Death has no color: the significance of Death in The Sandman

Death has no color: the significance of Death in The Sandman

Death has no color

That Death's character in the Netflix TV series The Sandman doesn't have a pale complexion like his comic book counterpart is no mystery. The sister of Dream who has always been in charge of taking the lives of men and all other living beings with her to lead them to the afterlife, is played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste, an actress who passed the selections for the role excelling over hundreds of others. candidates under the watchful eye of Neil Gaiman himself. The author and executive producer said he was very enthusiastic about the casting choice, but this did not prevent the arrival of numerous criticisms from the various social networks, which gave voice to those who disapproved of such a sudden change from the comic series. br>
Buy the new complete box set of The Sandman on Amazon or retrieve our review of The Sandman, the TV series Putting aside for a moment what appears to be a sterile debate, albeit sadly unavoidable, given its uncompromising nature of certain fringes within any fandom, the presence of Kirby Howell-Baptiste in the role of Death opens up a reflection on the nature of death itself: an entity that has no color and knows no color. Let's see together why.

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In ancient Egypt a simple personification of death was not adopted, but it was a real deity to be venerated, part of the vast pantheon of anthropomorphic gods that populated the Egyptian cult. Anubis was the patron god of the world of the dead, also worshiped as the keeper of tombs and mummification, in charge of accompanying souls to the afterlife. His appearance, in the various meanings adopted, also included the hybrid one of a man with the head of a jackal, intent on holding a scepter in his right hand and the ankh symbol in his left. This sacred symbol was for the Egyptians synonymous with "life", both earthly and eternal, which would await them after death. Again, Sandman references ancient mythology and cults, as Death always sports an ankh-shaped medallion hanging around his neck. Anubis also had the task of weighing the heart of the deceased: on his balance between the halls of the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, the god placed the heart on a plate while on the other he placed a feather of Maat (divinity of the balance, morality and justice). If the heart had the same weight as the feather or was even lighter, the soul of the deceased could access the Aaru fields, the place of bliss of Osiris.

It has made its way in the collective imagination especially from the Middle Ages, depicted as a skeletal figure wrapped in a black cloak and armed with a scythe. In this case, the scythe represents the harvest of the lives that the Sad one takes with him, sometimes with a negative meaning, like a demonic entity sent to mow down men; more often, however, as a neutral figure, simply charged with communicating to each individual that his time has come and guiding him to the afterlife. The Grim Reaper, or Grim Reaper if you prefer, is certainly the iconographic reference that immediately appears in our minds when we think of death, also thanks to the mass culture that has portrayed him in cinema, animation, literature and other comics.

Death in Sandman

In the meaning outlined by Gaiman, Death displaces readers through its friendly and kind nature: it is not he is the hellish or scary being one would expect, he doesn't even remotely resemble the Grim Reaper and he doesn't go around killing people left and right with a huge scythe. First, she sits next to Dream on a bench while her brother is feeding the pigeons, and makes a joke by quoting Mary Poppins. Then she asks Dream what is wrong, he wants his brother to open up with her and explain what is tormenting him. And when he learns that Morpheus is afflicted with doubts about what his purpose really is in the grand scheme that is the universe, Death takes him with him through the existences of men, showing him what his "assignment" means and what value it possesses for humans.

Death is part of life itself, it was with humans at the moment of their birth and it is with them the instant they have to leave, holding their hand, walking the path with them, comforting them with kind words. In the comic series Sandman the sequences that portray her are as much a slap as a caress to the soul, however the episode of The Sandman which sees Death protagonist alongside Dream (The Noise of Her Wings) is if we want even more exciting and poignant. The conception of death as a natural part of life, as a friend who does not come to destroy us, but to accompany us, is rendered through a narrative with a lively and painful, pure and authentic sensitivity, which is shown above all among the sequences concerning an elderly violinist. . And the credit is also largely due to Kirby Howell-Baptiste.

Death has no color

In these scenes we see how Death occurs for all types of individuals, without exception: l the old Jew, the young black man, the white-skinned infant. Death, understood as a natural event of life itself, is (unfortunately) destined for anyone, no one excluded, although here he proves benevolent, at the service of men with his heavy responsibilities. Death, therefore, knows no color: it comes for all ethnic groups, ages, genders, religious faiths, for the good and the bad, for the rich and the poor, those who fear it and those who instead welcome it without fear. But then, why be surprised that the actress who plays such a figure has dark skin? Just because the cartoon character was portrayed for a long time with milk-white skin? How much is fidelity to comics "betrayed" if the interpreter still manages to capture the essence of the character without distorting it? Neil Gaiman himself did not mince words to respond to unflattering messages posted by numerous users on the web:

I don't give a damn about people who don't understand or haven't read Sandman, who whine about Desire doesn't binary or because Death is not white enough. Watch the show and make up your mind.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste proves to be an excellent Death, a kind sister and an eternal entity capable of thrilling the viewer with his performance to the limit of the poetic. And there is no skin color for him to keep. Indeed, we are faced with a new version of the personification of death which, despite the comic book being innovative and special especially for the period in which it made its appearance, takes upon itself a greater symbolic value. That of a universal idea, an inescapable fact destined for everyone: death has no color. Why, therefore, must we necessarily attribute to it the color that we consider most right according to our personal idea?

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