There is a strange trend currently occurring in the in the world of television which has similarities to the real and comics world. Despite being critical and commercial hits, several TV shows have fallen under the ax. These include shows such as Sense8, The Get Down and Underground. Could the problem be just ratings and production expense or could it be something else more serious?
Remember that dark time when the kiss between Captain Kirk and Uhura was a shocker? The mere fact that Nichelle Nichols, George Takei and Walter Koenig played roles that went against prevalent sensibilities back then was revolutionary for TV especially Nichelle’s, as her role was not as humble as other African-Americans had back then. Martin Luther King himself had to talk her into keeping her role. Star Trek also wouldn’t have stayed on nor would it be what it is now if it wasn’t for Gene Roddenberry’s vision of everyone being equals in the future. See? Technology wasn’t the only thing Star Trek was known to have envisioned. How about the waves generated by the open relationship between Willow and Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Well, that really opened the floodgates for open LGBTQ presence in TV and film. Now, there are plenty of shows that are not led by dashing white males and ensemble casts are now diversely represented, ethnically, sexually and religiously. Inclusivity anyway has become the norm with shows like Quantico, Sense8, The Get Down, Luke Cage, Rosewood, Fresh off the Boat and Underground. Remember when John Cho was photoshopped as the lead for many films? The campaign for proper representation even affected Netflix’s Iron Fist where the producers were practically harassed to veer off from the source material.
The same is with comics. In the last few years, Marvel Comics has divided its reader base over issues like racial and gender diversity as well as tackling religious and political issues in their comics instead of its heroes just saving the world or the nearest cat in the tree. The thing is, they’re lauded for doing so but criticized for trying too hard. All New All Different Marvel has given us an all-female Avengers team, a female Thor, Korean Hulk, gay Ice Man, Muslim Ms. Marvel, Latino Ghost Rider, black Captain America and female black Iron Man. This campaign of theirs, according to them, apparently hasn’t been selling well and now, after their Secret Empire event involving Hydra Captain America, Marvel will be going back to their old ways, bringing back their old, core roster of heroes, composed mostly of straight white males.
But there’s this disturbing trend according to Variety that TV might be doing the same thing. Critically acclaimed shows like Sense8 and The Get Down, both from Netflix have just been cancelled despite their high praise. Other shows that just recently got the ax include Rosewood, Pitch, East Los High, Sweet/Vicious, Underground, and American Crime. What’s common with these shows are their inclusive and diverse cast led by non-white actors and produced by non-white, female and LGBTQ writers and producers. Within the past few years, these shows gave additional variety to TV viewing with protagonists, content and viewpoints previously neglected in mainstream network TV. Some of these have been praised by critics not just for their inclusivity, but for their stories, the acting and production values. It’s strange why they’re getting the ax now despite steady ratings.
But some are afraid that there’s this underlying culture among TV executives that the popularity of these shows is merely a phase that will eventually go away. There’s just too many TV shows waiting in the wings to be produced or renewed and the networks can’t handle them all and some have to go, and the first to go are these newfangled experimental TV shows produced by and catered to minority groups, but liked by a large percentage of the broader audience. That the cancellation of Sense8 and The Get Down is not really about popularity, ratings and overblown production budgets but rather an innate sense of racism and bigotry that hasn’t really gone away but instead emboldened by the current political atmosphere.
The disturbing trend of real-world crimes against minorities fuels this speculation most notably the recent vandalism of NBA Star Lebron James’ home, as well as reports of rude treatment to Asians, Hispanics and blacks. Except for the high-profile vandalism, the increase of reports of racism or hate crimes are either due to a real increase because some are emboldened by the current administration’s alleged racist and fascist views; or they have always been there. Both cases are quite disturbing but for the former’s trend to encroach back into the realm of entertainment when it has supposedly progressed is simply unbelievable. Let more of these shows come forth (good ones of course) and prove progressiveness is not a fad. Check out the petition on Change.Org about saving these shows or just supporting them.