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Grotesque American TV series intrigues Chinese audiences

By Kou Jie (People's Daily Online)    16:54, June 19, 2017

Featuring mythological content spanning thousands of years and several continents, "American Gods," this summer’s most-watched TV show, has not only become a headline in Chinese media, but has also sparked fierce discussion among Chinese audiences and critics.

The show, which is a television adaption of a novel written by English author Neil Gaiman, premiered on the Starz network in April. The central premise of the show is that gods and mythological creatures exist because people have faith in them, but as new technologies and lifestyles emerge, people’s faith in the old gods has faded, leading to the rise of new gods and the diminishment of the old ones.

The show has been a hot topic in China ever since it aired. Online discussions hashtagged “AmericanGods” had garnered around 27 million views as of press time. The show has also generated considerable buzz in Chinese media, resulting in several reviews that explain the show’s plots and the background of its mythological beings.

“The new show has attracted a large Chinese audience, mainly because of the mythological messages it conveys. As a country with rich mythology, Chinese people have a natural affinity for traditions and folklore. However, Chinese audiences may not be so familiar with Leprechauns from Irish fairy tales, Ifrit from Islamic folklore and Anubis from Egyptian mythology, so the show has provided us a unique angle from which to approach the cultures of other nations,” said Alex Xin, a PhD candidate at Peking University.

The show currently has a score of 7.7 out of 10 on Chinese media review site Douban.com.

Despite the series’ favorable reception in U.S., many ordinary Chinese people have expressed discontent with the series, complaining that lacks "oriental elements."

“I have noticed that the show includes gods from Nordic, Roman, Slavic and even Islamic cultural backgrounds, but you can hardly find any characters with Asian origins. The show’s theme lies in the conflict between modernity and tradition, the confrontation between religion and scientific development. China is also experiencing such social issues, and it would be so nice if some Chinese elements could also be added to the show, to create greater resonance for the Chinese public,” one netizen commented on Zhihu, a Chinese Quora-like website. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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