The first show I can really remember “fighting” for was Firefly. (I’m sure I’ve aged myself by saying that, but it’s true.) I came onto the game a little late, about six months after the unfair and unjust cancellation by Fox. Back then (okay, now I do sound old), all we could really do to fight the injustice was take to our message boards and organize letter writing campaigns which were largely unsuccessful. We managed to get a movie made, which arguably hurt worse than the cancellation itself. But the larger question remained: Why did the cancellation of Firefly hurt so bad?
Because it was unique. It was a well acted, well cast, witty, clever cowboy space drama. It wasn’t like anything else on television, and so the people that loved it felt, well, represented in a way. A wacky band of misfits against a scary totalitarian government, all on a major television network. But all of that to say — the fight we took part in for Firefly was harsh and loud and long… but singular. Sure, there were shows that cropped up every now and again with unjust cancellations, and there were those among us that took up arms to prove to the networks they were wrong. But by and large, this wasn’t something that happened all that often.
And then suddenly, television was more than just the networks. Suddenly there were streaming services and more diverse ways to tell more diverse stories. There’s been half a dozen shows just like Firefly that have found homes in various cable and streaming outlets, and boy, as a misfit, do I feel HEARD.
Only, now that we have been given so much, it feels also like we have a lot to lose.
Right now, we’re at this interesting junction of a golden age of television — an industry that is still stuck in the same dark ages in terms of deciphering viewership. What it has lead to is increasingly interesting and varied stories being told — and those same stories being ripped away from lack of some magical (and profitable) number of viewers. Frankly, most of us don’t have the industry knowledge to be able to decipher if canceling a show is “just” or not. (And to be honest, some of these decisions aren’t being based off of numbers alone, anyway.) All that we know is that for every new show that pops up seeming to tell stories from a new point of view, we lose it just as quickly.
And then comes the fight. Objectively speaking (though it does sound contradictory), never before have the “people” had this much “power.” Long gone are the letter writing campaigns to major networks; now we just send tweets. We start trending parties. We use social media to contact show runners and network executives directly. We ping other networks to let them know there is interest in the show to save it. And we connect with other fans to take the fight as far as Times Square, or to have a banner fly over Comic Con.
There’s no limit to what we can do, and how loud we can get.
But I’m tired. Aren’t you?
Increasingly, it’s feeling like when they’re threatening to cancel these unique shows, and thereby telling unique (but so important) stories, we misfits feel swept under the rug. We just got a seat at the table, and now we’re being told to leave. The reality is (or so I choose to believe) that most of these decisions are based on money alone. That doesn’t really soothe the ache, but at least it’s better than “it’s a giant conspiracy to keep us homogenized.” I do believe that someday, networks and streaming services are going to figure out the sweet spot between making money and giving us the content we want (and deserve). But in the meantime, we cannot afford to be quiet. We will need to keep using our voices to demand to be represented in the media we consume.
However, like any warrior, you need to make sure to take care of yourself first. I’ve been involved in campaigns to save shows that were so intense, I couldn’t sleep or eat, because it meant so much to me that they get produced. (Oh, Wayward! My heart is forever broken.) So I’ve compiled a list of ways to practice some self care when keeping up the good fight.
Find a Tribe
No matter what show you love, there is guaranteed to be a gaggle of people that feel the same way. Make your way to social media and find these fine folks. Misery loves company, as they say, but more importantly this is going to make you feel like you’re not alone in this fight. There are other people that want this story told, and you can be fighting for them, too.
When you’re caught up in the heat of saving a show, taking a step away from your phone or computer may seem completely counter-productive. After all, if you’re not fighting, WHO WILL BE?! First of all, that is why step one is to find your tribe — because if you need to take some time away from a computer screen, you can rest with the knowledge that your friends are carrying the banner. But secondly, you can’t give something your best when you’re road weary. The endless social media cycle can take a toll on anyone on a good day, let alone when within it lies potential news of show renewal. I promise: the fight will continue if you take an hour and eat some ice cream. When you come back to with with renewed fervor, you can relieve a friend.
Look, it may feel like some mucky muck network executive holds your representation in their grubby mitts, but that ain’t even a bit true. These stories are being told, because people just like you got mad enough to create their own and share it. So get out your computer, get out a paintbrush, get out your guitar — and get creative. Tell your own story — or continue the story you already love. Not only will you find it cathartic, but if you share it with your tribe, I’ll bet you they find relief in it as well.
Boost Existing Stories
Using that big, important voice of yours, expand your horizons to include other shows telling unique stories. Even if it’s not telling something that resonates with you, recognize that it’s telling a marginalized perspective, and give it a big ol’ social media boost. We misfits need to help each other out, and together, we have a much louder voice than if we keep ourselves segregated. Stop someone else’s fight before it even happens.
There have been some major victories in the last year (Brooklyn Nine-Nine!! Lucifer!!), some horrible losses (Timeless, Shadowhunters), and some fights we are still waging (One Day at a Time, Wynonna Earp). Please remember most importantly — this is all a marathon and not a race. Be loud for awhile, and then take time for yourself. It may not feel like we’re moving mountains, but I assure you, we are.
How do you take care of yourself when you’re fighting for a show? Share some ideas in the comments – let’s help each other out!