Have you seen American Gods? It’s a television series based on a book of the same name. The premise? A reluctant hero, Shadow Moon, realizes his familiar world is actually inhabited by gods and divine beings of all kinds. He runs into Odin, Anubis, Thoth, Ishtar, a Jinn (or genie), and a surprisingly tall leprechaun. What’s dope is the Black Gods are played by melanin-rich Black men and women.
These characters are real flesh and blood, and you might miss them if you passed them on the street. In fact, they’re the personified deities of the many spiritual traditions found in this country. For example, Anansi (or Mr. Nancy) is the immortal trickster spirit of West Africa, remembered by Black Americans across the Caribbean and Southeast in legendary tales of rebellion and subterfuge.
These “mythical” beings are sustained and empowered by those who believe in them, and at risk of disappearing once they are forgotten by all. These “old gods” represent the ancestors and cultural heroes of America’s many ethnic groups and communities. They represent the ancestral spirit of the people and the destiny they designed for their descendants. The “new gods” who could replace them represent materialism, vanity, convenience, and obedience to the state. In other words, these new “gods” represent an end of the world, for both humanity and the true and living Gods. The series follows Shadow Moon as he fights his way to salvation, for himself, the Gods, and the rest of humanity.
What’s dope is that the Black Gods in this series are diverse.
Thoth and Anubis are Black men who have been in America since before Columbus came, now running a funeral home in the Midwest. East African Bilqis is the goddess of love, loosely based on Makeda, the Queen of Sheba. Shadow Moon’s Black too, well half-way. But none of them have the passion and intensity of Mr. Nancy, or Anansi the Spider. That’s the original Spiderman, you know!
An immortal “trickster” known for making the unexpected happen, Anansi stands against injustice and cruelty. From West Africa, he came along on a slave ship with his people. Throughout the series, Mr. Nancy is the show’s leading voice of outrage and resistance, arguing that only he among the Gods knows what it’s like to truly fight for survival.
Now, as all the Gods find themselves at risk, they can understand the plight of Black people in America, who have been beaten and buried alive – until they forgot who they were, their power, and their gods. Orlando Jones, as coproducer of Season Two, wrote his lines to address real social issues affecting Black America today. This is why you’ll hear such authentic righteous fury on a show that otherwise wasn’t about race.
Jones was named a consulting producer in Season Two, writing for other characters as well, especially characters of color, including Bilqis (Yetide Badaki), Salim (Omid Abtahi), Jinn (Mousa Kraish) and Sam Black Crow (Devery Jacobs). Above all, fans loved those moments when Anansi would “go in.” But the showrunners behind Season Three didn’t! So they wrote Jones (and Mr. Nancy) out of the show, saying his “angry gets shit done” attitude was “bad for Black America.” The showrunner in question didn’t deny that this was the issue, only saying he wasn’t from Connecticut! Jones also cited the show’s producer Fremantle for how they handle Black people like himself and Gabrielle Union. Union recently called out the “toxic culture” behind America’s Got Talent. American Gods also let go of several other actors of color as it becomes whitewashed.
So I’m done watching the show. It was great visuals while it lasted, but this sort of change spells disaster for me. The moment any program or entertainer tries too hard to placate and pander to hypersensitive white supremacists, I know it’s their end. That show, minus its powerful social commentary, is just a show. Sure, it’s dope to envision a universe where Gods and divine beings are all around you…but you don’t need TV to do that! I suggest you leave the show alone (if you’ve been watching) and read the book instead. Reading allows you to see what you’re not being shown.
If you’ve read Black God or Knowledge of Self, you know this is exactly the world we live in now! Yes, there are divine beings, both good and evil, all around you! And many of us are living out timeless stories over countless cycles, some with more clarity on our true origins than others! Just look around and you’ll see the ancestors among us. They’re in the faces of people you pass every day. They are in the voices we use when we speak our truths. They are with us in the form of our talents and abilities. And we are living out a legendary story right now.