A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
In January of this year, Roxane Gay gave an excellent, thought-provoking interview to Vogue on her phenomenal collection of short stories entitled Difficult Women. Gay noted that women receive the title of being “difficult” whenever they have standards of any sort. It does not matter whether those standards are in relation to a personal or professional matter, that they even exist is the matter of great consternation to men who do not suffer from the same paradigms. When women want something, they are asking for too much. When men are asking for something, they are being assertive. When women express their self-confidence, they are being overbearing. When men express their self-confidence, they are being statuesque. When women want something, they are being demanding. When men want something, they are being assertive. A woman is bossy. A man is a boss. The word “difficult” can express all of these thoughts at once and then some more, but as Gay so aptly notes, it is often not the women who are “difficult” but the people around them who embrace the entire spectrum of misogyny, from the internalized to the clueless to the actively toxic and destructive. Often those toxic, difficult misogynists completely lack the ability to be introspective in any capacity and any attempt to enlighten them more often than not leads to a deepening of the “difficulty” perception and a defensive reaction in accompaniment. Yet even if a woman is “difficult,” so what? Men have the license to be as difficult and mind-numbingly obnoxious as they want. For a woman to do the same should not require a thousand additional lenses in accompaniment. All of that is ever present in how women are represented in storytelling. It is rare for a female character to be as “difficult” as the male characters are allowed to be and it is even rarer for the writers of her story to not judge her more harshly for that.
A primary weakness of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is the treatment of his female characters, in particular Laura Moon. Gaiman (noting that I am looking at this through a cis-gendered male lens) is arguably not particularly harsh in his treatment of female characters but he can be seen as being misguided in how little complexity his text affords them. Laura’s case is particularly noteworthy as she is arguably the female lead of the book, but she becomes much more of a character after her death. Gay notes in that same Vogue interview that women are often treated as being far more interesting after their death because, whether or not the writer(s) realize, the deceased woman is “inert” and therefore does not require complex writing and characterization. Laura’s death at the opening of the novel is indicative of that phenomenon, especially as her death serves as a catalyst for Shadow’s story. Her actions later on in the novel give her more to do, but Laura never becomes a fully-fleshed out character in her own right. Her problematic connection to Shadow after her “return” from the dead remains the same, but the Laura Moon as presented by Emily Browning and the team here is a much richer, deeper, and fascinating character than she was in the original text. The primary reason that that shift and improvement occurs is that the team decides to explore who Laura was as a person before she died in that, um, unfortunate manner with Robbie in tow. In doing so, American Gods presents the portrait of a woman who is unapologetic about who she is, who she isn’t, and who she may or may not want to be in a future she can’t entirely see.
“Git Gone” eschews the traditional mythology stories that have come to define American Gods, instead opting for the story of how Laura Moon came back from the dead and was sitting at the edge of Shadow Moon’s bed. Laura at the opening of the episode is working as a dealer in a casino doing a fantastic job of appropriating Ancient Egyptian culture, or rather whatever its owners imagined it to be. Laura looks melancholic and there is a universality to her sigh as she contemplates working in a place she seems to despise, or at the very least is remarkably indifferent towards. She enjoys dealing the cards for whatever reason and that little bit of her existence provides her with vital, yet fleeting moments of happiness. One day her manager arrives to replace her dealing by hand with an automated machine and she protests to no avail, unknowingly mirroring the larger conflict between the old gods and the new within the series itself. So Laura then finds herself stuck in a terrible job that took away the only aspect of its existence she seemed to find some sort of pleasure in, a crappy apartment in which her cat dies at the most inopportune time, and a relationship she aimed to find some semblance of happiness within before she realized that not only was she simply not happy, but that she simply wasn’t able to feel anything at all. Meeting and outsmarting Shadow led to a relationship in which there was a brief amount of happiness yet slowly Laura stopped feeling anything. It was not something she could completely grasp nor was it something Shadow was able to understand. He only saw the woman he fell in love with, not the one who was struggling to find meaning in anything at all. There is a maturity to this storytelling, an understanding that just because she found that love didn’t mean that her melancholia subsequently simply evaporated into the wind.
Laura developed a relationship with a can of bug spray called “Git Gone” and she would poison the air around her with it just so she could feel something, anything at all. It is a primary reason that she enjoys rougher sex with Shadow. It’s a primary reason as to why she couldn’t ever bring herself to believe that something exists beyond death. It’s why she urges Shadow to follow through on her concocted plan to rob the casino she works at, fervently noting that she had the perfect way to get in, steal, and get back out. It falls apart at the beginning of the next scene, underscoring the whole listlessness and desperation of it all. Shadow takes the fall as he considers himself to be a gallant man and perhaps a part of Laura thought it would have been better if she had been the one to end up inside. Her relationship with Robbie was much of the same. Her cat died, Robbie came over to bury it, and her relationship was simple sexual and designed for some bit of pleasure, nothing more, nothing less. After Shadow unknowingly drops Mad Sweeney’s magic coin in her quietly climbs out of her grave in a broken manner, literally crumbling apart slightly at the edges. Bemused, she bloodily wanders through a suburban street in a fantastic shot, clutching her right arm at her side with nary a probable glance towards the rest of the universe. Nary a glance she received on that particular street, but her reunion with Audrey received plenty of glances and accompanying screams. Audrey, understandably bitter and angry about the utter humiliation of her husband’s death, looks upon a returned Laura with a mixture of horror, terror, and deepened bitterness but ultimately acquiesces to their friendship. The kicker of the episode, however, arrives when Laura is tumultuously thrown into a massive rainstorm and she sees a glowing light symbolizing Shadow hanging from the tree Techno Boy’s white goons had hung from. Quickly she moves through the goons, discovering to her great surprise that she could tear through their flesh, blood, and bones as if they were made of cardboard. Laura leaps onto the noose’s rope and saves Shadow from imminent death, finding at last perhaps feeling once more. It just darkly happened to be near Shadow’s death and after her own.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“When you die, you rot.”
+Laura on religion: “Snake oil but worse because snakes are real.”
+There is some great racial commentary on Laura, Shadow, her insisting on robbing the bank, and who ends up paying the direct price for their crime in the justice system
+“I need some craft supplies.”
+“You got a shitty obituary.” Bless Audrey and her sharp, uninhibited tongue.
Episode Title: Git Gone
Teleplay by: Michael Green & Bryan Fuller
Directed by: Craig Zobel
Image Courtesy: TV After Dark
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