TV

"American Gods" Doesn't Understand the Importance of Black Spiritualism

"American Gods" committed an unnecessary diversity fail.

American Gods, the TV show based on Neil Gaiman's award-winning novel of the same name, premiered in 2017.

At the beginning, the show focused on Shadow Moon (played by Ricky Whittle) who was recently released from prison. Shadow is quickly pulled down a rabbit hole of bizarre experiences thanks to Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who we later discover is the Germanic mythological god Odin. Mr. Wednesday is trying to build an army of "old gods" to pit against the "new gods," and he enlists Shadow's help. The new gods are Mr. World a.k.a. globalization (Chirpin Glover), Media (Gillian Anderson)—who is replaced by New Media in season two (Kahyun Kim)—and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley).

Odin/Mr. Wednesday, with his bodyguard Shadow in tow, embarks on a cross-country journey to recruit gods he personally knows to fight against the new gods to gain back the faith and worship of the masses. Odin recruits the Slavic god of "darkness and evil," Czernobog (Peter Stormare), Hindu goddess Kali/Mama-Ji (Sakina Jaffrey), he Pagan goddess of Easter, Ostara (Kristin Chenoweth), and many more. Also on his team is a character from West African folklore, Anansi, who in the material world is known as Mr. Nancy, played by Orlando Jones.

Anansi (pronounced uh-naan-see) is a storyteller and a prominent character in season two (with few scenes in season one). On December 14, 2019, Orlando Jones took to the Internet to reveal that he was let go from the show in September and would not be returning for season three.

Fans of the show were (and still are) outraged. Since he was one of the few characters of color that appeared in season one and two, fans of Anansi/Mr. Nancy were confused as to why the showrunners would make their show less diverse. During an exclusive one-hour interview with The Blerd Gurl podcast, Jones explained the full timeline that led to his firing.

The Removal of Anansi

Jones detailed conversations he had with the new showrunner, Charles (Chic) Eglee (the third showrunner thus far), who felt that the Anansi character was "not good for Black America." For those unfamiliar with Anansi in the show, the West African god made a powerful first appearance in season one, episode two. We meet Anansi on a slave ship, where he first says his mantra, "Angry gets shit done," which urges the captive Africans on board to burn down the ship transporting them to America.

However, the scene that created waves was in episode four, season two, in which Anansi made a speech stating that "slavery is a cult." In this conversation, Anansi, goddess Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), and Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes) discuss the current state of Black people in America and the global epidemic of human trafficking of Black and brown bodies. According to the new showrunner, this scene (and the overall "angry gets shit done" perspective Anansi maintains throughout the show) was not what Black America needed in the current political climate.

During The Blerd Girl interview, Jones even recounts hearing that Eglee (a white man) said to other executives that he "writes from a Black male perspective" better than Jones himself.

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While this is already a solid slap in the face, it's particularly offensive given the minimization (and frequent nonexistence) of traditionally Black faiths and beliefs in shows and movies. Anansi was one of the few Black characters in mainstream television centered around spirituality and religion as he discussed the Black experience in a real and raw manner. As Jones explained in his interview with Blerd Gurl, fans flooded his DMs with messages telling him how important the Anansi character was to the landscape of television and what it meant for them to see that kind of representation.

During the TCA tour earlier this month (Jan. 7-19), Starz network president and CEO Jeffrey Hirsch addressed the situation with Jones, simply stating, "Orlando [Jones] is a tremendous talent and is a great actor and person. The book is rich in story and [Mr. Nancy] doesn't have a prominent role in the story… that's where we are."

Hircsh also added, "Chic and the team decided to be in [an] area where Mr. Nancy doesn't play a prominent role, so that's where we are." This blanket statement, while extremely diplomatic, entirely ignores Eglee's previous statements.

The State of (and Demand for) Black Spiritual Representation

Given the current uptick in themes of spirituality and faith in popular shows (CC: Good Omen, The Chilling Tales of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, October Faction, The Path, and even SYFY's The Magicians), it is a terrible move to remove important Black representation.

While we know shows take creative liberties regularly, it would make sense within the world of American Gods to include a character that speaks for the Black experience with urgency. Referring back to the aforementioned mortuary scene between Anansi, Bilquis and Mr. Ibis, what makes the scene powerful is seeing three Black actors portraying African gods and goddesses having a conversation about current Black America. This moment of thoughtful representation was applauded by viewers of all backgrounds, but it fell on (tone) deaf ears when it came to the current showrunner.

In a media climate where diversity is praised but not fairly executed, keeping the character of Anansi could have been a slam dunk for a show that sees trouble in the writers' room and prominent characters exit (or suddenly let go) for unexplained reasons.

