American Gods

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
American Gods TV Poster Image
Gods are real on brutal, graphic, visually arresting show.

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The most positive message at play here is the diversity of casting, with people of color in strong, main roles. Otherwise this show is full of brutal violence, female characters are sidelined, and even immortal gods prefer to solve problems with battle rather than reason or kindness. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Shadow Moon is possibly the closest thing to a role model on this show as he attempts to walk a righteous path post-prison. However, he's a drinker and a brawler, not to mention a henchman for the diabolical Mr. Wednesday, the show's main character, who's clever and tricky yet menacing (and sometimes evil). 


Extremely violent and graphic set-pieces are frequent, such as men undergoing a ritual in which their right eye is stabbed out, a sword battle during which men decapitate, stab, slash, and cut each other in half with showers and fountains of blood, and numerous fistfights with spouting blood and sickening crunching sounds on the soundtrack. There are many deaths, wounds, disembodied limbs, as well as horror-movie dream imagery like a forest floor covered with human bones, stark trees reaching with spooky hands, a killing ground drenched with blood, henchmen with blank featureless heads punching and kicking a man until he's bloody, then hanging him from a tree. 



One character is a sexual goddess -- we see her having sex nude (her breasts are visible at length) in an explicit extended scene with thrusting, moaning, and very graphic talk. It ends with her pushing the man down for what appears to be oral sex but is actually her devouring him with her vagina (not visible). Additional graphic sex scenes include full-frontal male nudity and passionate lovemaking. Vulgar words for body parts, jokes about sex, graphic proposals for various sex acts, a man pees into a urinal (his penis isn't visible). A woman attempts to have sex with a man on a headstone near the grave of his dead wife. 


Lots of cursing and strong language: "f--k," "f--king," "motherf--king," "goddamn," "a--hole," "s--t," "ass," "hell," "piss off," a man calls a particular group of woman "bitches." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink and mention specific brands (a "Jack and Coke," "Southern Comfort and Coke"). A bereaved woman blames her cruel babbling on losing count of how many Ativan she took. A main character smokes "synthetic toad skins," which appears to be some kind of drug. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Gods is a surreal drama (based on the book by Neil Gaiman) that truly earns its TV-MA rating. There's frequent brutal violence, with onscreen deaths by decapitation, stabbings, slashings, bludgeonings, with spouting blood, lingering shots of gore, dead bodies, and disembodied limbs. Men take part in a ritual in which one eye is stabbed out, men punch each other in the face until they're bloody pulps, complete with sickening crunching noises. A woman kills a man during sex by devouring him with her private parts, and there's a lot of horror-movie type imagery: henchmen with featureless heads, a ground heaped with human bones. Characters have sex nude; the woman's breasts are visible for a long time as she thrusts and moans, exchanging very graphic talk with her partner; other scenes include full-frontal male nudity and same-sex couplings. There are vulgar terms for different types of sex, and for body parts (male and female); characters urinate onscreen. Many characters curse routinely:  "f--k," "f--king," "motherf--king," "goddamn," "a--hole," "s--t," "ass," "hell," "teat," "piss off," a man calls a particular group of woman "bitches." Characters drink, take Ativan to deal with emotional blows, and in one vivid scene a god smokes "synthetic toad skins" (a hallucinogen?) in a vape-like pipe. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPun_Lover April 3, 2019

It's like Percy Jackson for Adults except everything is a Metaphor (Season 1 Review)

Violence: Occasional moments of graphic violence, some cartoonishly over the top, others more realistic. Violence is usually quite bloody and results in gore, s... Continue reading
Parent Written byScott T. March 28, 2018

Neil Gaiman at his Best, Starz, Meh, Not so Much

American Gods, Season 1, is a television series based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. It’s a tightly structured fantasy set against the back drop of... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byWooda17 October 18, 2019

Very good... eventually

I read the book American Gods and was really excited for the tv show when it came out. My first impressions of the first season were- “it’s not like the book bu... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous March 13, 2019

Strange, Brutal and Graphic

It's thought-provoking, visually stunning and it's a wonderful companion piece to the brilliant novel, but it's VERY graphic. Violence is plentif... Continue reading

What's the story?

Gods and mythological creatures are real! That is, they're real when people believe in them. But as belief in old gods like Loki, Kali, and Anubis has blinked out, so have their powers; new gods, AMERICAN GODS have arisen, dedicated to technology, celebrity, drugs. Not all the old gods are ready to fade into history, though. And so the menacing Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) is beginning to gather the pantheon of old gods together, ready for an epic battle with the gods we worship today. With his faithful servants Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) at his side, Mr. Wednesday has a cabal to put together and a cataclysmic battle to plan. Will Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), Mr. World (Crispin Glover), and Media (Gillian Anderson) be as easy to defeat as the old gods were to forget? 

Is it any good?

This is an eyeful with an interesting premise and a whole glittering galaxy of terrific actors, but it's not for kids, not even close. Even if you can handle your kids seeing a Viking warrior get his head sliced in half in slow motion, or don't mind them watching as a totally nude sex goddess refreshes her life force by sucking the entire body of a man (played by Joel Murray a.k.a. Mad Men's Freddy Rumsen -- naked!) into her vagina, you'll probably be done by the time Jesus Christ (Jeremy Davies) shows up. This is strong stuff, but also arrestingly beautiful too. The way we meet Technical Boy is a wow: a tiny robot leaps up to cling to Shadow's face, and Technical Boy takes shape pixel by pixel, Tintin quiff and all. The jaw-dropping scene that introduces Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) has him turning into a spider to creep onto an African slave ship to predict several hundred years of future American racism to the terrified captives. 

Ian McShane's Mr. Wednesday is equally creepy, dropping hints of his true nature to a confused Shadow. Who, it must be admitted, is still trying to recover from his shock when the coin he drops into the grave of his wife Laura (Emily Browning) accidentally turned her into one of the undead. As you see, the show's just a little complicated, as you would know if you've read the epic Neil Gaiman novel of the same name. It's snappy, it's weird, it's absolutely beautiful in a way that recalls mystical sci-fi from Pan's Labyrinth to Legion. But if you watch American Gods, unless you have older teens, wait for the kids to go to bed first. 


Talk to your kids about ...

  • American Gods is an extraordinarily violent show, with bloody injuries and frequent on-screen deaths. Why do some dramas show blood and guts? Is it entertaining for the viewer? For you? What's the impact of media violence on kids? Would the level of violence make you uncomfortable about watching with a young friend or relative? Your mom? Your grandmother? 

  • It's pretty common to make TV and movie adaptations of popular books. What other adaptations can you name? Is it more or less enjoyable to watch a show when you haven't read the book on which it's based? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and science fiction

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