To the dismay of many, Netflix has made a round of cuts to its original content. To be more specific, Netflix has decided to cut me deep with the cancellation of Sense8 and The Get Down.
What’s most troubling about the cancellation of these shows in particular is the level of inclusivity that they brought to modern media. What does this discontinuation imply moving forward?
Sense8’s innovative approach to intersectional story telling was nothing less than groundbreaking. It gave space to seven stories from across the world, exploring global differences in their own lives and experiences. This integrated seamlessly with themes navigating connectivity and growth through these differences, with a sci-fi twist to really drive it home. Also the sex was great.
The Get Down was a charming and essential period piece that breathed life into POC history that is rarely explored on TV. Highlighting harsh truths of the plight of the South Bronx in the late 70’s, while narrating the rise of hip hop under the fall of disco, this story is a much needed recollection of black and hispanic culture through a historic lens.
Both shows take moments to highlight queer experiences as well.
Sense8 followed a trans character, a gay character, and overall explored themes of sexuality and polyamory.
The Get Down’s queer storyline, on the other hand, means so much in the context of the time period and culture surrounding the character. A black boy in the late 70’s learning he’s gay in South Bronx. This sort of history is glossed over and highlighting black queerness is definitely last on the list for most productions.
Netflix’s decision in cancelling these does come with its practical, though still sad, reasons. Each show came with it’s own hefty budget. Sense8 was producing at $9 million an episode. The Get Down planned for $7.5 million, but breached that ultimately spending around $120 million. In reference to Sense8, Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said "From a budget standpoint and a running time, it’s every bit as big, if not bigger, than their feature films." The show‘s road to cancellation gets more confusing only due to the praise Netflix gives it while cutting it.
“After 23 episodes, 16 cities and 13 countries, the story of the Sense8 cluster is coming to an end,” said Cindy Holland, VP of Netflix original content. “It is everything we and the fans dreamed it would be: bold, emotional, stunning, kick ass, and outright unforgettable. Never has there been a more truly global show with an equally diverse and international cast and crew, which is only mirrored by the connected community of deeply passionate fans all around the world. We thank Lana, Lilly, Joe and Grant for their vision, and the entire cast and crew for their craftsmanship and commit.”
This follows Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings statement on CNBC :“I’m always pushing the content team: ‘We have to take more risk, you have to try more crazy things. Because we should have a higher cancel rate overall.’”
A bit of mixed messaging there. Netflix doesn’t share any viewership data, so we can’t speculate what this means in terms of views, but we do know the global cult appeal of this series. The Get Down however has it’s feet steeped in tragedy. Behind the scenes the show has experienced a lot of stop and go, stalls, and rewrites as was reported by Variety last year. Writers aptly started calling the show “The Shut Down”. Digging further, showrunner Baz Luhrmann, admits that he foresaw less involvement in the onset of the show’s production. Apparently a deal breaker for renewal.
In a facebook post Luhrman elaborates,“When I was asked to come to the center of The Get Down to help realize it, I had to defer a film directing commitment for at least two years. This exclusivity has understandably become a sticking point for Netflix and Sony, who have been tremendous partners and supporters of the show……. But the simple truth is, I make movies. And the thing with movies is, that when you direct them, there can be nothing else in your life.”
When two series that are championing so much in terms of representation and innovation get the boot, it’s hard to see a win somewhere on the horizon. Add that to today's current social climate and well, all my heroes are dying. There are alternatives to just axing a show midstory, as some have suggested. Look at Bloodline. Upon it’s cancellation it was given a season to wrap up the story. Netflix being a streaming service is not tied down to the limited timeslots that dead ends tv shows. It could revolutionize media by giving people real endings either with a season or even an episode or two, but once again I do not know what logic is running behind the scenes.
As a queer person, we all know the rhetoric of absent/misrepresentation and even then these characters tend to die a lot. Let’s add my blackness to the equation and I might as well follow suit. It’s not that there’s absolutely no hope for more series of this caliber, but decisions such as these tend to echo into empirical evidence for myths like “black films don’t travel in Hollywood”. While we know this is not true, we still know that media is still primarily a white boys club. It’s always easier to steer the ship away when you’re at the helm—especially away from the island of queer and black folk.
Matt Jones is your average carefree black boi, community worker, and sensei. As an Atlanta based artist he dreams to foster community and advocate real change for issues involving but not limited to mental health, queer life, and POC disparity.