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Neil Gaiman- Who are the New Gods? - American Gods

The modern gods right now are the things we give our attention to, the things we give our time to, because time is precious, time is what we use to worship. We should be wary of technology, we should be wary of our telephones because we give them our time, our attention and our love. We should be wary of the media, we give the media our time, we give it our attention. Do we worship it? Not exactly, but do we place it high in importance, higher than the kind of importance we would give our fellow men? Yes, I think we do, and that's dangerous.

– Neil Gaiman

The New Gods, also called "modern gods" or the "gods of progress", are the gods that currently dominate America and modern society, born due to the fall of the Old Gods.

Characteristics[]

Just like the Old Gods, the New Gods are born of belief and worship. However, unlike them, they do not obtain it through religions and mythologies: they rather use alternate, modern, often unconscious ways, such as urban legends, conspiracy theories, everyday rituals, accidents and murders (the latter considered as "blood sacrifice").

The existence of the New Gods seems to be caused by the special relationship between the North American land and divinities. Contrary to the Old Gods, the New Gods were not brought over from another continent or culture, and they only started manifesting when the worship and religion of the Old Gods faded away, their very existence filling a "faith gap".

One of the common traits of the New Gods is their pride and arrogance, their feeling of superiority towards the Old Gods caused by the fact that they are the current "ruling power" of America. They disdain everything deemed old, outdated or forgotten, and are obsessed with modernity, trends and upgrades. As Mr. Wednesday describes them: "Proud gods, fat and foolish creatures, puffed up with their own newness and importance". 

Yet the New Gods are also weaker than the Old Gods in the sense that they "fade" much faster than the ancient deities and have shorter lifespans: they lose power as soon as humanity becomes uninterested in their concepts, or as soon as what they represent becomes "obsolete" and is replaced by something newer or more efficient. As Shadow explains in the novel: "There was arrogance to the new ones. [...] But there was also a fear. They were afraid that unless they kept pace with a changing world, unless they remade and redrew and rebuilt the world in their image, their time would already be over.".

Novel[]

They were not the only people in this wave of visitors. If you had walked the paths of Rock City that day, you might have noticed people who looked like movie stars, and people who looked like aliens, and a number of people who looked most of all like the idea of a person and nothing like the reality. You might have seen them, but most likely you would never have noticed them at all. They came to Rock City in long limousines and in small sports cars and in oversized SUVs. Many of them wore the sunglasses of those who habitually wear sunglasses indoors and out, and do not willingly or comfortably remove them. There were suntans and suits and shades and smiles and scowls. They came in all sizes and shapes, all ages and styles. All they had in common was a look, a very specific look. It said, you know me; or perhaps, you ought to know me. An instant familiarity that was also a distance, a look, or an attitude-the confidence that the world existed for them, and that it welcomed them, and that they were adored.

List of New Gods[]


