The success of Netflix's smash hit dramedy series The Sandman has resurrected the controversy surrounding the comic book's representation of LGBTQ+ characters. The show has sparked debate on whether or not it's too "woke" and has been celebrated for its nuanced portrayal of diverse identities in fantasy, a genre that is notoriously lacking in this area. Its portrayal of queer characters has also proved a milestone in the world of comics, inspiring new writers to push boundaries and broaden societal perspectives through narratives that reflect the rich tapestry of human experience.
The Sandman has an impressively diverse cast, from bisexual Johanna Constantine (Jenna Coleman) to gender-flipped Lucifer Morningstar (Gwendoline Christie) and the nonbinary Desire (Mason Alexander Park). There's also a gloriously drag-centric waking world and the Dream Realm, plus a host of other LGBTQI side characters and even a raven character who is a trans woman!
Unfortunately, the show's impressive diversity hasn't stopped some viewers from arguing that The Sandman is too "woke". Some have complained that it's too progressive and paints all LGBTQ+ people in a positive light. Others have claimed that the show's representation of queerness is offensive, evoking tropes of abusive relationships and even violence.
There's nothing wrong with incorporating LGBTQI villains into television as long as their queerness doesn't reinforce harmful stereotypes. The problem arises when the villain's sexuality becomes inextricable from their evil actions, a trope that has been seen in everything from Scar in The Lion King to a gender-neutral version of Ursula in The Little Mermaid. This is the danger that The Sandman risks in its depiction of Corinthian, but fortunately the series deftly avoids feeding into these harmful tropes.