In a wider sense, there have been limited examples of people of color in the mystical and spiritual space as it relates to popular shows and movies. We can point out Rachel True as Rochelle in The Craft, Jasmine Guy as Sheila Bennett in The Vampire Diaries, Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven, and more recently Tati Gabrielle as Prudence Blackwood in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Because of this lack of diversity and open call for more relatable characters, we turn to shows from independent filmmakers. Web series such as Juju Web Series, created by director and screenwriter Moon Ferguson, have a growing fanbase consisting of those looking for binge-worthy shows with mystical Black and brown representation. On the creation of Juju, Ferguson writes, "I wanted to experience supernatural beings who look like me. Blacks and People of Color are very underrepresented in the fantasy genre. I think it's time to start writing our stories in the fantasy realm. We are long overdue for Black witches, vampires, werewolves, sirens, soothsayers, fauns, etc. We hold an abundance of history which includes magic stemming back to Africa."

The Future of American Gods

During the TCA tour, Hirsch did mention that Anansi is not prominent in the chapters that the show is covering from the original novel. However, Anansi is relevant in later chapters (if sticking to the canon is really that important).

American Gods' third season is currently set for a 2020 release date, which will see the debut of the standard 10 new episodes. With all the changes in actors, debacles in the writers' room, and overall drama surrounding the show, is it even worth watching? The world will have to wait and see.

Cardi B has proven herself to be much more than a funny personality on social media or another reality TV star.

Born in the Bronx as Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar, Cardi B is an international mega-star. The "Bodak Yellow" rapper has accomplishments that far exceed her predecessors, including being the first female rapper on the cover of Vogue Magazine (along with her one-year-old daughter, Kulture). From her record-breaking and award-winning albums to her successes in the fashion industry (because her stylist never misses), Cardi has become a household name. To quote her own lyrics, Cardi's "little 15 minutes lasted long as hell."

Cardi has used her platform to expressed her political standings, most notably on Instagram. Her animated speeches denouncing #45 after the government shutdown at the top of 2019 was the first widely known instance of The rapper speaking not only passionately but rationally about American politics.

In fact, the queen is loud and extremely vocal about her decisions and where she stands on major issues. She has tweeted about her position on social security, supported Cynthia Nixon during her race for Governor of New York, and stood firm in her stance against performing for the Super Bowl in support of Colin Kapernick's peaceful protest. Time and time again, she’s demonstrated where her personal and political values lie.

So, Cardi’s tweets about running for Congress earlier this month shouldn't have been an entire shock. On January 12, Cardi tweeted, "I think I want to be a politician. I really love government even tho I don't agree with Government." This was followed by, "I do [feel] like if I go back to school and focus up I can be part of Congress. I deadass have soooo much ideas that make sense. I just need a couple years of school and I can shake the table."

The following day (Jan. 13), she continued discussing her political aspirations with fans (and haters) who responded with questions, some intrigued by her interests and some denouncing her desires altogether. She replied to negative comments from conservatives and supported "friendly debates" with opposition to discuss their differences. Cardi even responded to questions about her potential policy on gun control, promoting evaluations and training for gun holders.


Cardi has received support from Senator Bernie Sanders and her fellow Sanders protégé and Bronx-native, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (or as she should be nicknamed, The Notorious AOC).

Last summer, the rapper strived to educate young voters on the platforms of the presidential candidates. She sat down with The Bern to discuss current societal issues and the future of America. Before this meeting, Cardi asked her followers to submit questions they wanted to hear Senator Sanders answer; she chose the most popular, giving constituents a closer and more personal understanding of Sanders' platform and ideas. Afterwards, Sanders wrote in an Instagram post, "We had a great conversation about the future of America. ‬And let me tell you: Cardi B is right.‬ ‪Together, we'll get millions of young people involved in the political process and transform this country."

As a public figure, she already also has the support of much of the millennial and Gen-Z generation, which many current presidential candidates are trying to gain. With her relatable public image, social media popularity, and access to many major figures in politics and entertainment, she has a fair shot of winning more votes than one would first assume.

To run for Congress, Cardi B has to be 25 years of age, a U.S. citizen, and living in the state she's looking to be elected in. Cardi B is definitely within the age range (currently 27 years old) and, from public records, is a U.S.citizen currently living in Atlanta, Georgia.

Assuming Cardi takes the time to study constitutional law, as she promised, in a world of Kardashian lawyers and celebrity presidents, she has an extremely fair shot of winning a congressional seat. From her many political tweets, Instagram story rants, her love for government and its history, and sit-downs with political figures, Belcalis Marlenis Almanzar could not only win, she could make (dare I say) a difference.

Either you're already sucked into this multi-timeline emotional roller coaster or someone you know is tearfully telling you how much you're missing–there's really no in between.

NBC's This Is Us takes viewers on a journey through the decades with love and drama stringing it all together.

While watching, it's easy to attempt to pinpoint which characters you most resemble. Over on Spiritual Twitter, the best way to do this is to guess and assign Zodiac signs to the characters, which makes watching the heart-wrenching drama a bit more fun.

