Why We’re Mad When Shows Are Canceled

Why We’re Mad When Shows Are Canceled

I had a friend, a cis male heterosexual friend, ask me why we’re mad when shows are canceled. “We” meant us queers. After all, he said, as I am wont to point out, they’re just TV shows.

Well Chad (not his real name), the problem is that while they are ‘just’ TV shows, there isn’t another one to take it’s place.

Heterosexual Shows are like Hyrda

Let’s say you’re interested in cop shows. And you really liked Law and Order: Criminal Intent. When that show was canceled, you were probably annoyed, but you had (at the time) two other shows in the same franchise to fall back on. Ditto CSI: NY. Looking for a comedy about some buddies in then mid to late 20s, and how their meddling families are involved in everything? Hmm. That could mean one of a dozen shows on the air today, plus a hundred more on Hulu and Netflix and Amazon Prime.

If you canceled one of those shows, there were replacements. Cut one down, three more are in the wings filming a new, thrilling, medical drama with some maverick young buck as the lead character, and a cold but secretly charismatic woman as his co-star.

Go on, try and figure out what show I just described. Did I mean ERCode BlackThe Resident? Maybe I meant a sitcom like Scrubs! Who knows!

We’re mad when shows are canceled because there’s only one.

Bye The Numbers

I know I just posted about how things are getting better on Network TV. And really they are, please don’t get me wrong. But the shows are still incredibly rare.

When we look at shows with any queer rep in the United States for this year alone, we have some shocking numbers:

  • 169 shows are on air (out of roughly 300)
  • 16 new shows started (out of roughly 50)
  • 28 shows were canceled (out of roughly 80)

Rosa Diaz: Your entire life is garbage

You don’t have to be a Boss Baby (which yes, is a new series on Netflix) to calculate that we’re losing more than we gain.

By the way, last year we lost 41 shows and gained 43 in the US.

There Are No Backups

Let’s go over some things.

Sense8 was canceled. Find me another sci-fi/fantasy show where everyone is queer, staring a trans actress, with a lesbian couple. The next best thing is Once Upon A Time, which .. no. Also OUAT is also canceled. Maybe Wynonna Earp, but everyone’s not queer.

Everything Sucks was canceled. Find me another teen-aged high school show with a coming out story. The next best thing on Netflix is 13 Reasons Why, and that is not at all the same thing. The closest after that is One Day at a Time, but that isn’t a story about school.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine was canceled. Find me another cop show with positive biseuxal representation, that tackles race and sexuality and stereotypes in a respectful fashion. Thankfully it was picked up a day later, by NBC, but there’s nothing like it.

Are you starting to see the picture?

When we lose a show, we’re upset because there’s no replacement! We can’t just find another trans-female lesbian hacker. There’s no other AV geek waking up (metaphorically) at a Tori Amos concert. Not a single other show has a bisexual Latinx cop.

Representation Matters

We’re upset because we want to see ourselves on TV. We want to see us, and we can’t. There are probably 200 shows with straight white male leads. How many have black bisexual women?

I’ll get your list started on that one, How to Get Away with Murder. Now go find me another, Chad, and you’ll understand why we’re so upset.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.

3 thoughts on “Why We’re Mad When Shows Are Canceled

  • Great article! I’d like to add something else – as queer viewers we often get more attached to certain characters because to us they are one of the only examples of someone like us on screen or because they give us hope for the future. It then becomes a little less about the whole show being cancelled and more about the character being taken away from us. That shows in how many queer people choose their shows – we don’t just pick the genre we like, we might even watch a completely different genre because a show comes with representation.
    Because there are so few replacements that important character might feel even more irreplaceable – but it would feel that way either way. I hope that made sense.

    • YES! Exactly. We have so little and when we lose any representation, especially our favorites, it feels like we don’t have anything us anymore 😔

    • You are so right. I only watch sci-fi shows for queer characters. We are so starved for representation, when we actually get a character we can relate to we get very emotionally attached. And unfortunately, it’s usually for shows at risk for cancellation. We are in this perpetual state of never being able to relax and enjoy our shows.

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