Sometimes when we get articles written about Americus, there are these comments that get posted from people who haven’t read the book that are instantly critical of our handling of Christianity without having actually seen how we did it. It’s a little grating, because we did actually make some efforts to not be too jerky about our depictions, even though we make fun of a lot of people in the book (on all sides). If it wasn’t funny, Americus would just read like an after school special, and we’d all learn something today/be bored out of our pants unless we find humor in overdramatic teen acting.

We do like to hear criticisms from people who actually are reading as we post the story, because who doesn’t want an engaged readership? And since this chapter finally resolves some things, (as end of books do) it seems like a good time to go behind some of the religious stuff.

Americus was written & conceived of in the middle of the Bush years, in a time when people were actively participating in the action depicted in the plot of the book (banning books) and frequently for the reasons cited, sometimes including ridiculousness that could not be believably written as fiction. (For a good primer, look up Laura Mallory & Harry Potter challenges.) Also, it still happens. Frequently with queer material and books for young adults. So, fundamentalist Christians are the villains here because they sort of volunteered through real life examples. Not that they’re the only group that does it, but it was a prevailing zeitgeist that religious beliefs would get you whatever you wanted if they were thumped enough. Even if you maybe were just exploiting something without actually believing it, invoking the Lord did a pretty good job of getting you what you want. (Even presidencies.)

When I first started writing the script four years ago, I approached it from the angle that Nancy might not actually believe in God. God was just an easy way for her to bully people and take the high ground. But she came off as really inhuman & cartoonishly villainous, so eventually we put in some actual references to her beliefs. It always pays to round out your characters. But some points that stayed the same in regard to the sincerity of the characters’ faith:

-There are zero scenes in churches, or with ministers, or priests.
-At no point does anyone claim to be affiliated with any church or specific branch of religion.
-Most of the evidence of Team Religion’s actual religiousness is them telling you so.
-Even within the main Christian family depicted, there’s dissent & a variety of attitudes.

Also, just to point out: at no point does the ACLU descend into Americus and save the town from itself. It’s one part of the town against the other. (And on picking Oklahoma, it’s just in the middle and didn’t already have a real town named Americus in it. No direct slight intended. Except for the Tulsa Race Riots, because that is some bs we should REALLY never forget, and I had to meet punk Oklahomans to find out about it.) (Happy belated Juneteenth, everybody.)

My point being, the point of Americus is not to bash Christianity or a place, which I think comes across if you actually read it all the way through to the end. (Which isn’t up yet. But will be.) It’s about bullies who use “faith” to control people. It’s like how Persepolis goes into the oppressiveness of Marjane Satrapi’s native country & culture (also of religious fundamentalists, just a different dominant culture), except intended for readers from within that country. Maybe that’s too high an aspiration? Maybe more like Teenagers From Mars without the swearing and mayhem. I dunno, I should probably go to bed already, this should have been up an hour ago.