Why does it feel like every time I jump on Twitter, every sapphic (an umbrella term for all women-loving women) always seems to be on high alert due to an impending show cancellation? I wish I was kidding. Right now, the fans of Warrior Nun have scoured through the depths of the internet, begging everyone and their mothers to watch the show out of fear of its cancellation. All I see on my timeline are constant threads of statistical updates on viewership and internet traffic. The campaign to keep the show going even caught Forbes’ attention to the point that they wrote an article about it. Reaction Youtubers have Warrior Nun fans spamming their tweets to react to the show to get every ounce of promotion—something Netflix historically refuses to invest in. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new and it’s been going on all year, it has left thousands of sapphic fans desperate for representation equal parts devastated and maddened.
Although I’ve grown out of fandoms, watching these things unfold on Twitter isn’t any easier. I love my community. However, I understand that I come from a place of privilege when I say that sapphic representation on television doesn’t matter to me as much as it used to. This isn’t because I’m fully satisfied with the lesbian representation I see in media, but rather because I’ve grown out of depending on these fictional characters to solidify my identity. It is understandable that younger sapphics or those questioning their sexualities need these fictional characters and storylines the way I needed them when I was in their shoes. These stories help shape your worldviews as a queer person in a society that is abundantly heteronormative. I don’t blame them for wanting some type of escape from that reality as I used to be that teenager who would cry over my favourite characters who’d fallen victim to the infamous Bury Your Gays trope.
So, I get it. I get the mass hysteria and desperation these fans have in trying to save these shows. One can see these cancellations as an evolution of the Bury Your Gays trope. These production companies and writers know the upheaval it would cause if a queer character dies, much less a sapphic character. A studio relying on the excuse that not enough people watch the show, thus not having the budget to keep the project afloat seems like the perfect scapegoat. But do they really think that rabid fans wouldn’t obsess over the details of the statement? As I said, they’re out there on the Internet doing the calculations. Netflix releasing statements indicating there aren’t enough viewers to keep the show going isn’t going to cut it. Say what you want about Netflix’s First Kill, but the show stayed in the top 5 most viewed shows for weeks. Netflix chose to renew Heartstopper, a show with a lot of queer representation but still had two white men at the forefront of the story. On the other hand, First Kill, a show with a prominent black lesbian lead, had been cancelled despite outperforming Heartstopper on average viewing hours during its release week. It’s almost as if Netflix forgot their streaming service was built on the backs of lesbians who watched Orange is the New Black back in the day. And what killed the viewership for that show? *SPOILERS* The death of Poussey Washington, a black lesbian.
Nonetheless, Netflix isn’t the only one to blame for these sapphic show cancellations. HBO cancelled Gentleman Jack. Amazon Prime Video cancelled The Wilds in late July with A League of Their Own on thin ice. The CW cancelled Batwoman on Lesbian Visibility Week (which infuriated me and I didn’t even watch the show). With the current television and film industry being an absolute mess right now, the main tactic for many of these studios is to selectively keep shows that matter to them. In other words, it means that films and television shows have to be attached to major franchises or studios betting on nostalgia. But, this prevents writers from making well-written original shows like Warrior Nun. It just so happens that sapphics have become an unfortunate victim of a much larger Hollywood problem.
I do truly recommend watching Warrior Nun and A League of Their Own if you haven’t already. They’re well-reviewed shows that deserve to get renewed.