Everyone can access their full birth chart, which lays out the positioning of the planets at the time of your birth. Think of it as a blueprint to your personality, past, present, and future. Your sun sign is your base nature, the personality you show to the world, no matter internal or external variances. Your moon sign indicates how you emote and how you process your emotions. If you're interested in knowing your own moon sign (and other planetary signs), you can download your birth chart and jump down that rabbit hole of information. (For the more advanced astro people, houses and degrees will not be considered here because seriously, who has that kind of time?).

Based on the show's canon, not only do we know characters' sun signs (the main astrological sign that most people know), but we can guess moon signs as well.

Jack

RIP to the man that made everyone, men and women alike, jealous of Rebecca Pearson. Like a Virgo, Jack is calculated, precise and makes things happen. His downfall, in true Virgo fashion, was his aim for perfection and his feeling of defeat when he fell short. We know "The Big Three" and their father's birthday is August 31, making all of them Virgos, but this doesn't necessarily mean they all have the same moon sign. For Jack, a Scorpio moon is fitting because of the passion that people with this sign are able to display. The other aspect of a Scorpio moon is that their hearts are very deep, open seas; while beautiful and majestic, there are depths they will never share and no one can ever begin to find.

Rebecca

Rebecca's birthday is never revealed, but we can assume she is an emotional Cancer. Rebecca Pearson lives in her feelings in almost every scene. She involves herself in her children's and grandchildren's (hey, Tess) lives even when she's not invited, but it's all done with the best of intentions. She is passionate and loyal, which makes her perfect for Jack, who desires someone who's going to be by his side no matter what. Because of her many emotional outbursts and occasional inability to hold back, Rebecca aligns with an Aries moon. With the typical "I have to be out front always" energy of Aries moon people, Rebecca shows off her fiery nature by being bold and courageous, whether standing up to her helicopter of a mother or going out for a new job. While intense and explosive in their feelings, Aries moons can also be insecure or overly aggressive and emotional without realizing it, which could definitely be said of Rebecca.

Kevin

Along with his father and siblings, Kevin is a Virgo, but there's a strong argument for a Leo sun sign, and his moon sign could easily be Sagittarius. Sagittarius energy is never settled and always on the move. Kevin's Hollywood lifestyle takes him across the country in the blink of an eye, and that's exactly how these moons want it. The only tricky thing is getting them to sit in one place for a relationship. Unless you're looking to jet set alongside Kev, it's going to be a bit difficult to build a solid connection. As we already know, Kevin struggles to keep a healthy relationship repeatedly on the show.

Kate

Kate has Pisces energy, but alas, she is a Virgo. For her moon, she seems like more of a fiery Leo woman. Leo moons tend to do anything to keep the attention on them and will react negatively when it isn't. Often creative, which speaks to Kate's singing talents, they dream of being center stage and enjoying that limelight. Leo moons are fun to be around and are always ready to be out having a good time (because who wants to stay indoors when you look that good?). Kate also displays some of the negative traits surrounding this fire sign: She can be extremely dramatic, overly sensitive, petty, and emotionally demanding.

Randall

Now, Randall Pearson is easily the most Virgo of his siblings with his perfectionism and organized ways. However, with a Capricorn moon, his Virgo sun is practically in hyper-drive. The double Earth sign man can do absolutely anything he puts his mind to. Very much a career-driven leader, he has a solid foundation of family, friends, and loved ones. While Capricorn moons are the sort of people that you want to go into business with, these moons are also prone to anxiety and depression from the amount of pressure they put on themselves. We see this for the first time in episode 15 of season 1 when Randall has a panic attack in his office at work. While they're loyal and dedicated partners, Capricorn moons can easily drive themselves insane trying to be perfect in everyone's eyes as well as their own (which is inherently impossible).

Beth

The human balance beam that is Beth Pearson never ends, and she just screams Libra woman. She's diplomatic and fair in her decision-making and makes an effort to ensure everyone in her household is happy and at peace. Whether that's by making sure all the girls get to their extracurriculars, helping Randall launch his many projects, starting a new career path, or making sure additional house guests feel at home, she does it all while keeping her own life and dreams alive. Whew! With this level of balance, only a Virgo moon would provide the superpowers to make it all happen. With planner in hand, Beth keeps it all together. However, similar to Cap moons, Virgos aim for perfection, which leads them to suppress negative emotions and deny personal dilemmas. Virgo moons will swallow their woes to make sure everyone else is okay before themselves, and they will only explode when they've had absolutely enough

Toby

Similar to Beth, Toby displays diplomatic and zen Libra vibes. He does what he can, but his Pisces moon makes him a little more emotional than Beth. With that strong Pisces intuition, Toby is great at noticing when his wife, Kate, is hiding her true feelings and can pick up on those emotions easily. He's also creative and dreamy-eyed about life at times, but we love this about the huge teddy bear (or buff bear) that is Toby. With this in mind, his emotions ebb and wane more than he'd like, so he keeps them balanced with prescription medication for his depression.

Don't miss new episodes of This Is Us every Tuesday at 9/8c on NBC.