smartphones we carry in our pockets, they are all our new gods. We are building them into gods by worshipping them and making offerings to them of our time and attention. The panel is looking forward to how this may play out in the show.
The hour-long panel could have easily gone on for longer. It wrapped with the panelists talking about the relationship between Sweeney and Laura and how they relate to each other and help one another to grow. Laura Moon, Shadow’s “Dead Wife,” lost everything in her fall from grace and eventually paid the ultimate price, her life. Sweeney the Leprechaun has the most interesting growth track with his relationship to Laura providing much of the development of his character. What is interesting is how unlikable the panel found Laura and how they seemingly saw no redemption in her while it appeared Sweeney was much more popular as he redeems himself through the parallel road trip they take while following Shadow.