Why Media and Technology are the Scariest Gods on AMERICAN GODS

Whether or not you’re familiar with the source material behind  American Gods, something that’s becoming increasingly apparent for both longtime fans and recent converts alike is that there’s a growing storm on the horizon. A clash between the old world and the new is coming, and caught right in the middle is none other than Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle). Presently, Shadow’s mysterious employer Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) seems untouchable, but Shadow hasn’t fared so well, as he found himself dangling at the end of a noose after an encounter with the Technical Boy (Bruce Langley). If there’s anything we can garner from the new gods we’ve met thus far, however, it’s that they’re as persistent as they are powerful, and once they extend an offer they’re not going to accept “no” for an answer, as we see in episode two when Media (Gillian Anderson) approaches Shadow with her own sales pitch in “The Secret of Spoons.”

In a sense, Media and Technical Boy are intrinsically, yet hopelessly linked. Watching a show on a mobile device is more accurately a means of worshiping both gods in tandem rather than choosing one over the other, as Media elaborates in episode two: “They sit side by side, ignore each other and give it up to me. Now they hold a smaller screen in their lap or in the palm of their hand so they don’t get bored watching the big one.” By her own televised admission, Media is disturbed by Technical Boy’s more violent methods, but she seems either unwilling or unable to do more than subtly express her disappointment, considering that she’s likely stuck with him for the foreseeable future. What she can do for Shadow, at least, is to make amends in whatever way she can, including an offer to glimpse Lucy Ricardo’s assets.

When the source material was first written, the boundaries of the so-called “new gods” were more defined. Technical Boy could probably best be described as the Internet personified; Media, the embodiment of television. On their own, media and technology are ubiquitous; together they serve to mutually amplify each other as they vie for “time and attention.” The lines between media and technology have blurred for even the most ardent of devotees. After all, we only want the best, well-equipped devices in order to binge watch our favorite shows.

Therein lies the irony, and the way in which the new gods of American Gods strike the viewer as that much more convicting than they might have if this on-screen adaptation had been conceived of at any point within the last 15 years. The book was written several years before the advent of Twitter, before social media changed the landscape for how we watch television and engage with other viewers. Many of us are watching this story play out through our televisions, livetweeting our reactions, shifting attention between bigger and smaller screens. All of this is tracked to account for audience engagement, a system that’s only been acknowledged by companies like Nielsen over the last few years. Media sums it up best: “the screen’s the altar; I’m the one they sacrifice to.”

The intersection of media and technology in our own reality is an ever-evolving relationship, one that’s omnipresent and feels entirely unstoppable. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why American Gods‘ Media and Technical Boy are particularly formidable enemies for Mr. Wednesday; by sheer number of worshippers alone, they’ve more than likely got him beat. Media’s very much aware that the scales are tipped in her advantage, citing recent technological advances from self-driving cars to 3D printers. Next to them, “[Shadow’s] boss is still selling oranges on the side of the road.” To his credit, however, Wednesday doesn’t seem phased as he travels across the country to rally other ancient figureheads of old religion and legend to his side. He’s either pretending to remain ignorant of his downward slide into obscurity, or, at the very least, he’s prepared to defy it to the bitter end.

Two episodes into the planned-out narrative for the first season, the stakes are already pretty high if Shadow’s narrow escape from death is any indication, and, as the new gods have signaled, their resources are essentially limitless. They’ve found creative ways to ensnare new followers and used whatever means they have at their disposal to keep them. Within the greater narrative of American Gods, they certainly have our time and attention. By those rules, they’ve already established themselves as the strongest gods this world has ever seen.

Orlando Jones Talked to us about American Gods

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Images: Starz.

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