WLW: Why is Woman-Loving-Woman Television Being Cancelled?
From The Wilds to First Kill, WLW stories are being cancelled left, right and centre
As we enter the last months of the year, it appears that relatively popular TV series’ featuring WLW characters and partnerships have not escaped the curse of cancellation, despite their popularity throughout the year. The most prominent of these shows are the likes of The Wilds and, new show, First Kill. Unfortunately, often, there is little to no explanation by their respective companies and streaming services as to why the cancellation has occurred. And, what is the most upsetting about this notion, is that each show was popular in its own right, with statistics to prove it. What we can therefore assume has occurred is that these series have fallen victim to society’s implicit, and yet constant, disinterest in WLW, both in the media and in day-to-day life.
The disinterest in WLW individuals and relationships undoubtedly feeds from the misogyny that is still present in contemporary society, which manifests itself in the favouring and popularity of MLM (Man-Loving-Man) – centric media. Consequently, popular shows amongst the WLW sub-category of the LGBTQIA+ community are left floundering and underrepresented. But, the mere cancellation of TV shows is only a small part of a much larger issue.
The cancellation of Amazon Prime’s popular survival show, The Wilds, caused perhaps the most uproar out of the above-mentioned recent cancellations. The show, which focused on a group of girls surviving on an island after an aeroplane crash, featured a WLW couple, Toni and Shelby. Both were beautiful and already underrepresented character arcs, with Toni representing someone who was already comfortable in their sexuality without the usual ‘tragic coming out story’ attached to her. Her other half, Shelby, was a devout Christian who struggled with her sexuality for much of her life, before her attraction to Toni cemented that her sexuality was not, in fact, heterosexual.
LGBTQIA+ fans of the show took to Twitter immediately upon news of the cancellation, which occurred despite a successful and critically acclaimed second season that was released in May 2022. Instantly, it was obvious that much of the upset was directed at Toni and Shelby’s relationship no longer being promised to return to their screens.
One fan tweeted: “I REFUSE TO LOSE THEM, BRING THEM BACK TO ME.” Whilst another fan highlighted the importance of the couple and what it meant for WLW representation, “Toni and Shelby had one of the most beautiful lesbian relationships I’ve seen on a show.” And, “We had an out and proud lesbian and a closeted lesbian and we got to see both of their stories merge and come together in a glorious way, but we need to see their ending.”
Erana James, the actress who played Toni, shared her thoughts on the cancellation and the importance of representation of WLW characters, stating: “It’s not a story of someone coming out or coming to terms with their identity, but more that she fiercely knows who she is and she’s proud of that. She knows herself. And she’s not going to apologise for it.”
And thus, we all bear witness to yet another loss of media representation for those who identify with WLW. For The Wilds, both seasons were acclaimed by critics, but Amazon still pulled the plug.
Another show that’s cancellation is perhaps more surprising, was the decision to cancel Netflix’s new show First Kill less than two months after it initially premiered in June 2022. First Kill was a supernatural, coming-of-age series with a lesbian couple as its protagonists. And, whilst not being a critical hit, First Kill was in Netflix’s global Top 10 TV list for three weeks, racking up 97.66 million hours watched in that time alone. Statistics don’t lie, so it is no surprise when the show’s cancellation led to the hashtag #CancelNetflix trending on Twitter.
What appeared to be the most upsetting notion for fans of the show, was when they compared the viewing statistic of First Kill with Netflix’s popular and recently released MLM series, Heartstopper. Heartstopper was almost instantaneously renewed for a further two seasons following its initial release, despite only amassing 53.46 million hours watched whilst it was on the global Top 10 TV list – almost half of First Kill. Fans explained their annoyance, tweeting things such as “we’re not comparing First Kill with Heartstopper, we’re comparing how Netflix treats MLM-centric shows to how they treat their WLW shows.” Which, of course, is poorly in comparison and rooted in misogyny.
The community can therefore only hope that such constant cancellations of WLW series will cause enough uproar to end the misogynistic practice. But, when such a practice is so constant, it is incredibly hard to hold out hope.