We care but we really don’t: A Netflix original
"Happy Gay Pride Month, we're taking away all of your representation," is basically what Netflix decided to say on June 1.
On the first day of Pride Month, Netflix announced that it was cancelling “Sense8,” a show that focuses on the intersectionality of race and sexuality with a sci-fi twist. Although the show has a large following, it seems as though Netflix is hinting that there weren’t enough viewers, which comes as a somewhat contradictory statement considering that advertising for the program was sparse and the second season aired nearly two years after the original. Of course, Netflix did cancel a few other shows, such as “Marco Polo” and “The Get Down.” But, it seems somewhat suspicious that most of the shows they are cancelling are inclusive shows, where the majority cast identify as people of color or LGBT. It’s simply possible that Netflix doesn’t really understand the true weight of cancelling these shows and more importantly, the shows they’re choosing to renew, such as Santa Clarita Diet, Hater’s Back Off, and One Day at a Time.
This era, the golden age of television and the Trump presidency, has given TV shows a chance to step up their representation. There are many shows that get a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum like Stranger Things for having one black character, but “Sense8” went above and beyond. “Sense8” included a transgender character played by a transgender actor, without making it a point that her trans background was a part of some agenda or plot point. They talked about cops and race in Chicago, politics and water in Africa, Big Pharma, drug addiction, mental illness and so much more.
Yet, it’s almost like Netflix wanted it to fail from the beginning. They spent nearly $9 million per episode during the second season according to Variety, but the cast never appeared in any late night talk shows or ads. More recently, after all of the backlash from fans through social media (including the hashtag #RenewSense8), Netflix commented on their Facebook page that regardless of protests, they would not bring back the show. They ironically shared a post by the Sense8 Facebook page that ended with #SensatesForever, referring to the name of the fans and the characters in the show. This shows how out of touch Netflix leaders, who are predominantly white and male, are with fans.
Shows like “Sense8” and “The Get Down” are important for LGBT representation, and unbeknownst to Netflix executives, these shows are cherished for that sole reason. Sadly, Netflix has fallen into a somewhat faux ally effect, in which they say that they believe in representation but they don’t actually try their best to give that to their customers. It’s almost as though director’s understand that they need to represent the gay community, but don’t know what to do with the characters (see “burying the gays” trope in“The 100,” “Orange is the New Black” and other shows).
By cancelling “Sense8,” Netflix executives are sending the message that inclusive television shows aren’t worth their time. By making statements such as, "we have to take more risk, you have to try more crazy things,” they’re saying they care more about the shock factor of their shows than the value to the people who need the representation. The end of “Sense8” makes for a lack of representation of the LGBT community on Netflix, echoing the president’s silence on Pride Month.
The mere fact that the LGBT community exists in real life as real people should be enough for CEO’s to understand the value of LGBT characters. Regardless of whether or not Netflix truly cares, if the support during America’s pride parades is any indication, media will eventually get there. We can only hope that another television provider will see the gap and fill it with a beautiful show that includes an array of people from all races and sexualities.
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