top of page

The Sapphic Cancellation Curse

There has been a pattern with streaming services lately, and it's not good. New shows that appear to be doing well in terms of trending on social media and high viewership are being snuffed out before they even get the chance to create the building blocks of their storyline. Coincidentally, the majority of these shows have one significant factor in common: they include LGBTQIA+ couples.

More often than not, the type of LGBTQIA+ representation that is showcased in these now canceled shows are sapphic characters and/or their relationships (hence the now widespread term "sapphic curse" or "sapphic cancellation curse" on platforms such as Twitter and TikTok). In case you are unaware, sapphic is an umbrella term for relationships that involve a woman being attracted to another woman. Well, as streaming services multiply, so do the cancellations of these shows, this year being no exception. Recently, the widely loved show Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies was canceled only WEEKS after its season finale had aired. And, to add salt to the wound, Paramount+ is removing the series itself from its platform as well as another queer show that was recently canceled, Queen of the Universe. This appalling motion is reminiscent of Disney+'s actions to remove the short-lived Willow earlier this year, a sequel series that openly featured a sapphic relationship. The show did not get nearly the marketing it should've, which seems to be a trend with these sapphic-inclusive shows as of late. I'll touch on the advertising aspect a bit later.

It is SO hard to find sapphic representation in media, let alone positive representation. Seeing these authentic relationships on-screen is huge and can mean so much to the LGBTQIA+ audience. But, we can only do that if, you know, these companies keep these types of shows running and don't take them off of the platforms for future generations to watch… Just a thought.

The issue with the rise of streaming services is that they expect shows to perform at exponential rates, and immediately at that, just like films do. The thing is, that's not how television was intended to function. The stories that are told through this medium are supposed to take time to develop; they are supposed to weave through the masses to find their audience as the show continues. It's been said over and over about so many topics, but capitalism is genuinely ruining the entertainment industry- the push for money and views when shows first premiere and then the cancellations that follow if the shows don't meet those goals in only a month.

TikTok user @thatclarafied explains this entire issue plaguing Hollywood in a clear and dire manner. I highly recommend you check out her video.

Circling back, let's discuss the appalling lack of marketing these shows have seen (or, more accurately, have not seen). To put it point blank, these companies have failed at advertising these wonderful shows. Ads for shows with sapphic representation are scarce- I don't think I saw a single one for series like First Kill, Warrior Nun, Vampire Academy, Paper Girls, or Willow, just to name a few. The reason that people in the queer community can find these shows in the first place is through social media. Corporations rely on large fanbases to gain viewers for their shows rather than putting in the proper effort to display them. It's unfortunate and disappointing that these major million-dollar companies aren't willing to support the very content they own and produce.

I want to acknowledge that the entertainment industry has not had much of a break in these past few years. First and foremost, when COVID hit in 2020, it left many stagnant and wondering where to turn to. Now, the Writer's Guild of America is striking for fair pay and fair hours for their writers since the shift to streaming has not been kind to them (more information on why this strike is critical and needed to occur can be found here). But, here's the thing: there will ALWAYS be obstacles. If one keeps turning back every time their path is blocked, they will never progress. The same can be said for streaming: if shows keep getting canceled before they even get a shot at developing their narrative, we'll just end up right back where we were at the start with absolutely no progress. It's a vicious cycle that needs to be broken, and it needs to be broken now.

By taking these programs off of their respective streaming services, these companies are essentially erasing them from history. When looking at this from a queer perspective, it's almost as if these corporations are taunting the community,

dangling a perfectly good and inclusive show right over our heads before snatching it away without a second thought, discarding it in a bin, and wiping their hands clean. It's scary, looking at all of these instances where series with excellent portrayals of queer people have been completely expunged from the media. We begin to worry that we are regressing to a time with very little queer representation. Further, taking these shows off their platforms affects not only the audience that resonated with them but the people involved with creating them. Many people in the industry rely on residuals from past projects to keep them afloat as they search for new jobs, work on current ones, etc. When a series is removed from a platform, the writers, the actors, and the people who spent hours creating something they love no longer receive the residuals they so rightfully deserve. It's a concern that only rises as the WGA strike presses on and the streaming services continue removing content.

With the recent cancellation of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, let's put together a quick timeline of the last few weeks, shall we? This series premiered on Parmount+ on April 26th, 2023. The finale was put out on June 1st, 2023. Not even a month later, on June 23rd, it was announced that Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies would be canceled after only one season and wholly removed from Parmount+ on June 26th. This show was widely received by audiences (who did most of the marketing) optimistically. It displayed a very accurate depiction of how much of a struggle it can be to accept yourself. It had a hugely positive sapphic relationship at the forefront and remarkable songs that trended on TikTok for weeks. And yet, it was still subject to this tragic end… for tax write-offs. There are so many television shows that did not have a decent first season and, yet, continued (The Office, Parks, and Recreation, etc.). They GREW and earned their spot in television history. But that was in the age of traditional television. With streaming, nothing is safe. The original idea of being able to watch something when you want to watch it has completely gone out the window.

How are shows supposed to grow and reach their audience if they aren't given the chance to? And why are the shows that are always axed the sapphic-inclusive ones? The queer community now has to either binge-watch shows over and over again to make sure that it gets enough

viewership within the first 28 days it is on the platform OR altogether avoid any show until it has been renewed for another season out of fear of getting attached to something that will ultimately be stripped away. The allotted views sometimes don't save these shows from extinction (ex: First Kill). But, when the shows that we love and represent us get the sack, we can try to save them with all our might. As I write this, it has been announced that Warrior Nun, a show with a central sapphic relationship previously canceled by Netflix even after a massive audience and two successful seasons, has been saved! This is all due to fans creating petitions and spreading the word on social media. Although this means that, once again, fans will have to put in the brunt of the work rather than the company itself, it does leave some hope that there are avenues for change in the future. Here's to hoping that these streaming services see the importance of shows representing the LGBTQIA+ community sooner rather than later.

If you want to help keep the latest victim of this crusade, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, from falling into obscurity, the cast and crew are running a campaign to save it! Post a video of yourself sharing why you loved the show, why it was necessary, and/or how you could relate. Then, share that with all social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, TikTok). Remember to tag @saveourpinks and any other streaming service you can think of! Remember to use the hashtag #saveourpinks in your caption/tweet!

Written by Ashley Lavalle

bottom of page