An open letter to Netflix

Claire Moriarty, Opinions Editor
Originally published June 22, 2017

I begin this letter with three words that comprise both a question and a statement.

What the hell?

You are undoubtedly aware of this, but people aren’t too happy with you right now. I think you know why. And I hope you acknowledge that you deserve the backlash for the egregious executive decisions you have been making of late.

Listen to me. I’m about to restate something that you’ve likely heard many times in the generous space of the past 5 days, and that is this: it is absurd that shows such as “The Get Down” and “Sense8” have been canceled while “13 Reasons Why” is allowed to endure. Here is why.

Firstly, “13 Reasons Why” is offensive and harmful. In my opinion, it is a missed opportunity to show some good representation of mental illness that could even have been educative. Instead of doing that, it strengthens dangerous messages by sensationalizing suicide.

Secondly, “13 Reasons Why” has exhausted all of its source material in the space of a single season. It has satisfactorily wrapped up the only plotline presented by the book. And yet, it has been renewed for a second season, which makes the cancellation of “Sense8” and “The Get Down” even more infuriating. “The Get Down” left several threads of the plot unresolved, and the last season of “Sense8” ended on a cliffhanger. From where I stand, that just seems abjectly unfair.

Thirdly, and most importantly, “The Get Down” and “Sense8” were two shows with racially diverse casts and strong LGBTQ representation. While “Sense8” is a sci-fi series and “The Get Down” is often rather frivolous, both depicted marginalized people–strong characters–interacting with the wider world. I think one could go so far as to say that they were empowering.

“13 Reasons Why” isn’t empowering.

But this isn’t about that one show. Everyone deserves to look at fictional characters and identify with them. Everyone deserves to experience the feeling of seeing a protagonist, a hero, and thinking, They’re like me. I know how awesome that feels because I have the privilege of being able to find such heroes in many popular books and movies. Netflix, you put out some great shows, and I respect you as a company. But you need to show some respect for those who spend their lives searching far and wide for representation in the media. You were getting that right for a while. What in the world possessed you to take it away?