After receiving harsh criticism for The Sandman’s casting decisions, Neil Gaiman has responded. The Sandman is a television adaptation that made its debut exclusively on Netflix earlier this year and is based on Gaiman’s similarly named graphic novels. The Sandman’s cast grew throughout 2020 and 2021 after a protracted development process that saw it transform from a movie to a television series, with some casting decisions sparking hateful backlash, particularly the choices of Kirby Howell-Baptiste & Mason Alexander Park. While Park, a nonbinary actor, faced homophobic criticism for playing Desire, Howell-Baptiste, a Black actress, faced racist criticism for portraying Death, who was portrayed as a white woman in the original graphic novels. Some viewers were merely offended by Netflix’s decision to cast queer and BIPOC actors, while others perceived it as another attempt by the streaming service to win over viewers by casting a token number of minorities.
Gaiman addresses criticism of The Sandman’s casting directly in a conversation with Inverse. Many of the characters in the graphic novels are openly queer, according to Gaiman, who also claims that true fans of the comics are aware that the Endless, such as Death, don’t have a fixed appearance but rather appear differently to different people. Gaiman claims that those who believed the series was about minorities in order to be “woke” obviously never read the original comics. Gaiman’s entire remark is below.
“Oh, and occasionally, you get people shouting at us for having made up all of these gay characters who weren’t in the comics, and then we’d go ‘Have you read the comics?’ And they’d go ‘No.’ And we’d go, ‘They were gay in the comics.’ And they’d go ‘You’re just woke and nobody is going to watch your horrible show.’ And then we went Number 1 in the world for four weeks. And they went ‘It’s all bots! We hate you. You’re woke.’ It’s a weird silliness. These complainers don’t like gay people, they don’t like Black people, and they don’t like women. And if you look at their profiles, they don’t like vaccines, they don’t like Democrats, and they’re not big on voting.”
How Sandman Survived Harmful Criticism To Become Popular
The Sandman was a huge success, as Gaiman notes, and only three days after its debut, it was ranked as the top show on Netflix worldwide. Just over a month after its debut, on September 18, the series had amassed over 393.14 million hours of viewing across the globe. It also held the top spot for English-language TV shows on Netflix for several weeks. Many other viewers praised The Sandman for just being openly diverse, perhaps even more so than the original graphic novel series, despite the racist and homophobic criticism of the casting decisions.
Gaiman has consistently backed the casting decisions made for the series since it was first announced, even tweeting once that he doesn’t give a “f**k” if someone doesn’t understand or hasn’t read Sandman and complains about a non-binary Desire or even that Death isn’t white enough. In addition to fans who haven’t read The Sandman comics, Gaiman has been quick to call out those who don’t realize why a Black Death or a nonbinary Desire make perfect sense in the series. Desire makes their screen debut as nonbinary, completely in keeping with Gaiman’s original work, and Death is referred to by they/them pronouns in the graphic novels as well. Death, like Dream, appears differently to various people, and can therefore look like anyone.
Although there have always been and will continue to be harmful criticisms from viewers, The Sandman’s success is unaffected by them. The news that the show had been renewed for further episodes was finally made public earlier this month, and in October, Jenna Coleman acknowledged that there may be a chance for a spinoff centered on her Johanna Constantine character. Gaiman and the rest of The Sandman’s cast have been completely supportive of their co-stars, despite the fact that dealing with hateful criticism is not something any actor or creator would want to experience, suggesting that the show will continue to enjoy many more great successes.