I’ve heard this bandied about a lot, that we’ve moved from Bury your Queers to Cancel your Queers.
It’s not a wrong thing to say that a higher than normal number of queer-featured TV shows have been cancelled. In fact, you can look at my posts from the last few years, and see how the change is basically down to we don’t get queer shows to replace the ones canceled.
You’ve likely noticed a lot of streamers have been pulling shows. It started being really apparent in October 2022 when HBOMax (or Max, or whatever they are today) removed a bunch of shows. Now Disney removed over 50 shows last month, including Willow (so basically we’re never getting another season, thanks).
What did We Lose?
I’m only listing TV here, so there are some movies and documentaries that are omitted.
|Queer Content||Elliott From Earth|
OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes
Summer Camp Island
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changer
Diary of a Future President
Y: The Last Man
Esme & Roy
Head of the Class
Made for Love
Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart
Messy Goes to Okido
Mia’s Magic Playground
My Dinner With Hervé (tv movie)
The Ollie & Moon Show
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures
Raised by Wolves
Tig n’ Seek
The Witches (2020)
|Turner & Hooch|
The Mysterious Benedict Society
The Right Stuff
The Real Right Stuff
Flora & Ulysses
Better Nate Than Ever
Love in the Time of Corona
Darby and the Dead
As you can see, the number of queer shows is a drop in the bucket compared to the non-queer shows.
I wanted to put Netflix up there, but their haphazard indications of what is and is not ‘original’ made that impossible. Since Netflix did not have a production company at the start, it branded a lot of shows as ‘original’ that were really a single license to be the only ones who aired a show.
A good example there would be Slasher, which was removed from Netflix in 2020 when the Kew Media Group when bankrupt. Eventually the show found a home again on Shudder but for a few months in 2020, you couldn’t see the first seasons.
The Enemy of My Enemy is My Enemy
I bring this up every single time someone mentions canceling queers. It’s not just that we’re being canceled. And in fact, being canceled is the least of my worry.
The primary issue in my mind isn’t the cancelations, it’s the removals. Because when a show is removed, not only can we not watch it, the creators (writers, directors, actors) don’t get any more money from residuals. And in fact those residuals and the lack of fair compensation is the heart of the ongoing strike. But even if you don’t have a horse in that race, you can have one here.
If the content is removed, you can never watch it again.
No binging, no late night “I’d love to re-watch Person of Interest” if it’s gone. A practical example here is the movie Dogma. It has its flaws, I know, but did you know it’s not available on streaming? The only reason I can watch it whenever I want is that I own the DVD that they don’t make anymore. While it’s unlikely that movie will vanish (the issue with it is Kevin Smith refuses to give Weinstein any more money), the fact that it’s so niche is probably why it’s not a huge matter that it’s missing. But. I can watch it. My best friend cannot. The only difference is I own a DVD.
And while someone is thinking “So just order the damn DVD.” YOU CAN’T. Seriously. No streaming, no DVDs for sale anymore, no way to watch it unless you recorded it– Oh wait, you can’t record it like that anymore, and we never really made the jump from “I’ll just record it on VHS” to “I’ll record it on this DVD.” In fact, they intentionally make it so you can’t do that anymore (DMCA strikes again).
If Content is Removed, Was It Ever Real?
The removal of content is gutting because now there’s no way for a lot of people to see themselves on TV.
Genera+ion may have been ill-timed to capitalize on the ‘secret life of teenagers,’ and a combo of having a number of similar shows (Euphoria for example) and COVID restrictions likely led to it’s downfall. The show also portrayed a wide array of queers, diverse and complex just like life. A little fantastical, yes, but that’s what you expect with television.
Removing kids shows is even worse, since those formative years are when most of us would really have been served well just by seeing casual queers.
But now we’re being not just canceled, but erased, and that terrifies me. We’ve already had to rely on books, old blog posts (like GeoCities old, thank you Internet Archive) to get information about bygone queers. Now, if we don’t review and add fast enough, the same happens with modern shows.
Storage is cheap. Bandwidth is a different matter. Netflix uses up to 3GB per hour of video, if you stream in HD (double that for 4K, halve it for SD). For you and me, that looks like a lot. But for them? The argument gets weird. After all, if the justification for cancellation is “no one is watching” then is the cost breakdown really that bad that they save more just on streaming?
I know that YouTube has tricked a lot of us into thinking Bandwidth is cheap. Since we don’t pay for it, we often forget that we are the product, and our data is what they find useful. Mind, I can’t think of how them knowing I watched Carmilla for the nth time is useful, but carry on. If you look at how much Cloudflare charges for their video streaming service, you can get a better picture.
The difference though is that with Cloudflare, you’re paying for storage and streaming bandwidth as an add-on. Meaning, the system exists already and you’re just using it. For MAX and Netflix, they own data centers or they use the cloud.
Sidebar: The Cloud is Someone’s Server
I work in tech, and I’ve sung this a million times. The cloud isn’t an ephemeral concept. It’s really just putting data (videos etc) on computers that are built to run more on-demand instead of all the time. This site is an ‘all the time’ server. You come here at any time, everything is rendered and waiting. When you stream, there’s often a pause before and (depending on your network) during while the video buffers.
It used to be that you had to download the entire video before it would play. That’s why, if you look at older sites, everything was small! We were trying to make sure it could load because the bandwidth issue isn’t as much for the servers but for you! I say we since I was working on that kind of code back then. Streaming really came into vogue when we figured out how to do things like bit-torrent which lets you deliver the bits and bobs of a video out of order.
That was a huge thing in tech. For most readers, it’s just an amusing background note.
The point to all that is we in tech have worked hard to make sure videos can be compressed without data loss (meaning it’s not all blurry and staticy like it was), and can be delivered via the internet in a fast way. You don’t want to wait 3 hours to download an episode of ER most likely. And with all of that hard work, we know it’s not actually that expensive to store and return (meaning play on your TV) all that.
Now, why this matters to TV? It’s cheaper to rent space on someone else’s computer than it is to build the data centre yourself. Amazon and others have a concept of ‘cold storage’ where you pay less for rarely used data (and it’s generally slower etc). But in their brilliance, instead of paying for that storage and some magic to dynamically bring it ‘warm’ when people get on a binge of something truly archaic …
They removed the data all together. No shows for you.
Who is getting canceled?
Everyone. But it’s a lot worse for queers and minorities specifically because we have so little.
There’s a concept called ‘the glass cliff‘ where in a woman is hired to be an executive, told to make some incredibly unpopular changes, and is then fired. When that happens, people will use it as proof that women aren’t capable of holding down whatever that role was. We see it a lot in movies, where if a female-led movie doesn’t do phenomenally well, then it’s a failure. This is all the same thing.
The mountain creators have to climb to make queer TV is steeper and more treacherous than non-queer TV. If a queer TV show isn’t an epic success, it’s a failure.
And thanks to those misconceptions, queer shows, and any minority led show or niche content, is vulnerable.
Until one day we all wake up and see people who look like us running the networks, this isn’t going to change. Or, if we’re lucky, when we all stop watching shows that don’t have people like us in them, it will finally, critically, be enough to spark change.