Like Shadow, American Gods episode 6 has me literally shouting about this show’s need for concrete worldbuilding. How does belief work? How does a god’s concrete identity (Vulcan) become an abstract object (the gun)? Do gods just resurrect endlessly, until they are forgotten? And finally — is belief quantity more important than belief quality? Because as far as I’m concerned, by all rights, Mexican Jesus should be just as — if not more — powerful than most of these knucklehead deities all rolled into one.
A few weeks back, I complained about Wednesday’s Multiple Jesus monologue — namely that Wednesday (and by extension, the American Gods showrunners) seemed unaware that Mexican Jesus almost definitely beat the Pilgrims to the United States. Some say that “many Mexicans never crossed the border — the border crossed them.” So, I find it hard to believe that Mexican Jesus only showed up in the past century or two.
Maybe multiple Mexican Jesuses already exist within the United States. I’d definitely believe that the Mexican Jesus we saw on Sunday was, specifically, Contemporary Catholic Immigrant Mexican Jesus — or at the very least, Mexican Catholic Jesus. And I can’t believe that Mexican Catholic Jesus struggles to find believers — according to the Pew Research Center, as of 2013, 61% of Mexican-Americans identified as Catholic. Also according to the Pew Research Center: a record 33.7 million Hispanics of Mexican origin resided in the United States in 2012 — a figure which includes Mexican immigrants to the US.
To do some almost definitely statistically invalid math, that leaves us with potentially 20.2 million Mexican-American Catholics. And while an estimated 55 million Americans are gun owners, almost half of the guns sold in the United States are owned by 3% of our country’s total population. That’s definitely some diluted faith right there, am I right?
So, there are over twice as many gun owners in the US than there are Mexican-American Catholics, but Mexican Catholic Jesus has to be faring way better than, say,
Odin Wednesday. Plus, if you get a dozen Mexican-American Catholic Grandmas in a room, the sheer force of their belief could probably power a nuclear reactor. My grandma — technically, my step-grandma — had extra rosaries stashed all throughout her house. When I was a preteen, if I rushed through my Hail Marys, she’d insist we start the whole decade over because she wanted to make sure Mary could hear me. She took a small jar of holy water everywhere she went. Mexican-American Catholic Grandmas don’t play around with belief.
My point here is, this better not be the last of Mexican Jesus in American Gods. If a bunch of racist militia assholes powered by the Roman god of the forge (ffs)* were enough to take him out for good, I’m done with you, American Gods!
We all know that resurrection is Jesus’s whole thing in the first place, so I probably shouldn’t worry. On the other hand, it feels weird to hear the American Gods showrunners talk about the struggles of undocumented immigrants in the episode’s behind the scenes featurette but then describe them as “illegal” anyway. It made me wonder if Brian Fuller and Michael Green were lacking in other critical context that would have been valuable to this entire scene.
To be frank, many of American Gods’ attempts to tackle racism land as the product of a white writer’s room that might be well-meaning, but sometimes lacks important context or nuance — sometimes these stories feel glaringly as if they were crafted by people with no personal stake in them. As a white reviewer in a sea of white reviewers, talking about a show with a presumably Very white viewership, we’re complicit in this mess — and as a white writer who lacks meaningful context into the firsthand experiences of communities of color, all that I can do is call for folks to support PoC creators with their money and time, and to criticize a lack of representation behind the scenes of our favorite media properties. And it isn’t enough, but it’s a start — because “well meaning,” too, isn’t enough when examining racism and its role in the story of America.
*Yes, I know that the Evangelical Right Wing Texas Militia assholes weren’t from Vulcan’s Virginian Confederate Nazi town but come on; we all know that we’re supposed to unpack that symbolism tying the bullets & bigotry together so don’t @ me bc it’s Abstract
Anyway, moving past the literal first ten minutes of this hour-long episode, a lot goes down as American Gods literally and figuratively speeds towards the season finale. For example, Wednesday and Shadow leave the police station, Wednesday pulls Groot out of Shadow’s guts, and Shadow continues to lack useful context about Norse mythology while Wednesday taunts him with foreshadowing.
On the other side of the midwest, Asshole Laura and Mad Sweeney join forces to bring Laura back to life. While the dialogue mirrors Shadow’s stifled, repetitive banter with Wednesday (i.e. “what the fuck, you fuckin asshole!” “oh, you fucking asshole, huh?” “yeah, fucking asshole!” I mean whug), the two actually manage to trade insults — an acting feat still evading Shadow and Wednesday, whose verbal exchanges feel like watching two sulky teens play catch halfheartedly.
Asshole Laura is undoubtedly Best Laura: stalking her loving family while mumbling insults at them, crushing Mad Sweeney’s hand, unapologetically zombie-ing everywhere she goes. Sadly, while Asshole Laura & company return to Jack’s restaurant, our beloved proprietress is nowhere to be seen.
We also get reintroduced to Salim: the character who seems to be filling Book Shadow’s role in this grumpy-ass TV show by bringing joy and next-level active listening skills everywhere he goes. Salim, that sweet, beautiful cinnamon roll, finds himself on a roadtrip For Love, searching for the djinn who pushed him to escape his miserable life. So charming! So handsome! So kind! Why he humors Asshole Laura and Mad Sweeney — two assholes he stopped from trying to steal his car — throughout their journey is beyond me but neither deserve his friendship, or his time. #FreeSalim2017
Shadow, on the other hand, has pretty good reason to glower — Wednesday keeps tricking him into dinner and cocktails with racist assholes. First Czernobog, then Vulcan — while American Gods seems to acknowledge (through its shitty millennial villain mouthpiece) that lynching Shadow was both problematic and an action rooted in racism, Wednesday’s pals sure love gloating about it. Thankfully, Wednesday sacrifices Vulcan mid-betrayal for a sweet Final Fantasy god sword, so, success?
We’re heading into the eye of the storm with only two episodes remaining in the season. I’m going to imagine an hour of American Gods that is completely devoid of noose-related imagery — let’s see if the power of my faith is strong enough to deliver.
Some final thoughts from this week:
- My own stupidity: I forgot that crows and ravens aren’t the same bird so I cackled over “A Murder of Gods” as a really deep cut pun for three whole minutes before I realized I was wrong. What a missed opportunity.
- #wheresjack tho
- I hope that all these Jesuses assemble into one huge Jesus Zord but I won’t hold my breath
- Salim and The Djinn and their sweeping endgame reunion keeps me plodding through this show
- Re: Laura’s “I love anal sex” — I could watch Laura shut down Mad Sweeney and his pissbaby homophobia/misogyny anytime
- It must be really cold on that set because Laura’s highbeams are stuck on Extra Bright & I can’t stop thinking about how uncomfortable she must be.