Laura Moon Is a Nihilist, Dummies!
I’ve been listening since Westworld, Taboo and have followed you on to American Gods. This is my first time writing in and it has to do with this extremely satisfying latest episode. I tried tweeting a few of these insights but the 140 character limit got exhausting.
While I adore the mythology and social commentary of gods in the US as being indicative of our ever-evolving belief systems and perspectives, this episode provided some much needed character development beyond the parade of characters we’ve been receiving.
The show invites us to explore the nature of faith not only with fantastical deities but also with our day to day lives: faith in relationships, friendships, one’s character, and romance.
Laura gives us the explicit nihilistic perspective missing from a show exploring the nature of faith in its varying forms. What is existence like for a person who has become so disenchanted with living? Someone like Laura seems to posses a maturity and stoicism that is leagues above those around her–but we come to find this is at a great cost, existentially.
Juxtaposed to someone like Laura, Shadow’s ‘badass’ archetype reveals some faults in someone exuding stereotypical machismo–they tend to be gullible, naive and susceptible to manipulation. Shadow’s nature is not rooted with the same vein of introspection that a nihilist might possess. He is, for all intents and purposes, happy-go-lucky compared to Laura’s jaded, blithe outlook. What might be optimism to some, is to a nihilist childish delusion–we can see how Laura struggles with her own sour perspective because of how bright Shadow seems to shine (not to mean that literally).
Robby is your ‘every man’ whose ego seems to be based on stereotypical machismo desire: his affinity for combat/warrior tropes as expressed in his boxing/Krav Maga conversation at the BBQ, his willingness to lie to his wife about moving furniture so that he can complete his next sexual conquest–his entire identity seems to be based on the need to replicate an action hero persona. However, Shadow is not far off either. He would easily fit into the dozens and dozens of mobster/heist films that provide a similar fantasy fulfillment.
BUT I think that Laura is cognizant of the difference between Robby and Shadow and it comes down to conviction. Robby’s action are shallow and impulsive while Shadow expresses real depth in their bedroom conversation about the afterlife (even if Laura laughs his beliefs off). The shots of Shadow in the boxing gym are fluid and contemplative, I believe signifying his thoughtfulness and methodical nature that contrasts with Robby’s brash excitement and titillation.
What I found truly extraordinary was how the show handled how we tend to project our beliefs and desires on a romantic partner. What does this say about the reality of love, overall? How altruistic can love be if someone like Robby is willing to throw his wife away for the next best thing? In Shadow’s case, how meaningful can love be if you are oblivious to how unreciprocated it actually is?
The scene with Audrey was peak television. The very fact that the show creators have managed to film a scene in which one woman rots while defecating and her best/betrayed friend hides in the bathtub frightened was not only hilarious, but cathartic. I am so impressed that it did not turn out to be Melissa or Jenny McCarthy potty humor–this was an Emmy winning feat.
I love that we have two instances where we have flies interacting with Laura before her death. Once in the kitchen and the next in the prison visitation. I think this was excellent visual shorthand that she was already dead inside.
I think there is something going on here with a cleansing metaphor. Hot tubs and bathtubs are abundant in this episode. Cleansing can represent purity/baptism/rebirth OR avoiding one’s consequences. I wonder how this applies to Laura?
Often in literature the home can represent the mind. When a character is actively in their home it is indicative of the conscious mind. When they are absent it conversely represents the subconscious mind. When Laura is away from her home she leaves Woody the Woodpecker on the TV. Every time she arrives back home she immediately turns the TV off. The cartoons on the TV could represent that at a subconscious level the root of her nihilism is a lack in maturity (great situational irony when contextualized with her ambivalence towards someone like Shadow or Robby). When she becomes conscious/arrives home she turns this off as if to indicate denial or a loss in self awareness. While she may have the articulation of an adult, her angst might have a childish foundation. Her belief system is predicated on a non-belief system–the show is pulling out all the stops. Let’s not forget that Woody the Woodpecker is a character who is constantly bashing their own head in. I’m not sure what dimension we’re in now with how layered this show seems to be. And I know that a lot of people leave a television on when they are gone, but the show spent financial resources, time, and effort to specifically include these moments in this episode.
Laura’s job as a blackjack dealer is thematically telling. From her perspective she seems to have life figured out, she holds all the cards. But we see this facade begin to crack even the slightest when her agency is challenged by an automated shuffling machine. No matter how convinced we are of how in control we are of our destinies, it is undeniable that our lives are susceptible to outside influence. Laura’s narrative addresses the very nature of these outside influences–are they mystical or callously random?
Laura’s journey will be one of my main focal points for this series. I have a feeling her arc will be one of redemption. Now faced with unequivocal proof that life exists beyond death, we will see how Laura reconciles her nihilistic, self destructive nature. Will she stop supplementing manipulation as a means of temporary fulfillment? Will she make it to the end of the season without falling apart
Thanks so much for doing this podcast! I think American Gods has truly hit its stride and has revealed how much it has to offer. I did not see this sort of episode coming and am more than pleasantly surprised.
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