There are currently fewer things in life that can cause greater conflicts of opinion than casting decisions involving the factors of race and gender, and the upcoming Netflix adaptation of The Sandman has becoming the latest production to come under-fire for some casting choices.
However, author Neil Gaiman has had some harsh words for those quick to pick fault with the casting of black and non-binary actors in some roles. The author shut down comments after a surge of toxic fans called him out as someone who “doesn’t give a f*ck” about being true to his own work, which came on the back of some recent cast member reveals for the highly anticipated graphic novel-based series.
Netflix and Neil Gaiman made the announcement on May 28th that new members of the growing cast would now include Kirby Howell-Baptiste as the character of Death, and Mason Alexander Park as Desire. It didn’t take fans of the Sandman book series long to point out that the character of Death is visually depicted as white in the graphic novels, while others jumped on the casting of non-binary Park as Desire, but some managed to completely miss the fact that Gaiman’s original character was indeed non-binary in the source material.
It took Gaiman little time to set a few records straight on his Twitter, writing, “I give all the f*cks about the work. I spent 30 years successfully battling bad movies of Sandman. I give zero fucks about people who don’t understand/haven’t read Sandman whining about a non-binary Desire or that Death isn’t white enough. Watch the show, make up your minds.”
Not done by any means, the author continued by responding to a number other comments made on the subject. In direct response to questions about Desire’s non-binary status in the comic-books, he said, “Well, yes. But you’d have to have read the comics to know that. And the shouty people appear to have skipped that step.” He also shared a reply by one fan, who cited Desire as, “the first time I encountered in fiction the idea of a person being non-binary”, with the same user going on to say that the character really helped them when meeting real people who consider themselves non-binary.
A month ago, Gaiman wrote a blog post about the Sandman casting process and how these two decisions came about. He wrote, “We had barely started looking when (they/them) reached out on Twitter, and threw their hat into the ring. We were thrilled when they got the part…[Death was] significantly harder to cast than you might imagine. Hundreds of talented women from all around the planet auditioned, and they were brilliant, and none of them were right. Someone who could speak the truth to Dream, on the one hand, but also be the person you’d want to meet when your life was done on the other. And then we saw Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s (she/her) audition and we knew we had our Death.”
While the casting process is still on-going, with other names attached to the Netflix project including Jenna Coleman, Patton Oswalt, David Thewlis and Stephen Fry, we are still a long way from seeing the final series hit screens.