Responsibility to Represent | The Pantheon Project
by Cassidy Mayfield
This week’s highlight is The Pantheon Project, a YouTube miniseries written by Jo Chiang, a Taiwanese-American writer, actor, and filmmaker working out of New York. The Pantheon Projectis a six-episode miniseries about a girl who moves to the big city and discovers that her two roommates are actually Pele and Guan Yin, Pacific Islander and East Asian deities. Naturally, hijinks ensue. Jo is a co-founder of Puddle Jumping Productions. You can follow Jo at her professional tumblr, jochiang, or her personal, thatcupofjo.
What inspired you to do the Pantheon Project?
I was looking for a way to combine three of my preoccupations: representation, the manipulation of narrative conventions, and urban fantasy. I’ve been fascinated by the storytelling capabilities of the vlog form for a long time, andThe Lizzie Bennet Diariesproved that it could be done and done well. I wanted to play with that format, but at the same time, I wanted to commit to highlighting identities and histories that often get shunted to the side or ignored altogether. I’m also deeply fascinated by urban fantasy and the way our lives can be intertwined with the fantastical, so the Pantheon Project is the result of my first attempt at wrapping all three of those things together.
Your main divinities, Pele and Guan Yin, are from pantheons not commonly known to American viewers. Why did you choose those goddesses instead of more mainstream ones?
For one, I wanted to make sure that there was no excuse not to cast People of Color in this web series. In addition, by specifically choosing to highlight Pacific Islander and East Asian goddesses in the first few episodes, I hoped to challenge what pantheons we automatically think about when we talk about gods. Also, Guan Yin means a lot to me, personally. As a Buddhist figure, she’s an important tie that keeps me connected to my cultural heritage, and I wanted to introduce her to the world.
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