  • The Technical Boy, the god of computers and the Internet.
  • Media, the goddess of television.
  • The Spookshow, members of a mysterious organization named the Agency that represents the American beliefs in shadowy organizations, national conspiracies and the "men in black". Their headquarters are located in Washington (the capital city and seat of the federal government of the United-States, as well as the headquarter of numerous conspiracy-associated organizations such as the CIA or the FBI). Their leader is Mr. World. Members of the Agency include: Mr. Wood, Mr. Stone, Mr. Road and Mr. Town.
  • In Chapter Six Mama-Ji mentions among the new gods that "fell" how the railroad used to be worshiped by Americans but now the "iron gods are as forgotten as the emerald hunters". In Chapter Eighteen a new god has the appearance of a "railroad baron in an antique suit" with "the air of one who had seen better days", a twitching forehead and a watch chain stretched across his vest.
  • The "techies", gods of technology mentioned by Mr.World in Chapter Twelve and whose territories are Austin (home to the Silicon Hills) and San Jose (home to the Silicon Valley). Seem to be related to the Technical Boy.
  • The "players", deities of theatrical fame and the cinema industry, whose main center is Hollywood, home of the U.S. film industry. Mentioned by Mr. World in Chapter Twelve, they appear at Rock City as people "looking like movie stars". They might be the deification of actual American movie stars.
  • The "intangibles". The embodiment of the "invisible hand" of the market, they are the mysterious forces working behind the fluctuation in currency, the stock market and the economy. Their center of power is said in Chapter Twelve to be Wall Street, the heart of the American financial markets. They are never seen or described in the novel, however Technical Boy mentions in Chapter Seventeen that instead of fighting the Old Gods they would rather let the "market forces take care of it".
  • When Shadow meets Jesus, the latter mentions the gods "of ignorance and intolerance, of self-righteousness, idiocy and blame", adding that they "take a weight off" him, by embodying all the things people try to force onto him. In the same scene, Jesus also mentions "the god of guns" and the "god of bombs".
  • The "TV people" or "television people". They arrive at Rock City in a tour bus and are described as a dozen men and women looking like news anchors, with "perfect tans", "gleaming, reassuring smiles" and "pleasant, reasonable voices". They have a "phosphor-dot quality to them" and in the Backstage they appear as "beings with faces of smudged phosphor, glowing gently as if they existed in their own light". They seem to be related to Media.
  • Entities looking like aliens are mentioned at the reunion of the New Gods at Rock City, in Chapter Seventeen, presumably born out of the belief of Americans in ufology.
  • In Chapter Seventeen the technical boy speaks with a "thing" described as massive, with scalpel blades jutting from its face and its fingers, a cancerous face, tumorous lips and a glutinous voice. It thinks in a very simple and slow way. It might be linked to the "gods of hospital" Mr. Wednesday mentions in his list of the New Gods (see below).
  • Chapter Eighteen presents two groups of New Gods: "Great grey gods" of the airplanes, "heirs to all the dreams of heavier-than-air travels" ; and the car gods, a "powerful, serious-faced contingent, with blood on their black gloves and on their chrome teeth", "recipients of human sacrifice undreamed of since the Aztecs." In the same chapter Shadow also sees among the New Gods a "pillar of glittering smoke" with a mouth, and another entity that he suspects to be the embodiment of a drug from the way it "smiled and spanged and shivered".


Several passages in the novel refer to the New Gods without explicitely describing their members:

  • In Chapter Six, Wednesday lists a number of new gods whilst addressing the Old Gods at the House on the Rock, mentioning "gods of credit-card and freeway, of internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and beeper and of neon."
  • In Chapter Seven Media refers to the new gods as "the shopping malls" and the "online malls".
  • During the first of the Interludes, the new gods launch a "cold war" on the Old Gods using a variety of attacks and weapons, including: a falling girder, a possibly deranged man, carbon monoxyde poisoning caused by an elderly furnace and an Amtrak passenger train. It is unknown if this is all the doing of the Agency or the actions of several different new gods.

Television series[]

Notable New Gods[]

The New Gods of the television series are much more powerful than their novel counterparts, due to the evolution of "modernity" between 2000 and 2017. They are also less numerous: instead of the new gods being organized into groups like in the novel, each deity is the full, complete and only embodiment of their respective concept. The television series establishes that the new gods keep adapting and "upgrading" themselves to stay relevant and survive into the modern world through a series of reincarnations, metamorphosis and avatars.


  • Technical Boy is the god of technology. While representing the early 21st technology that are computers, smartphones and virtual-reality headsets, Technical Boy had many previous incarnations corresponding to the previous "new" and "cutting-edge" technologies, such as Telephone Boy, god of telephones during the World Wars era.
  • Media is the goddess of media. Originally the embodiment of fame, advertisement, pop culture and 20th century media, the goddess ended up evolving into New Media, a goddess embodying the 21st century media : social media, fake news, Internet and global content.
  • Mr. World is the leader of the New Gods, a personification of both globalization and the belief in a "shadow power" secretly ruling everything, "the man behind the men behind the men".
  • The Caretaker and Mr. Town are agents of Black Briar, the representation of numerous American conspiracy theories about secret government projects and the existence of an unofficial organization involved in said projects. They are the equivalent of the novel's Spooks.
  • The new gods are regularly seen using the "Children" to do their biding, faceless entites acting as generic underlings. They can however be given specific identities ans tasks by more powerful deities (see the Social media entities).
  • Money: all but stated to be a new god, possibly one of the oldest new gods. Said to be one of the most powerful gods in America, his status allows him to be outside of the power of Mr. World, but also to be considered by Mr. Wednesday as a potential ally for the Old Gods.


It is unknown if there are other new gods outside of these main ones.

