In this day and age, streaming services and network providers pride themselves on offering diverse content. But what good is that diversity if all those great shows just get canceled after one short season?
This is what queer women-loving women (aka women who are attracted to other women or WLW) have been going through for the past few years. Very popular teen shows are shelved even after hitting record viewing numbers, particularly if the leads are in women-loving-women relationships. And with the recent cancelation of the Netflix series First Kill, that pattern has never been more obvious.
First Kill is a YA fantasy show about a new girl in town named Calliope who is cool and mysterious and instantly catches the eyes of Juliette. Juliette is bubbly and a little bit shy but knows she must see more of this new girl. The only issue is that the new girl is a monster hunter and Juliette is a vampire. It’s your normal star-crossed lovers theme with a vampire twist. Now, that may not be your thing, but when it came out on Netflix on June 10, it was on the top 10 chart for the entirety of June. So when Netflix abruptly canceled the show, fans were understandably shocked.
Netflix found success in a niche of queer teens and young women who loved to see themselves represented on the screen. First Kill didn’t have the typical homophobic parents that are all too common in stories with BIPOC queers (like the mom in Love, Victor). It also had a dark-skinned black girl, played by Imani Lewis, as the romantic lead, and a love interest that cared for her fiercely. Because of these two things, it immediately gained a cult-like following. You couldn’t search for the hashtag #FirstKill on Twitter without hundreds of people begging Netflix to renew the show for more seasons.
This isn’t to say that everyone loved the show. You had many people on lesbian TikTok saying they didn’t enjoy First Kill because it was poorly made. The CGI was bad, and the pacing was off. Even with that being said, it peaked at Number 3 on Netflix’s top 10 in the U.S. within a few days of its release. Safe to say, even with its poor CGI, First Kill was a hit. And yet, Netflix promptly canceled the show on August 3.
But the issue is much deeper than Netflix simply canceling First Kill. It seems like the streaming service doesn’t want to give teen WLW shows a chance. Yes, Netflix has a lot of content with lesbians as titular, and even leading, characters. But the shows that have young girls in WLW-led shows have been getting the cut in the past few years, despite the stellar ratings.
I Am Not Okay With This was a similarly successful teen WLW-led that Netflix canceled. The show followed a young lesbian who discovers she has superpowers. It was fun, quirky, and left you on your toes. Critics loved it and fans devoured it within a day. It landed and stayed on the top 10 chart for two weeks in the U.S. and a little over a week in both Russia and the Czech Republic. And yet, Netflix canceled it, stating that COVID issues as the reason. It shocked fans and critics, especially since popular shows like Stranger Things were simply put on hold during the pandemic.
Teenage Bounty Hunters was another clever new show that had a WLW relationship at the forefront. The series was even on the Netflix Top 10 chart in the U.S. and stayed there for 13 days. It was also a hit in the U.K., Russia, Ukraine, and Austria. But despite its popularity and fun take on religion, relationships, and sisterhood, it was canceled. Again it shocked viewers and critics because the show was extremely popular and had a loyal fan base. They even petitioned the show’s return, to no avail.
Netflix isn’t slick with them canceling their teen WLW shows, and it’s getting increasingly obvious with each cancelation they do.
First Kill was a good show. Yes, the acting wasn’t the best and you can claim the writing is off. But it fits the genre. Riverdale has had some of the weirdest writing and acting ever, yet the CW knew it had a good thing and kept it going. Now, Netflix isn’t the CW, but if they want to keep a younger and inclusive audience, they need to take a page out of their book.
You can argue and say First Kill was too expensive to make, but if you’ve watched the show, it’s clear the budget was $5 and a glue stick. First Kill already has a loyal fanbase but it seems like Netflix either doesn’t want to pursue shows staring lesbians or believes that teen WLW-led shows can’t pull in the numbers that their other shows can.
With these decisions that Netflix is constantly making, they will soon lose a community that they actually need. Queer women want to and deserve to see themselves loved fiercely on TV. First Kill was a shot for Netlfix to actually show they understand what their viewers want. Despite the lack of advertisement and marketing, First Kill landed on the charts. But apparently, Netflix had a hit on their hand that they didn’t want. And by canceling it, they alienated a whole subset of people in the process.