The Sandman, a beloved comic book series by Neil Gaiman, recently debuted on Netflix. The show has garnered praise and criticism for its bold representation of queer characters and relationships. While some of these depictions have been controversial, they are important to include because they represent the experiences of people in marginalized communities. The depictions can help break down stereotypes, promote awareness and acceptance, and encourage self-esteem among LGBTQ+ individuals.
The show portrays a variety of queer characters in both the supernatural and human realms. The ethereal muse Calliope, the shape-shifting immortal Nada, the unhinged magician/power-hungry John Dee/Burgess, and the unassuming diner owner Rose Walker are all portrayed as queer. Even the ruthless, nefarious God of dreams Morpheus is a nonbinary character who uses preferred gender language and identifies as a sibling to his other gods.
In addition to these characters, the phantasmagorical landscapes of Hell, the Dream Realm, and other domains are often infused with queer themes. For example, the ravens who guard the Gate of Dreams are a mixture of real birds and CGI creatures. The ethereal nature of the characters also lends itself to a distinctly queer imagining, which reflects the importance of including these representations.
Despite these positive representations, some critics have criticized the show for focusing too heavily on queer characters or depicting gay relationships as negative. For instance, one critic claimed that the depiction of a trans woman, Desire, as a sexy, sultry villain is offensive because it reinforces negative stereotypes of trans women. The problem with these critiques is that they miss the point of representation. The point of inclusion is not to avoid depicting evil queer characters, but to portray them as complex and nuanced rather than stereotyped.