What Kind of Gods are They? Part 2

In Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” the new gods – brought into existence by people’s worship of things like the Internet and TV – want to eliminate or absorb the old gods – the ones that followed the immigrants to this country, like Anansi, Wednesday, and Mad Sweeney, the world’s only unlucky leprechaun. Shadow Moon, an aimless agnostic, is stuck in the middle of it all. The book and the show are adult up the wazoo, but the assertions about faith and metaphysics are good food for thought if you keep the names they’re using in the context of the fiction.

In Pantheon University (one of the literary web series I mentioned last week), the Olympians and some other characters from Greek mythology are mortal college kids. Panth U is a party school dominated by Zeus and Poseidon’s fraternity, Aphrodite’s sex business, and Apollo’s gossip on YouTube. Athena gives wise advice. Hephaestus is a nerd building an artificial intelligence called Pandora. Dionysus is trying to write a musical while drunk. It’s a lot of fun.
I’ve already talked about The Wicked + the Divine, Ragnarok, Percy Jackson, Lucifer, and Supernatural. Isaac’s talked about mythos in general. These are fandoms revolving around concepts that we in the real world know to be fiction, whether we believe the Really Big Truths or not. So why do we like these stories so much?
I have one explanation. They create the idea that gods are people, too. No mortal can resist if they fall in love, but they also have nasty breakups. They rule a domain, but that inevitably comes with quirks and habits and guilty pleasures. They throw tantrums, but they also get punched, and they even bleed. And they have the most profound perspectives on humanity and the world. Making a deity a character rather than an abstract entity is an opportunity for some incredible writing.
Here in the real world, the real God isn’t an abstract entity either. He’s a person. He’s a character in every person’s story. His only “character development” is us getting to know him, and he definitely wants us to do that. Using fictional examples that we know to be fictional isn’t a horrible way to practice getting to know the non-fictional version.
(I had this post written a few days ago, and then Isaac wrote about comic book mythology. So this just became a series. Stay tuned.)

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