It is so intriguing to me that some of you are saying “stop making everything about race”, “this show only became interesting when Laura’s story became part of the plot”, and “you’re only hating on Laura because you’re a misogynist who lets male protagonists get away with everything”. It’s interesting because these three statements are all contradictory.
You’re blatantly ignoring that race is an integral part of the show, just like it was an integral part of the books. Shadow is meant to be a biracial person of color. In the books, he’s frequently asked racialized questions. Neil Gaiman made it explicitly clear that he did not want any of the characters of color to be whitewashed, especially Shadow, which is why Ricky Whittle’s casting was so important. Ricky Whittle is also a biracial black man. To cast a biracial black man who is visibly black brokers no arguments as to what race the character is - it is a deliberate and specific choice. You’re also ignoring that race is part of both the books and the show because this content is about Americana and the American identity. That’s exactly why all the American Gods are immigrants. These Gods are diverse - Eastern European, indigenous (and not just from one monolithic indigenous tribe but from different tribes with different histories), Arab, German, Norse, South Asian, East Asian, Irish, Egyptian, West African, etc. That they rally against the New Gods and their reductionist ways shows you that race absolutely is a very crucial point. Hell, if race wasn’t important to the show, why the hell do you think Mr. Nancy aka Anansi, the African trickster god, predicated his entrance on race and the centuries-long brutalization of black people? If race wasn’t important to the show, why does Shadow (in both the books and the show!) get asked about his racial composition and why is evident that he gets racialized treatment as a result? If race wasn’t important to the show, why do you think Bryan Fuller made it a point to emphasize that there would be no whitewashing on the show?
Race, immigration, and nation are part of the tapestry that Gaiman (and now Fuller) wove to create his conceptualization of the American identity. Those of you who keep screaming about how “interesting” Laura is or make pseudo-intellectual statements about how “morally complex” all the characters are fail to understand one of the most salient and significant points of the story.
And while you ignore race, you still use identity politics to shield criticisms of Laura. While you ignore that racism exists, you think every person who hates Laura is a bearded MRA with a fedora. It’s already interesting to lump people of color in with these MRA types, given that these MRA types tend to be the most racist people on the internet (so they aren’t exactly “on our side”, lmao), but what’s worse is that you’re claiming we “make everything about race” (when race is in fact a huge part of the show) while also accusing us of being misogynistic. I don’t see any of you rushing to talk about Bilquis or how significant she is. Clearly this isn’t about “feminism” or about misogyny. Or sure, it’s about a whitewashed, warped, liberal-individualist version of feminism that of course engenders racist hypocrisy and white female entitlement.
Let’s also talk about this whole “typical male protagonists get away with everything”. You’re right. Typical male protagonists cheat on their wives, mistreat their girlfriends, get glorified by fandoms just for breathing. But I wonder if you ostensibly clever fans can tease out what makes Shadow an atypical protagonist. I’ll give you the answer: he’s black. How many shows are there with a diverse cast in a show about fantasy, mythology, and Americana with black protagonists? Little to zero. So this already makes Shadow an atypical protagonist. But that’s not all. Unlike other male protagonists, he is NOT arrogant, domineering, apathetic, cynical, selfish, abusive, adulterous, overpowered, mediocre, boring, or predictable. This is exactly why so many people gather around him, or try to fight him, or can’t figure him out. He’s just a “regular guy” in many ways, yes, but he’s a genuinely kind person with a big heart, a startlingly clever mind, and the capacity to be loyal and compassionate which has gotten him in trouble time and time again.
Laura herself knows this. Audrey knows this. Mr. Wednesday knows this. The Zorya sisters know this. Mad Sweeney knows this. Czernobog knows this. The Technical Boy detests him for this reason. Every person who meets Shadow comes to understand that he’s a good person. Some hate him for it, others love him for it, and still others don’t know what to make of him because he’s a third party in this war between old and new gods. He is an important character because he is a black man who breaks stereotypes and refuses to be typecast because he’s a black man. He’s a tall, muscled black man who is nothing but gentle, who hates violence, who just wants to love his wife and friends and go home. He likes reading books, he’s been to prison because he wanted to make his wife happy, he used to be a thief but he redeemed himself, he wants to learn magic tricks, and he’s just trying to navigate a new and dangerous world. He’s been lied to, beaten, cheated on, manipulated, betrayed, and brutalized so many times. But he still remains kind.
So please don’t use the “if Laura was a man” argument now. None of us are the type to salivate over bland male characters because as it is most of those male characters are WHITE male characters. Nonwhite male characters receive the opposite treatment - they don’t get the benefit of the doubt, and that’s exactly what’s playing out here. You’re randomly accusing Shadow of misogyny and his fans of misogyny when in fact Shadow is one of the very few male protagonists who hasn’t done anything wrong. He wholeheartedly loves his wife. He does not treat women like sex toys. He is nothing like most male protagonists, so stop using that argument because it just won’t work.