‘The New Yorker’ Paints Neil Gaiman Fans In Unflattering Light
The recent profile of Neil Gaiman in “The New Yorker” is a fascinating read. Far more detailed than your average puff piece, writer Dana Goodyear delves into the mega-successful author/screenwriter/comic book scribe’s personal life (he recently proposed to musician Amanda Palmer), creative process (the idea for his new short film “Statuesque” came while watching Palmer perform), and his familial ties to Scientology. (Gaiman’s late father was a high-ranking member of the Church, though the author himself is no longer affiliated.) There’s also an interesting tidbit for “Sandman” fans: several of Gaiman’s writer pals are thinking of doing an anthology of stories based on the “Calliope” issue of the acclaimed Vertigo series.
But Gaiman’s rabid (and diverse) fanbase isn’t all that well represented. Were someone to read the article with no prior knowledge of Gaiman’s work, they’d come out thinking that all of his fans are socially awkward Goth kids — a generalization that is more than a little facile, and inaccurate, given his current status as a multimedia superstar with widespread crossover appeal.
Describing an event that Gaiman and Palmer performed together at in Manhattan, Goodyear writes that, “Everywhere Gaiman goes, he encounters women dressed as Death, Dream’s sister in ‘Sandman’: black clothing, elaborate black eye makeup, and, often, an ankh charm around the neck.”
Really? Everywhere he goes, huh? Maybe that description would’ve flown back in 1994. But to paint the Gaiman faithful as a bunch of pale, black-garbed goths is to ignore the legions of kids, parents, teachers, comic book fans, literature buffs, and many others, who enjoy his work today.
Even the Death reference feels dated and off. I interviewed Gaiman many years back at a Sandman convention in Minneapolis, and even there, at what was basically Mecca for Neil devotees, the amount of female fans dressed as Delirium or Yvaine from “Stardust” far outweighed the Deaths. If you’re going to generalize, at least update your references.
Goodyear also writes that, “Internet critics deride Gaiman’s fans as ‘Twee Bisexual Goth Girls with BPD — borderline personality disorder — who are drama majors and who are destined to become cat ladies.’” Why even give voice to lazy stereotypes that sound like they were cribbed from a Usenet post from the late ’90s?
Hasn’t scoring several “New York Times” best-sellers, co-writing an Angelina Jolie flick, and having one of his books turned into a hit award-winning animated movie moved Gaiman past the “only for Goths” label? How much more mainstream can he get? At this point, saying that every Neil Gaiman fan is Goth (whatever that means now) is akin to calling anyone who likes superhero comics a basement-dwelling mouth-breather who files away his “Spawn” issues while his mom calls him for supper.
For his part, Gaiman has taken issue with a few things in the article. (Like, for instance, the author’s claim that the Golden Age Sandman kills bad guys with his gas gun.) But I’ll keep mum on that part, for fear of Eustace Tilley looking down on me through his snazzy monocle.