Neil Gaiman has spent the last several days on social media shutting down toxic fans of “The Sandman” upset with some of the casting choices made for Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of the comic book series. The streaming giant and Gaiman announced May 28 a handful of new cast members, including Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death and Mason Alexander Park as Desire. Death is billed as the “wiser, nicer, and much more sensible sister” of the series’ protagonist, Tom Sturridge’s Dream of the Endless/Morpheus, while Desire is “Dream’s sibling and everything you want, whatever you want, and whoever you are.”
Some “Sandman” fans took issue with Gaiman for casting Howell-Baptiste, a Black actress, in a role that is visually depicted as a white character in the source material. One fan noted on Twitter that Howell-Baptiste’s casting was irksome because Gaiman doesn’t “give a fuck” about standing by his original work. Other “Sandman” fans criticized the casting of non-binary actor Park as Desire, even though Gaiman wrote the character of Desire as non-binary in the comic books.
“I give all the fucks about the work,” Gaiman wrote on social media. “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 nonbinary Desire or that Death isn’t white enough. Watch the show, make up your minds.”
Responding to one fan who asked about Desire always being a non-binary character, Gaiman wrote, “Well, yes. But you’d have to have read the comics to know that. And the shouty people appear to have skipped that step.”
Gaiman also shared one fan’s response to Park’s casting that reads: “Desire in ‘Sandman’ was really the first time I encountered in fiction the idea of a person being non-binary. It helped me when reality presented me with out non-binary people, some of whom I now know and love. I can’t imagine reading ‘Sandman’ and desiring Desire as anything other.”
“We had barely started looking when (they/them) reached out on Twitter, and threw their hat into the ring,” Gaiman wrote in a blog post about the casting May 2 (via The Wrap). “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.”
Gaiman later told one fan that he doesn’t think anyone complaining about a non-binary actor playing Desire has actually read “The Sandman” comic books. Netflix’s official synopsis for “The Sandman” reads: “A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are seamlessly interwoven, ‘The Sandman’ follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.”