Why Netflix's Inability to Commit to LGBTQ+ Shows is Damaging for the Community
In the last five years, the number of LGBTQ+ films and shows on Netflix has skyrocketed. Some of these shows have gained an unexpected rise in popularity, such as Heartstopper and Atypical, allowing them to be renewed for multiple seasons. However, many other LGBTQ+ shows have been unexpectedly cancelled, even when they have high ratings and masses of popularity, such as First Kill and One Day at a Time.
In previous years, there has been a noticeable lack of LGBTQ+ representation in film and television, but is it really an improvement when these shows are being cancelled after only a season or two?
Autostraddle has noticed this trend, explaining that, despite some shows being cancelled due to their intention of only having one season, many others are cancelled for no real reason. This leaves LGBTQ+ audiences feeling like big companies, such as Netflix, only feature LGBTQ+ storylines to avoid controversy, and their contribution to LGBTQ+ media appears extremely performative.
"We have nearly 700 TV shows in our database, which means around 20% of the queer-inclusive shows we’ve tracked are cancelled after one season."
What Impact Does This Have on LGBTQ+ Audiences?
Alice Cheney, member of the LGBTQ+ community, shared her feelings on Netflix's cancellation of many of their LGBTQ+ shows.
Alice has always had an interest in media. She spends a lot of her free time watching a wide range of shows, primarily on Netflix. She explains how she used to feel massively underrepresented, but the sudden boom in LGBTQ+ media on streaming services gave her hope that her sexual preferences would no longer be a taboo subject in film and television.
"Once I noticed a surge in queer representation, I felt significantly less isolated. Seeing people experience the same feelings as me helped me boost my confidence in my own identity."
However, Alice has also noticed how frequently Netflix cancels LGBTQ+ shows, usually after only one season, and more often than not with lesbian and bisexual-based storylines.
"It is infuriating and can be upsetting when this happens so frequently; particularly when they give little to no reason as to why they have been cancelled. It makes me feel like they only do these LGBTQ+ shows just for the sake of it, so they can say that they are inclusive. As a queer person, it is really disheartening to see this happen so regularly on such large platforms that claim to be so supportive of the community. It shouldn't be so hard to feel represented and included."
Why Can This Cause More Harm For the Community?
By erasing LGBTQ+ storylines from dominating streaming services, companies such as Netflix are implying that queer people do not deserve adequate representation. These subtle acts of homophobia demonstrate to non-LGBTQ+ members that there is no place for queer characters or storylines in the media. It is hard to understand how painful it is to watch ten shows on Netflix and not see yourself represented once, let alone have your own shows ripped away from you, especially when you see yourself represented in all types of media every day. When you are the majority in society, this is not something you have to worry about, or even notice. When Netflix cancels their LGBTQ+ shows, this halts any progression in the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in society.
"Normalising people with different sexual and gender orientations in the media is one of the biggest steps in eradicating violence and hate toward LGBT+ people."
By simply seeing LGBTQ+ characters on screen on a regular basis, members outside of the community can begin to understand queer people more, and their inclusion in the media can become more normalised. If Netflix continues to cancel its LGBTQ+ shows, this cannot and will not happen. It is massively important for these major companies to understand how inspiring it is to see yourself represented on screen, especially when this was incredibly rare ten years ago.
Unfortunately, Netflix's main motivation is money. If films and shows are not gaining enough popularity, they will often be abruptly cancelled. So what can you do? It's simple, really - watch some LGBTQ+ media on streaming services! If these companies can see the popularity queer storylines can generate, they will have even less reason to cancel these shows, and we can finally have our equal share of representation!
If you're struggling for some inspiration, check out this list for some brilliant recommendations!