It’s been a long road for the live-action adaptation of The Sandman—Neil Gaiman’s sprawling comic series about the mythic gods that control humanity’s various states of unconscious being. Existing outside the bounds of reality and according to Gaiman’s personification, these characters—be it Death, Dream, or Desire—can really look like anything or anyone. That’s part of the beauty of his work.
However, not everyone seems to recognize that. After last week’s massive casting announcement for the upcoming Netflix adaptation, some fans were more annoyed that the personification of Death didn’t resemble the uber-pale version of Tori Amos, who some believed was the inspiration for the character. Just try and have some imagination, fans. But creator Neil Gaiman doesn’t give an F or an S about what you think Sandman should be. He’s spent three decades keeping milquetoast versions of his work off the air.
Responding to one Twitter user’s insinuation that Gaiman sold out by casting a Black actor in the role of Death or a nonbinary person as Desire, Gaiman made it clear that he gives every fuck about his work and zero fucks about what you think, thank you very much. “I give all the fucks about the work,” tweeted Gaiman. “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.”
It’s an unfortunate part of our I.P.-obsessed fandoms that crave devotion to the source material visually (but rarely narratively). Obviously, the idea of Death has no race and the idea of Desire has no gender—in fact, all the members of the Endless (which is what Gaiman called this anthropomorphic gang of cosmic entities) change shape frequently throughout the Sandman books. For example, when Desire first appears in Sandman number 10, they are described as “him-, her-, or itself.” The narrator continues, “Desire has never been satisfied with just one sex, or just one of anything.” It’s right there, people. So it really does make one wonder how Gaiman is selling out by supporting the casting of Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death or Mason Alexander Park as Desire.
Apparently, not every fan recognized Desire’s nonbinary identity. But according to Gaiman, “You’d have to have read the comics to know that. And the shouty people appear to have skipped that step.”