Linnea Mayo ’26
Despite LGBTQIA+ representation becoming more prominent within mainstream media, streaming services and media companies have had a problem with canceling lesbian-lead TV shows over the past few years. These stories often do not stand a chance to show audiences their potential because streaming services, particularly Netflix, chose to cancel them within the first few seasons.
In 2020, Netflix canceled three of its original programs with lesbian leads within a week of one another, which included “Atypical,” “I Am Not Okay With This” and “The Society.” That same year Netflix also canceled “Teenage Bounty Hunters.” Netflix claimed these shows were canceled due to “COVID-related circumstances,” but many other series with male queer representation continued on.
In 2022, women-led queer shows were constantly being canceled, including “The Wilds,” “Paper,” “Warrior Nun,” “Gentleman Jack” and “Girls.” The Warner Brothers also canceled their Batgirl film, which would have included the first openly trans character and actress in the DC film universe.
This pattern is especially disappointing when the shows cannot even make it past the first season and are swept beneath mainstream shows that guarantee companies funding. Companies’ main concern is the profit they can make rather than the value of the show. As someone always searching for shows and movies with even a hint of a queer plotline, it becomes incredibly frustrating when you find out their stories are always cut short and incomplete. Examples of lesbian and queer shows axed after their first season include “Willow,” “4440” and “A League of Their Own.”
Some canceled shows are bound to be objectively bad due to lack of quality, resources, or accuracy, but the uncertainty around the show’s cancellation after one season makes it difficult to find and enjoy quality WLW (women loving women) media. A few examples of longrun lesbian shows include “The L Word,” “Orange is the New Black,” “The Fosters” and “Transparent” – a list that is far too short. We cannot praise the industry for its progressiveness without acknowledging the clear lack of care in longevity towards these shows.
Streaming services have also argued that ratings were too low and not enough people watch the show to keep them going. However, many of these shows have strong fandoms and positive reviews from critics behind them. Take “First Kill,” a lesbian vampire show. Despite being canceled two months after the release of their first season, “First Kill” was on Netflix’s Top 10 for various weeks, and received 100 million hours viewed in the first month of release. This pattern becomes especially apparent when shows like “Riverdale” continue to be renewed, despite mixed reviews.
These cancellations have caused many fans to take to social media to fight for their favorite show’s future and the future of queer women-led shows. This shared desire to bring a show back has allowed people to connect with others who are also impacted by the content and underscores the value of lesbian media.
Actresses like Zoë Kravitz have also addressed this controversy. Kravitz took to Instagram following the cancellation of her Hulu show “High Fidelity.” She captioned an Instagram photo with, “It’s cool. At least Hulu has a ton of other shows starring women of color we can watch. Oh wait,” calling out the streaming service’s lack of diversity and poor decision.
Although these cancellations are not limited to lesbian shows, a bias toward gay men media cannot be ignored. Shows like “Heartstopper,” “Young Royals,” or “Queer Eye” have continued to be renewed, while much of the LGBTQIA+ media getting canceled is centered on queer women and their romantic relationships. Celebrating shows that include positive representations is valuable, but only having this perspective excludes more diverse LGBTQIA+ stories and experiences.
There is no denying that these streaming services have a problem with canceling lesbian-lead shows. The need for lesbian representation is not simply about wanting a show, it is about preventing the time of never seeing yourself on screen – when LGBTQIA+ representation was less diverse than it is now. Seeing yourself adequately represented in media, especially queer media, allows you to figure out your sense of identity and belonging. The more characters and representation there is, the higher the nuance and visibility there is for people to see themselves reflected.
Including multi-dimensional characters within queer media would also educate and sensitize a wider audience about the diversity of queer experiences. It allows viewers to challenge the harmful objectification, sexualization and stereotypes media typically portrays of lesbian and queer women.
Ultimately, lesbian and queer representation is far behind where it needs to be. The uncertainty of adequate lesbian representation unfortunately remains, and it is crucial that we continue to hold these streaming services and companies accountable for those stories they deem less important. The pattern of canceling lesbian-led shows raises questions about the media’s genuine commitment to diverse queer representation and proves the misogyny that persists towards queer women in leading roles.
These streaming services and companies must acknowledge the impact that their media could have on public opinions by empowering all queer voices and stories. Asking for lesbian and queer representation is not asking for too much, and I hope that someday people do not need to worry about their favorite show getting canceled simply because of its demographic.