When Streamers Have to Cancel Shows, They Tell Us Something
The Schrodinger's Cat problem is real, but we can guess which cats are dead
Earlier this week I noted the Schrodinger’s Cat problem facing the streamers — that if they open up their books in the process of the current strikes and make clear how many people are actually watching streaming content, the truth may be particularly painful for the more diverse, woke content that may not be getting eyeballs but corporate loves to tout. The cost-benefit analysis of producing things that a majority of subscribers won’t watch would come into play, and it would be bad for a lot of creators.
Yet even though we don’t have a clear idea of how many people are watching what shows on which platforms, we can make some judgment calls based on financially-driven renewals and cancellations. It was extremely telling that when Netflix had to make cutbacks last year, for instance, that they canceled two Ibram X Kendi series: “Antiracist Baby,” which was supposed to be for preschoolers, and the teen-skewing “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You”. But those shows were still in the process of being made. What about the ones that were already launched and running?
Just scroll down this list of what got canceled last year by Netflix and notice what almost everything has in common: racial diversity, gender politics, things that haven't been taboo on TV for decades presented as such. Unless I'm wrong, not a single one of these shows had a white male lead. Some descriptors:
"The quirky series followed a group of LGBTQ+ spies as they faced national threats and workplace discrimination within the American Intelligence Agency." "Her ambitions run up against the firm's seeming preference for the white, male candidates." "four female friends in their late 40s as they navigate work, love and midlife crises." "The show tackled plenty of real-world issues such as immigration, familial separation and, of course, gentrification with candor and comedic wit." "a forbidden romance between adolescent vampire Juliette Fairmont (Sarah Catherine Hook) and vampire-hunter in training Calliope Burns (Imani Lewis)." "The show received significant backlash from gamers for diverting heavily from its source material"
As just one example of the war between wokeness and marketability, consider the decision to ditch Justin Siemien from the upcoming Disney+ “Lando” series project. Siemien is the director of Disney’s upcoming “Haunted Mansion”, and previously the writer-director of “Dear White People” on Netflix — who just did a THR interview criticizing Bob Iger, where he said “to be in Hollywood is to be gaslit”:
“The last thing I was told was that they loved it but needed to put a pin in it until they could figure out everybody’s availability,” Simien said. “I haven’t investigated further, but I’m not an idiot. I’m not alone in that experience. But I can’t help but wonder, ‘Am I too Black? Am I too queer? And people just don’t want to say that?’ Because it seems like I develop things with these companies and they just never happen for reasons unknown.”
And who do they choose instead? The equally progressive but eminently more marketable Donald Glover and his brother. I doubt it’s anything personal about Siemien — it’s just that right now, especially after a string of disappointments, Lucasfilm needs people to watch.
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