  • Media describes the new gods in The Secret of Spoons as: "We are the coming thing. We are already here. We are self-driving cars and 3D printers and subdermal time-released insulin."
  • Mr. Town tells Shadow in "The Beguiling Man" that he works for the gods who "gave us penicillin and streaming porn and aircraft carriers that circle the globe."
  • While Money seems to be a new god (due to having no mythological background and being a literal embodiment of currencies and banks), the fact he refuses to obey Mr. World and that Mr. Wednesday wants him as an ally puts his exact nature at doubt.

Behavior[]

Bruce Langley explained that there is an "internal struggle" among the new gods, because while they all share an agenda, each one has his or her own motivations. [1]. He also described the new gods as constantly doubling down each other in hope to get more worship: as for all gods, they were made to be worshiped and thus are separate and alone. The new gods even lack what unites the old gods together, "the solidarity of being screwed up". They cannot have the "laid-back" attitude of the old gods because they are constantly alert and aware, aware that they can be replaced and need to stay relevant, since in their world "irrelevance means death". [2]


Allies of the New Gods[]


In the television series, the New Gods are able to "upgrade" the Old Gods by making bargains and deals with them, offering them the power, technology or mediatic influence needed to adapt themselves to the modern world and survive as "new" gods.

  • Mr. Wood. A very ancient, if not one of the first, American gods, animistic embodiment of forests and trees. Sacrificed his forests to become "something else", a wood-based monstrosity reflecting the power of wood as a primary material in America.
  • Vulcan : Roman god of fire, smiths and volcanoes. Made a deal with the New Gods to become the god of firearms, finding worship in America's gun culture.
  • Easter : Former ally of the New Gods. Ostara, goddess of rebirth, spring and fertility. Made a deal with Media to popularize her holiday as "Easter".
  • Saint Nicholas : Mentioned to have made a deal with Media to popularize his holiday as "Christmas" and survive as "Santa Claus".
  • Bilquis: Former ally of the New Gods. An ancient goddess of love and sexuality that made a deal with Technical Boy to find new worship through online dating services.
  • Argus Panoptes : A mythological being from Greek mythology. Made a deal with the New Gods to become the embodiment of CCTV and mass surveillance.
  • Columbia : First female embodiment of the United-States and personification of Manifest Destiny, she made a bargain with the New Gods before World War II to become the figure of Rosie the Riveter, "Our Lady of the War Effort".


Gallery[]


Notes and trivia[]

  • Among the names given to the New Gods in the novel, we can find: the new gods, the modern gods, the gods of progress, "the crew at Radio Modern" (by Technical Boy in the novel) and "the new kids" (by Mr. Nancy in the novel).
  • The essence of the New Gods is described by Shadow in Chapter Eighteen as "a web of energy, of opinions, of gulfs".
  • While Mr. Wednesday describes the freeways as belonging to the New Gods in his speech to the Old Gods, in Chapter Nine he says to Shadow that he doesn't know on "which side" the freeways are.
  • When asked in 2016, prior to the release of the television series, if Tumblr would be a part of Media or its "own god" among the New Gods, Neil Gaiman said he doubted Tumblr would be its own god/goddess/gender-neutral deity. However he said that if it were, it would be something "younger and sassier" than Media. [3]
  • When asked if the mascots of fast-food restaurants could be part of the New Gods, Neil Gaiman answered they probably wouldn't be gods in the American Gods universe. [4]
  • Neil Gaiman confirmed that the "players" and the "TV people" are two different groups. [5]
  • Ironically, in the novel the shopping malls are mentioned as one of the domains of the New Gods, while in the television series they are seen as the dying domains of the Old Gods (a reference to the " dead mall" phenomenon).
  • Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab created a perfume oil based on the New Gods for their "American Gods II" line. It is described as: Scorched wires, silicone, tar, chlorine, wax, rubber, and exhaust. They also created a perfume oil based on the Intangibles for their "American Gods III" line, described as: Gods of the Stock Market, of securities and trades, of trade and upheaval, debt, fortune, and risk: chaotic synthetic notes, bubbling aldehydes, and the electric green of market euphoria.
  • It should be noted that the term "New God" doesn't cover only deities. Just like how the Old Gods include in their ranks supernatural beings such as fairies, spirits, folklore heroes and monsters, the New Gods include in their ranks aliens, movie stars and seemingly-human agents.

References[]

See also[]

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