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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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.
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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?
For kids who love fantasy and science fiction
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.