Perhaps The Truth Behind ‘American Gods’ Is That WE’RE The Gods

Photo: Art by Dori Hartley
Mr. Wednesday

The new television series, American Gods, based on the epic novel by Neil Gaiman, seems so much more an invitation for deep thought than a mere dramatic series.

And, while I’m not here to review or extrapolate on any or all of the brilliant episodes and scenarios that have aired so far, I am here to indulge in some of that deep thought.

If you’re watching this show, you may have noticed that the gods portrayed, whether new or old, do not seem to have the life we might imagine gods to have. They’re a wreck, in fact.

Same ol’ ‘scores to settle’ and ‘biding my time 'till I get some tasty revenge’ kind of thing going on. It’s not all Bacchanalia, togas, and nymphs on swings.

Some have sweet outfits, sure, but others are disheveled and grumpy, hostile and hilarious… some are top-notch awesome representatives or what goes on in our minds, and some are flat out sex freaks — and I mean gobble-you-up-through-the-vagina type of sex freaks.


But, in the long run, the gods are more like crazy, powerful humans and less like the myths and legends they are based on.

When I watch Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, who also goes by Odin — as in THE Odin of Odin, the Nordic God of War, I see Al Pacino and Lieutenant Columbo in one bummy-looking, semi-handsome package of an ornery, mysterious older man. He’s got that Rutger Hauer feminine oddness, and yet he’s all stern, manly macho charm. But what’s he got that I don’t have?

Outside of stern, manly macho charm, that is. He’s a god. That’s what we are told… but what’s a god? Some timeless geezer who does a couple of cool magic tricks? Now that sounds more like me. Which got me thinking…


As our hero, Shadow Moon, comes to know, the world of the gods is the world of the supernatural. Weird stuff happens, inexplicable stuff — but doesn’t weird stuff happen in the regular world of mortals, every single day?

Haven’t we all been — at one point or another — in the presence of something phenomenal, psychic, or seemingly impossible? It’s a very rare human indeed who has no experience of the supernatural. 

In fact, I don’t know a single person who hasn’t had something ‘magical’ happen to them in their life. I always thought that what we consider to be supernatural is not only commonplace but completely pushed under the rug when it comes to being accepted.

The supernatural is always something human beings are both experiencing and denying at the same time as if it’s somehow an embarrassment to have seen something that registers as phenomenal. We question our sanity when the invisible challenges us… but the gods do not. The gods embrace the natural world as well as the supernatural world.

Gods usually represent aspects of our human nature in bodily form. The Hindus have thousands of them, all named, and each one represents another ‘thing’ we do.


So, whereas the heavy lifters can be gods of war or goddesses of love, the gods are divvied up into the lesser glam types as well, like… the god of penmanship, or the goddess of the letter D. If everything has a god to represent it, then might we possibly be gods ourselves, in our own ways?

Also, if you’ve ever studied theology, you’ve come across the idea that the enlightened ones — every last one of them — did not know they were gods until much later in their lives.

Jesus, for example, wasn’t aware of who He was when He was a kid. Same thing for Krishna and Siddhartha. It took time, guidance and experience to come into their reality, their godhood. So, maybe some of us gods out here just don’t know we’re gods yet. Maybe it takes a certain click in our personal history for us to wake up to our true nature.

If Mr. Wednesday is a god, then maybe I am a god too, as in, I am Dori, god of Dori’s life. See what I mean?


American Gods brings forth the idea that gods are among us, that they live among us, that they hide in plain sight. And the idea of gods make me think that we, too, are gods.

When you are good at something, even if that something is just you taking a shower and getting yourself clean — aren’t you in some way the god of that moment? In other words, we are the gods of our own lives. We are the ones who get things done. We are the ones who experience the phenomenal and the mundane.

That mind that you were born with, the one that experienced your childhood? That’s the same mind that lived inside your body when you were a crazy 20-year-old. That same mind will live inside your body as that body gets older and older, and it will still remember life as a child. Now, tell me — is that not godlike? Minds living inside bodies — that’s what we are.

So, perhaps the truth behind American Gods is that we’re the gods. We may venerate ideas and adore myths and legends, but in truth — we are the stuff that dreams are made of. We are the gods who make the idea of gods possible.