Netflix’s Cancellation Crusade

Whilst its many social media marketing accounts scream inclusivity and social issues, Netflix’s cancellation crusades seem to only praise the skinny white girl.

I’m talking, of course, about the streaming service’s latest decision to axe shows like the all-women wrestling sensation GLOW, Riverdale spin-off The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, comedy talk show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj and popular comedy-drama series Atypical. All cancelled, with Netflix claiming complications from the pandemic as the final nail in the coffin for some.

Meanwhile… Emily in Paris is staying on the Seine for a second season, even after it was slammed by critics for its many faux-pas. The show transplants an all-American girl (ironically played by the British actress Lily Collins) to the city of chic, fair Paris, for a marketing job she’s woefully underqualified for—least of all because, at the start of the series, she only has 48 Instagram followers. As New Yorker staff writer Rachel Syme pointed out, “my mom has more.”

The difference between these shows, is a simple issue of inclusivity—or, more accurately, Emily in Paris’ distinct lack of it. Whilst the show’s storylines did address contentious issues like #MeToo, its cast is predominately white and the characters painfully straight. (I’d also argue another difference is that Emily in Paris isn’t well-written, but that’s another take for another time).

Meanwhile, GLOW boasted characters from all backgrounds, growing each season to also acknowledge the AIDS crisis (prevalent during the show’s 80s setting) and the wrestling’s industry perpetuation of harmful stereotypes through obscene caricatures. Its latest season was incredibly well received, and the coronavirus doesn’t seem like a good enough reason for its cancellation. Fans have expressed that they’d have been more than willing to wait for another season, even starting a petition on asking Netflix to reconsider.

Hiatuses have never doomed shows completely. BBC’s Sherlock took a three year break in between seasons three and four, and still managed to premiere to 11.3 million viewers, whilst the third season of Donald Glover’s Atlanta is due to air in 2021, two and a half years after its second. One of Netflix’s biggest shows, Stranger Things, took it’s time between seasons two and three, with fans having to wait 21 months to find out what happened to our favourite residents of Hawkins, Indiana (it’s worth noting that their production was paused because of COVID-19, but allowed to continue filming in September).

Netflix doesn’t seem willing to recognise that fans will wait, or the importance of keeping shows that have an inclusive cast, now more than ever. It’s not entirely a surprise though, given their callous cancellation of sense8 back in 2017, which caused so much uproar they acquiesced to a two and a half hour finale so the writers could conclude the story after season two’s cliff-hanger ending.

The message the streaming giant is sending, repeatedly, is that it doesn’t care. Stories about and by marginalised communities aren’t their priority.

It’s all well and good putting up Black-led shows like Sister, Sister and Girlfriends, and filling its various twitter accounts with witty comebacks to casual sexism and homophobia but, if Netflix doesn’t start putting its money where its mouth is and commissioning new shows that centre these narratives, its debt won’t be the only shadow hovering over its head.

Photo courtesy of Thibault Penin

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