“We are a country of cultural appropriation,” Bryan Fuller proclaimed in an interview for American Gods, and that’s never been more clear on the show.
This week pulled back the curtain on the mysterious leader of the New Gods, Mr. World (Crispin Glover). In the books, this entity is more an embodiment of peoples’ wild conspiracy theories, bolstered by an army of government Spooks, which Media alludes to in her Marilyn Monroe form. Here, he’s more like an axis point for all the world’s information. That’s why his 8-bit Minecraft form is so big: it’s full of secrets.
But Mr. World has a problem. Or, as Media (channeling her latest show-stopping look as Ziggy Stardust) puts so eloquently, “an image problem.” Mr. Wednesday and Shadow Moon have been busy recruiting for a standoff, for sure, but Technical Boy is the real issue. World is well aware of the PR nightmare this impulsive brat god of the Internet wrought when he “hung a black man from a tree,” and the New Gods have gathered in solidarity to release a public statement, if you will, to quell the backlash.
As Tech said, “It was in very poor taste. We’re in a weird, tense place racially in America and I don’t want to add to that climate of hatred.” His forced apology could’ve doubled for Pepsi’s reaction to the Kendall Jenner ad, and like clichè ad executives guilty of cultural misappropriation and bastardization, the New Gods aren’t fully aware of their sins.
For one, how could they? They don’t really reflect the audience they’re trying to win over. They’re young, white, eager deities who find themselves in a place of power built on the backs of the older, immigrant gods of color who got them there and fell from grace as a result. The New Gods are the children in the gloriously animated “Coming to America” opening, happy to forget about where they came from and what they believed when something else looks more enticing. As much as I love watching Gillian Anderson transform into Lucille Ball, David Bowie, and Marilyn Monroe, one could even say she’s the parallel to a millennial too young to witness these cultural icons at their peak, but still willing to use their images to invoke a false sense of nostalgia.
As Wednesday points out, the Old Gods gave people meaning, the New Gods just take up their time, which is perhaps why World has more respect for his elders than Tech. So, in the spirit of rebranding, the man in black has a proposition.
The producers haven’t been as secretive as the show may suggest in keeping Wednesday’s true identity under wraps, but now it’s pretty much out in the open when Media announces an Odin guidance satellite will be launched over North Korea in a month, and the device will rain down precision guided missiles so that everyone will know his name. Odin is a war god and, as we saw in the very first “Coming to America” sequence, he feeds on war. But already this new rebranding doesn’t really satiate. Sure, people will die, but he’s sustained more on the willing blood sacrifice that rises from the art of war when fighters volunteer themselves to feed the frenzy, not slaughter. This satellite would change his image, and it’s an image he doesn’t seem to want.
World tries to sell him on the plan, but in doing so reveals his true intentions: he’s trying to further build his own brand, and he’ll do it by attracting a more diverse audience (Odin’s audience) to serve the New Gods. When you worship one New God, you end up worshipping them all. Media may call television and Hollywood her domains, but in worshipping at her altar, her followers are also feeding into Technical Boy, who claims all manner of technology and the Internet. And everyone serves Mr. World since he’s the keeper of all peoples’ information. Whether it’s spicy, chunky, or mild, as World says, people are all buying salsa. It’s sort of in the same way Laura holds Mad Sweeney’s lucky coin in her gut. An artifact once reserved for royalty is now her latest accessory, like a Brooklyn hipster rocking a dreamcatcher medallion or a killer Navajo-printed shawl.
Humanity placed its trust and most sensitive information in the hands of a bunch of deified, clueless executives, one of which isn’t well informed enough to know a lynching isn’t a good idea. Now they’re trying to buy out Wednesday’s stock. The New Gods want the Old to assimilate, but in doing so, they’re asking them to give up the very foundations on which they stand — and World is totally cool with that.
Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent