Neil Gaiman’s 2001 American Gods is a story about many things. But for me, American Gods is a primarily a story about belief and one that I credit to one of the biggest fundamental shifts I had when I was growing. I read the book for the first time in high school. I was, still am, a mixed Filipino American raised Catholic and fascinated with mythology. I picked up American Gods largely because of the title. This was a time where my favorite video game was Age of Mythology because I was utterly fascinating with the stories of old and how they propagated forwards, and the book’s back cover seemed to indicate that.
And then I read the book.
Now, I’m not going to spoil anything because if you haven’t read the book, you should go read the book. Find a brick and mortar bookstore that may or may not exist and get a physical copy to hold in your hands so you know it’s real. But I will say the central statement of the novel, to me at least, is that we give power to the things we believe. What we choose to believe. What we choose to worship. What we choose to remember. And high-school me had this epiphany, and he called this epiphany “meta-divinity” and it was important for this Catholic raised me to have this idea click. I believed in something so strongly that it could turn a communion wafer into the Body of Christ and wine into his Blood. Why is my belief so much more real or relevant than anyone else’s? Who is to say that the people of years past did not believe as strongly in their gods? To them, was Zeus not lightning and Poseidon not the ocean? To them, was Ra not the Sun, and Isis the Nile? To my ancestors in the Philippines, was the Minokawa not their way to explain and name the eclipse? My belief does not, did not, should not negate others.
American Gods is a story about belief, but more than that, it is specifically a story about the imposition of belief onto others. It is about the consequence of blind faith, and devotion to wrapped ideal. It’s a story about realizing that your belief can have tangible impact to the world. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about learning where you stand and what to do when you learn the truth about the world. Belief is not just in the ephemeral of the gods, but in concepts of our everyday life, the people we trust. If I had to point to the defining seminal work of my life, it’s going to be this one.
And this 2017 TV Series on Starz coming out on April 30 has me too hyped. I’m well aware I’m significantly behind the curve, that there have been many more opinion pieces and even some reviews of the first few episodes. But I don’t care. This series is important. This adaptation of my favorite novel is important. This deserves to be talked about again and again. It’s important because how Neil Gaiman and the studio how important it was not to whitewash the cast.. It’s important because they have updated the cast to reflect moderns times, where it be the addition of Vulcan or the sleek take on Technical Boy. It’s important because the juxtaposition of technology and mysticism is always going to be important. It’s important because I, and so many others, believe in it is. I’m getting a Starz subscriptions through Amazon Prime solely to watch this series and I have no hesitation or regrets.
Belief is a powerful thing. What conviction we hold defines us and defines the world around us. You probably didn’t me to confirm that. And I’m not trying to convince you of anything either. I’m just saying, there is a storm front rising and I’m personally getting front row seats.