‘Netflix hates lesbians’: Fans are raging after Netflix cancels THREE lesbian led shows
They were cancelled due to ‘Covid-related circumstances’
In the past week, Netflix has cancelled three of its original TV shows, all featuring lesbian lead characters. I Am Not Okay With This, The Society and Atypical all had prominent lesbian main characters and were cancelled within the past seven days due to “circumstances created by COVID”.
The decision has prompted rage and upset from fans of the shows and Netflix viewers in general, who simply cannot understand the cancellation when all three shows had an established viewership and good critical reception. In fact, one of the shows, The Society, was already renewed for its next season but the renewal was reversed by Netflix this week and the show was cancelled instead.
One of the questions raised by fans is how these shows could not survive, when low-brow movies and shows with pitiful critical reception (i.e Riverdale, The Kissing Booth, 13 Reasons Why) have continually been renewed year after year, far longer than any current shows with lesbian presence have lasted.
This argument is being made over and over again on Twitter, with disgruntled fans upset with the lack of answers and dubious of the “COVID circumstances” reasoning for cancellation. One Twitter user even changed their display name to “Netflix Hates Lesbians” in response to the removal, and a fake Netflix account tweeted saying “Ok fine! we cancelled I Am Not Ok With This because we hate dykes. Can you all stop yelling now?” garnered over 54,000 likes.
Plus, this isn’t the first time Netflix has canceled a lesbian led show – they have a history of short livelihoods. With the exception of Orange Is The New Black, many lesbian fronted shows have been victims of the Netflix chopping block after very few seasons. Everything Sucks! lasted one season, and One Day At A Time, which centered around a lesbian Latina main character, lasted four (with only seasons one to three available on Netflix).
Rosie, a lesbian and Netflix viewer who feels particularly strongly about Netflix’s under representation of lesbians, told The Tab that it’s just another disappointment in a culture of lesbian invisibility on-screen. Speaking to The Tab, Rosie references the quote from Marian Wright Edelman, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” She says: “That’s the problem with a lack of lesbian lead shows, and lesbian representation. I think it’s called compulsory heterosexuality where [heterosexuality] is so presented as the norm that the lack of representation for gay people – but specifically lesbians – had a massive impact on me growing up and coming to terms with my sexual orientation. I think the process of coming out would have been a lot sooner or easier for me if there had been more lesbian characters, especially lesbian leads, in TV shows. That’s why it’s so important.”
Rosie raises the point that Netflix is typically much better (and more forthcoming) when it comes to representing gay males in their shows than lesbians. “When people talk about gay culture they’re usually talking about gay male culture. With Netflix, one of their biggest shows is Queer Eye -” (Queer Eye has run for five seasons to the tune of massive support and success. Season six has already been commissioned) “- but there isn’t any semblance of comparison to something like Queer Eye in the lesbian community – it just doesn’t exist. Generally, lesbianism exists in this horrible intersection of homophobia and misogyny. I’m not accusing Netflix of this specifically, it’s the viewing public in general that cause this. But it’s so obvious to me that must be why this lack of representation is rife, and why lesbian representation is so far behind the lack of representation for gay men.”
She continues: “It’s not just a problem with Netflix, it’s a problem with all TV – lesbian TV just doesn’t seem to exist, it’s a vacuum. That’s why all lesbians are obsessed with The L Word and keep rewatching it – we have nothing else.” The L word was an American TV show about a group of lesbians living in LA that ran from 2004 to 2009, totaling six seasons, not including its new spin-off announced just last year. It is still widely considered the best, and longest-running, show surrounding lesbian relationships to have ever been produced – and it’s been 16 years since it first aired. You’d think something else might have cropped up to rival it since then, but clearly lesbians on TV are not a priority. Rosie confirms this, saying: “Obviously it’s not getting better because it’s still an issue with Netflix right now, with them cancelling these shows. It perpetuates this lack of lesbians on TV.”
“The sad thing is that lesbians are clamoring for shows with lesbians in – if there is a TV show or a movie with a lesbian in, we will watch it. We just will. And the worst part is that the representation of lesbians in TV shows or movies – when they are there – is bad anyway, and they always die.”
This trope, also known as the “Kill Your Lesbians” or “Bury Your Gays” trope, references the tendency for showrunners to kill off their lesbian characters. In 2017, a group called LGBT Fans Deserve Better studied the most recent two seasons of major TV shows that were airing and found they had killed off 62 lesbian and bisexual characters in those past two seasons. The number was reportedly far higher than the death rate for main straight characters or gay male characters during that time period. So even if you get a show with a lead lesbian, chances are she’ll probably die.
When musing over how lesbians are portrayed in Netflix shows, Rosie concludes: “I just want some prominent lesbian characters in shows where the main focus isn’t them being a lesbian, you know? Like I want to see them living their life and they happen to be a lesbian, and they don’t die, and the show doesn’t get cancelled after one season. It’s really not that much to ask for.”
Netflix has been contacted for comment.