The Sandman shows how cruel the idea of the muse can be.

With the release of The Sandman's bonus episode, Neil Gaiman shows in a brutally honest way how the relationship between an artist and a muse is often tied to the way women are treated. In the second half of the episode, Richard Madoc (Arthur Darvill), a struggling writer, is desperate to get back some of the success he had with his first book. 

He goes so far that he makes the Greek muse Calliope (Melissanthi Mahut) his slave and treats her badly in the name of getting ideas. 

Pop culture has made it seem like being a muse is something to be proud of, but in reality, the people who claim to honor and worship them often hurt them. The story has been told many times on film and TV, like when Penelope Cruz played Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Sienna Miller played Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl. But the story has never been told so clearly as it is in The Sandman, which shows the viewer in no uncertain terms that many muses die as a result of the artist's search for meaning and praise. 

"The Sandman" disproves the idea that the relationship between artist and muse is equal. 

Erasmus Fry (Derek Jacobi) and Richard Madoc have always made excuses for the terrible things they do to Calliope by saying that she is their property and that the law is on their side. She was caught by Fry on Mount Helicon, where he burned her scroll and said he was her master. He then tells Madoc that she has to be with him by law now. But as history shows, what is legal isn't always what is right, and Madoc turns a blind eye whenever he is confronted with the harsh truth about what he has done. 

In the first scene of the episode, Madoc is standing in front of a slide that says "Controlling the Narrative" in the middle. Later, he tells his students to write about the same event from two very different points of view. The Sandman shows how Madoc can separate himself from his actions and even make himself out to be a victim. When Calliope begs for her freedom, he tells her that he is the one who isn't free. Madoc has all the power, and even though he keeps her as a slave and sexually assaults her over and over, he can change the story to get what he wants and keep thinking he is good. All of this is done for the sake of art and fame. Madoc can do this by remembering what Fry said: "She's not human. Her job is to help men like us." 

Most people think of the muse as a young, beautiful woman who stands out from the rest. But the relationship between an artist and a muse is very short-lived. Once the muse has "served its purpose," the artist moves on to find his next creative inspiration. They're basically chewed up and spit out, which causes a lot of pain and confusion for these women, who have to deal with being loved and respected one minute and ignored the next. These artists become like gods because they are able to show the human condition in all its different forms without taking responsibility for how they did it. 

They always say that their carelessness with these women's lives is for the sake of inspiration and talent. In the face of such genius, any damage they do is seen as either necessary or unimportant. Society has shown that it will forgive even a man's worst crimes if he is talented enough. For example, many people have supported Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and R. Kelly's work even though they have been accused of and convicted of crimes. In a striking parallel, Allen used to be known for putting strong women at the center of his stories. 

Neil Gaiman Displays the Evils Entitled Men Will Do 

Both Erasmus and Madoc are angry and mean to Calliope the whole time they are holding her captive. Even though Calliope is the reason for everything they have accomplished, she is a stark reminder of how cruel they were, which casts a shadow over any success they tried to achieve. Madoc thinks she is unreasonable and not grateful, which is a thinly veiled attempt to make her look bad so he can keep his sense of self. He hates her because she won't let him off the hook for what he did to her. He wants her to play a certain role, but she doesn't. This is so similar to other depictions of muses in pop culture that it's hard to believe. In Factory Girl, Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce) is mad at his muse Edie Sedgwick for leaving the role he cast her in.

 Since he sees her as his property and is angry that she loves someone else, he cruelly turns against her and makes her an outcast. In the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) gets angry when Maria Elena tells him that "[his] whole way of seeing is [hers]." This makes him dismiss Maria Elena's thoughts about the situation. 

He doesn't give her any credit, acknowledgement, or validation, which only makes her feel worse about the situation. Even though she sees what this does to Maria Elena, Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) still wants to be her muse. She says she's a little sad that she doesn't have the same effect on Juan. In her eyes, to be a muse means to be wanted, admired, and put on a pedestal. Cristina can't see how Juan Antonio puts down Maria Elena in small ways to stay in power. Maria Elena has trouble with the way he treats her, which pushes her to act violently. 

In the real world, many women artists are remembered for being the inspiration for famous men artists. Camille Claudel, a very skilled French sculptor, is one of the most well-known. Her work was a way for her to rebel against the role people expected her to play. Unfortunately, her love affair with Auguste Rodin, another sculptor who copied much of Claudel's style and technique, has cast a shadow over much of her legacy. During their affair, Rodin took credit for much of Claudel's artistic vision. 

When she broke up with him, he did everything he could to stop as much of her work as possible. Rodin started to see Claudel as a competitor, so he used his power to hurt her. Claudel had to deal with many problems and traumas in her life, caused by her family, Rodin, and society as a whole. In the end, she was sent to an asylum, where she lived for more than 30 years before she died. It's still not clear if her family forced her to do it or if they just thought it would be good for them. 

In The Sandman, Madoc is always praised by other characters for his ability to use a woman's voice. He never says that he stole that voice. Instead, he says that he is a great feminist writer while keeping Calliope locked up in the room above and dreading the next time he takes her gifts. In the end, though, inspiration turns out to be his downfall, as Gaiman flips the script and makes Madoc the one who goes crazy because he has too many ideas. 

After he says the words to set Calliope free, he can't think straight for a moment. The only thing that makes her interesting is that "all the ideas and stories were hers." Calliope goes on, ready to use her voice to change the laws that she and her siblings didn't make. The episode ends with the muse being given more power. This ending, which rarely happens in real life, gives viewers a sense of justice and satisfaction.


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