Missing the point of fans’ various criticisms against Netflix’s live-action adaptation of his seminal comic book series, Neil Gaiman has responded to accusations that he went ‘woke’ with its production by pointing to the fact that the original books he “wrote 35 years ago” were “woke”.
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Gaiman offered his thoughts on the pushback to his “as inclusive as possible” production philosophy for Netflix’s The Sandman during a recent interview with the radio branch of British news outlet The Times, the aptly named Times Radio.
"That’s not political correctness, that’s just treating other people with respect."
Author Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) describes being called ‘woke’ for his work in The Sandman on #TimesRadio. pic.twitter.com/VRbD37zwhl
— Times Radio (@TimesRadio) October 5, 2022
As seen in a clip shared by the outlet on October 5th, Gaiman opened the discussion by asserting, “When people are accusing me of being quote unquote ‘woke’ for Sandman, stuff that I wrote 35 years ago, it’s like, yes”
“I remember when they called it politically correct,” he then continued, “And then you talk about political correctness gone mad.”
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“And I remember once reading a book where they started talking about political correctness and the fact that you could no longer make jokes about people’s ethnicity or religion in the same way,” the author further recalled. “And I thought, ‘Well, actually, that’s not political correctness, that’s just treating other people with respect’.”
In light of this revelation, said Gaiman, “I started changing things.”
“So I just think, ‘okay, [instead of ‘political correctness’ gone mad] that is treating other people with respect gone mad,” he explained. “And I would love to just sort of substitute, to have a little thing on my computer, that substitutes the word ‘woke’ whenever it turns up with ‘just treating other people with respect’.”
He then turned to expound on the topic of how, “It’s the idea of escapism and the fact that you have given people, with a book, something to escape to – you’ve given them people who they know.”
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“I get now,” the storied recounted to Radio Times, “as an elderly author, I get adults – particularly women – coming up to me and saying ‘I read Coraline as a girl and it got me through really hard times it got my through abuse, it got me through break ups, it got me through very bad places, and I would think to myself, ‘well if Coraline can get through her story, I can get through mine and I would go back and reread it.””
“Okay, in this case, with this book, I gave people a place to go,” he added.
“I gave them…Coraline is a person who may not ever have existed in reality, but she existed in their heads, and I gave them very literally escape and perhaps in some cases gave them tools to fight back or ways not to be afraid when they’d finished escaping, when they’d return from the book,” he concluded. “And that’s very real.”
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As noted above, Gaiman’s rebuttal misses the core of the issue these accusations of ‘woke’ were founded upon.
The core issue of fan complaints’ was not that the original series was ‘progressive’ or ‘respectable’ in its treatment of its various characters, but rather that the author had given in to the trends of race- and gender-swapping in casting the long-awaited adaptation of his beloved series.
Further, it seems odd that Gaiman would miss the source-material-respecting point this bad – whether intentionally or otherwise – in light of his own admission during his interview with Radio Times that Coraline was “very real” for its fans.
If something is “real” to a fan, it seems to reason that they would not take kindly to having the image that has been painted for them for years – roughly 33 in the case of The Sandman – forcefully drawn over by controversial modern mindsets.
Ultimately, whether Gaiman ever has time to earnestly engage with his critics in between accusing those who have taken similar issue with Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power outright “racists” remains to be seen.
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