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When it comes to what Netflix cuts, diverse shows are the first to go

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Katarina Dulude

Anchor Staff Writer

Netflix released its monthly New On Netflix video for the month of December and nearly every top comment read one of two things: that none of the shows were appealing, or pleading with Netflix to bring back their favorite cancelled shows. The top comment read: “Netflix making all these new shows and canceling the popular ones just gives me anxiety, like no one’s favorite is safe... no matter how many people watch it,” succinctly summarizing the plight of numerous Netflix watchers.

A little over a month ago I wrote about the cancelation of the teen dramedy series Teenage Bounty Hunters, which was female-led and centered on two teenage sisters. It featured a romantic relationship between two girls and another biracial romantic relationship. It’s an excellent, witty, heartfelt and unique series that deserved another season. Yet, despite staying on Netflix’s top ten list for almost two weeks, receiving praise from critics and audiences alike while not being expensive to produce, it was nonetheless axed.

It was, while extremely disappointing, not surprising because it’s not a new story.

Consistently, when Netflix cancels shows, the shows tend to share the same characteristics. They are aimed at young people, are often in large part written and directed by women, feature LGBTQ representation and representation of people of color, as well as have passionate, dedicated fan bases.

The comments pleading for shows to be brought back on Netflix’s December releases video were primarily about the recently canceled shows I Am Not Okay with This and The Society, both diverse and aimed at young people, however, there are several more examples. GLOW, a show with a primarily female cast, including numerous women of color and LGBTQ characters, had already been half-way through shooting its fourth and final season when it was cancelled. Netflix cited COVID-19 concerns. Anne with an E, a retelling of the classic book series Anne of Green Gables was an inspiring female-led show featuring multiple LGBTQ characters and characters of color, canceled after three seasons. None of the cast or crew were told while filming. This one was also at least in part due to conflict between Netflix and the Canadian channel airing CBC, but fans even taking out ads in Times Square was not enough for the networks to reconsider. Among other casualties of this perturbing trend are Everything Sucks!, Sense8 and One Day at a Time. The latter found a new home at Pop TV, a cable channel owned by CBS, but most of these shows are not so lucky, and even One Day at a Time ended up dropped by Pop as well after just one season.

The shows are also consistently given little advertisement. I had not even heard of Teenage Bounty Hunters, a show I absolutely ended up loving, until I saw people posting about it on social media.

It’s worth noting that Netflix is hardly the only one with this issue. Shows like The 100 caught backlash after confirming one of their characters, Lexa, a woman of color, was bisexual, only to kill her off almost immediately after.

It’s also worth noting that there are exceptions to Netflix’s killing of diverse shows, mostly found in children’s cartoons like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. Even these shows both faced points where cancellation seemed a likely possibility before they were able to go reach their stories’ proper conclusions.

When it comes to representation for young adult women in the LGBTQ community, other streaming services seem to be doing it better. HBO’s extremely popular Euphoria features two lead main LGBTQ protagonists, Rue and Jules. Hulu recently released the first big-budget LGBTQ Christmas movie, Happiest Season, which, though it received a mixed reception from the LGBTQ community for a number of reasons, is nonetheless a significant milestone.

The thing is, Netflix doesn’t have a problem greenlighting great shows led by women, by people of color or by queer people. They do. They just give them minimal advertising and then promptly cancel them after a season or two, leading many fans to wonder why even become invested at all.

What does it leave for fans of color?

Finding representation in token-minority characters written in writer’s rooms filled with white people.

What does it leave for LGBTQ fans?

Well, the extremely questionable but popular Ryan Murphy’s several series on the platform, and similar token side characters.

Netflix’s strategy when it comes to canceling shows, while constantly bringing new ones in is to lure new subscribers to the platform. They are driven, of course, by profit. But their quest for more money results in an extreme disrespect for some of their biggest users. Young diverse audiences set trends, they drive up interest in shows on social media and they deserve good stories, not ones that get canceled before they can reach a resolution. Netflix’s inclination to cancel these shows before they are given a chance is disrespectful not only towards fans, but towards show creators as well. While Netflix may be looking only towards short-term profits, the comments on that YouTube video are telling. If Netflix continues its path of sacrificing genuinely excellent shows in hopes of developing new ones to lure new viewers and generate more profit, it’s likely it will lose the backbone that keeps it afloat as fans move towards other streaming platforms that give them their due.


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