As children, we are taught to fear what goes bump in the night–but what about what goes bump in the day? Laura Moon certainly doesn’t abide by the constructs of time, nor the constructs of what is considered to be, by society, “normal.” In fact, Laura can be perceived as a touch unsavory; a product of her own making, shaded in by the different facets of her depression. Regardless, this ruthless woman showcases what it means to be dead, while simultaneously revealing what it means to be human.
Let’s face it, dead or alive, the human condition is something the entire population grapples with, particularly in a judgmental and at times, cut throat world; factors which can be easily amplified when battling mental illness. It is ingrained within people from the early stages of their lives to fear who and what they do not understand, so when faced with the likes of Laura, people tend to react harshly, and thus, out of judgment. In the context of the fictional world, those truths remain as real and as tangible as the physical world around us. Even more so, what we deem as inherently wrong and even abnormal, are more often than not dragged into the light and examined. American Gods is no exception to this as they subject their audience to these character examinations, most prominently via Laura Moon, while challenging them to empathize, gain comprehension, and shift their own prejudiced perspectives as they are forced to face and spend time with an unorthodox, stereotype-smashing woman.
When viewers first meet Laura Moon in the episode “Git Gone,” they walk through Laura’s life alongside her, observing her as she moves throughout each day existing in lieu of living, and acting out the day-to-day motions of working, eating, and having sex, while attempting to find what makes her truly “come to life.” In the process, her character is quickly and irreversibly pinned by the audience as “unlikable” for reasons which include her guarded, less than charming demeanor, her affair with Audrey’s husband, Robbie, and her lack of commitment and general treatment of her own husband, Shadow. Though it is apparent that Laura is battling some major functioning depression, the judgment from viewers does not ebb, even as they watch her contemplate suicide, then attempt to follow through on her flirtations with death by killing herself with bug spray in the hot tub. Laura’s choices outweigh whatever amount of sympathy one may try to feel for her since most find them to be unforgivable, and the problem with this is that despite how much this woman is deemed unfavorable, Laura is still Laura. Fictional or not, Laura does not give a fuck, and perhaps that is something from which we all can learn.
Take the situation with Laura’s friend, Audrey, for instance: Audrey learns of Robbie and Laura’s affair at the same time she’s given the news of their deaths. Her reaction? Anger, resulting in a failed attempt to have revenge sex with Shadow on Laura’s grave which is later followed by informing an inconveniently undead, and unarmed, Laura to keep her feelings to herself as Audrey only finds value in Laura’s thoughts regarding the betrayal she made against her. From there, the audience learns that Laura’s affair has nothing to do with Audrey, personally; it was a survival tactic that she employed while living out the lie of waiting for Shadow to be through in prison. Laura knew her promise to Shadow was a lie from the moment the words “Yeah…yes.” teetered behind her lips before she shoved them into the air, and to be fair, Laura flirts with death like she does commitment. Shadow is simply oblivious to that fact, along with the hard truth that Laura is perpetually empty. Her perfect plan has failed, and as her desires to go to prison with Shadow are squandered, her interest in life is as well. Limitations are boring, and so she’s caught in stagnation, again. Until Robbie steps in, off limits, and well, there Laura has it: a new way to survive and stave off the emptiness that keeps on building.
Even before Shadow was incarcerated, Laura had him as a pet, with herself in the role of a passive owner, even going so far as to nickname him “Puppy,” while giving him gentle, yet firm commands of what to do: sit, listen, and go rob the casino because I have the perfect plan. She was as removed from him as she was in all the other aspects of her life: work, sex, and even Dummy. Truth is, Shadow only provided Laura with a distraction from her mind numbing existence, until their routine grew stale and her heart weighed heavy once more; her depression likely preventing her from forming attachments to anyone and anything, because what’s the point? The world and God don’t care about her, so she keeps from giving two shits about it and Him. Shadow, though a distraction, is certainly a factor in Laura’s life that has her once again complying to expectations, the biggest one being marriage. Despite Shadow being perfectly happy, and in the face of him being offended, Laura stays true to who she is, elaborating that he is not to blame for her being profoundly bereft, while holding zero regrets in her reveal that she needs more: she needs to live recklessly. She needs to break other people’s expectations of her and the mundane standards in which society tries to force her to abide by. Above all, Laura needs to believe that life can be more interesting than it actually is.
Only it isn’t. It never is, until Laura’s tumble into the afterlife, where she becomes cognizant of magic’s existence and the existence of the gods. Here, she comes into contact with her judge, Jacquel, who she abrasively refutes in order to stay in control of her life, now ended, while making it quite clear that Laura herself is the only one who can pass judgment; as in life, so in death. She proclaims to Jacquel that she’s lived her life, good and bad, before overtaking Jacquel’s role of judge completely, stating further that her heart certainly beats the feather in a moment of what would normally be considered a moment of condemnation, only with Laura, there is only factual verdict brought down upon herself; which makes sense given her matter-of-fact, zero qualms nature. Jacquel, on the other hand, attempts to take back his position as he condemns her to the darkness which holds no guarantee of peace, only to be slapped in the face by a twist of fate: Mad Sweeney’s lucky coin. With second chances, comes challenges: instead of escaping life in death, Laura is forced to come to terms with life and the consequences of her actions. She confronts Audrey, amidst her screams of terror and insults, while expelling embalming fluid on her friend’s toilet, then deals with Shadow, initially by rescuing him from a lynching and Technical Boy’s crones; and it is with Shadow in which her heart finally beats for. It is in death that change for Laura occurs, and it is in death that a connection to Shadow is authentically felt, because in truth, Laura experiences her true death before her physical one. She leads a life of disenchantment while harboring zero belief in anything until Mad Sweeney’s coin plants itself inside her chest cavity where she finds her belief in her love for Shadow, along with her self-proclaimed slogan of “fuck those assholes,” which gears her toward being dead set on taking on the gods in order to survive. The gods hold the key to her self-preservation, which is an issue Laura cannot help but conquer, because as much as she has flirted with death during her mortal life, life in death, Laura finds, is at long last too damn interesting.
Regardless of whether people disapprove of Laura Moon or not, every decision and subsequent action Laura enacts throughout “Git Gone” and the rest of the season is done out of survival; not so much for her survival within society, but more so for her surviving herself, and thus, surviving her depression as she is fully aware that functioning and solely scraping by are not enough. This in itself is admirable because whether we care to admit it to ourselves or not, Laura embodies the human condition, thereby representing a reflection of ourselves as we, too, are only doing what we can, and what we need to in order to survive in a seemingly godless, all too real world. And while the world is boring and drearily devoid of the magic Laura once knew and so fully believed in as a child, she nevertheless is consistent in her pursuit of that which is extinct. People rot. Laura is concrete proof of the fact; and yet, the struggle to regain belief in what she knows cannot be real reflects the type of solace people everywhere seek. Humans may die everyday, but with every mortal closing, a rebuttal is placed in the way of the door being shut: a personal journey must be believed to continue, be it in heaven, purgatory, or the map of a new life altogether gifted by reincarnation. There is a kind of irony in that as Laura’s body proceeds through the stages of decomposition, her evidence based, resentment laced belief in both the gods, and her apparent destiny to guard Shadow as he walks through the world of the divine, ultimately drives her to continue fighting the war against herself, the inevitable dark, and the rest of the assholes around her.