Binge watchers mourned as Netflix cancelled Baz Luhrmann’s music-driven drama The Get Down. Unable to recover just yet, another huge show just got the digital axe. It was Netflix’s ultimate sci-fi original — Sense8. The similarities of both shows don’t stop at just their untimely cancellation. They were also baby steps towards more opportunities for minorities in media. But if huge shows like these are cancelled on such a prominent platform, what does it say about media diversity’s future?
There are a lot of shows that try to add color to the white majority of media. But between 2016’s #OscarsSoWhite and Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi fail, it shows that we still have a long way to go before diversity in media becomes… well, media. The fall of the Baz Luhrmann’s hip-hop saga was due to Luhrmann wanting to move on from the show. This made Sony and Netflix pull the plug on an original favorite. Having the biggest budget in Netflix was a deal breaker as well. As for Sense8, media sources predicted that its cancellation was due to going over budget and insufficient audience numbers.
The beauty of these two Netflix shows is that it wasn’t diversity for diversity’s sake. The Get Down beautifully told the cultural impact of hip-hop’s roots. On the other hand, Sense8 showed what a Netflix original or what shows in general could be capable of. It told the story of strangers around the world that were suddenly mentally linked, and battled to survive together in the face of those who saw them as a threat to the world’s order. Netflix reps told the creators that viewers tended to watch the 12-episode first season “straight through — three, four, six times.
The creators of the show, the Wachowskis’, intended to explore themes that were often overlooked in television and surprisingly in sci-fi as well. It tackled sexuality, religion, gender, and politics within a dense mythology not seen in any other sci-fi show. The beauty of the show is they didn’t use common tropes of “identity pain,” which is when you use a character’s gender, sexuality, or race as their only motivation in the story.
Nomi Marks is a hacker extraordinaire who happens to be a transgender woman. Lito Rodriguez is one of the biggest action stars in Mexico who happens to be gay. Kala Dandekar is a chemist and a devout Hindu as well. They have coherent arcs and are multi-dimensional. They are fantastically human. They are us.
It’s emotional but it’s far from 13 Reasons Why. It embraced sci-fi elements but wasn’t an homage to the 80s like Stranger Things. Sense8 lifted sci-fi and storytelling to another level. And if diversity is on the road to the norm, this show deserved to be more than a pit stop.
“A show with great representation, talented cast and very interesting plot?” a fan with the username @daisyrdley tweeted, “Sense8 has it all and it just can’t be cancelled. The show is every republican and conservative’s nightmare. Having a show with this caliber cut off from flourishing further is not only a shame, but a missed opportunity.
“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.” said Cindy Holland, VP of Netflix Original Content. Let’s just hope Sense8 will be the first, but not the last. If it will be the last, then we can truly say that diversity is cancelled.