Graphic by Esmé Warmuth
In August of 2022, Amazon Prime Video unceremoniously released their remake of Penny Marshall’s classic film, A League of Their Own. When the original film premiered in 1992, it was considered revolutionary in its portrayal of strong female characters who were the center of the narrative. Set in 1943, A League of Their Own told the unique story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). While many male baseball players fought overseas in World War II, women stepped up to the plate at the invitation of Major League Baseball executive, Philip K. Wrigley. The film followed the fictional AAGPBL players’ strength and the endurance of the human spirit during wartime.
The 2022 adaptation is an eight episode miniseries with a mostly original plot and characters. A League of Their Own boasts an impressive cast and creative team that prioritized representation both in casting and crafting of the story. The miniseries is unapologetic in its realistic representation of the discrimination faced by queer women and people of color in the 1940s.
Despite initial backlash from viewers who expected a more traditional adaptation of the original film, the show received excellent reviews. It holds a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes, a 7.6/10 on IMDB and an 88% on Google. The show also received widespread critical acclaim winning both Outstanding New TV Series at the 2023 GLAAD Media Awards and The National Visibility Award at the 2022 Human Rights Campaign National Dinner. In addition, Gbemisola Ikumelo, who plays Clance at the show, was nominated for Best Supporting Performance in a New Scripted Series at the 2023 Independent Spirit Awards.
Even with boundless praise and an exhaustive six-month-long fan campaign to get the show renewed, in March of 2023, it was reported that Amazon Prime intended to cancel the show, saying that they would release an abbreviated four-episode final season before putting it to rest for good. This four-episode final season was subsequently scrapped on August 18, when it was quietly announced that the show would be formally canceled without the promised episodes. While this cancellation was initially blamed on the writers’ and actors’ strikes in Hollywood, creator Abbi Jacobson called this excuse “bullshit and cowardly” in a post on Instagram. It is worth noting that production on the show began in March 2018, giving Amazon Prime — which has a history of renewing shows before they even begin to air — four years to consider greenlighting a second season of the show before the strike began in May of this year.
A League of Their Own is just the latest victim in a string of lesbian-centric shows that faced cancellation recently.
Queer shows have struggled to survive on television this year, and shows with lesbian or sapphic main characters are canceled at a disproportionate rate compared to shows that feature gay male protagonists. Of 30 queer-centric shows canceled in 2022, 22 featured lesbian relationships or characters.
Netflix is perhaps the most notorious culprit of canceling lesbian shows. Teen drama I Am Not Okay With This — which featured a lesbian main character and ended on a brutal cliffhanger — had a similar fate to A League of Their Own after Netflix canceled it in 2020 despite having initially promised to renew it. Co-creator Jonathan Entwistle told Business Insider that Netflix ultimately felt that the show was canceled due to its cost outweighing its use to the network.
In August 2022, Netflix also canceled their original series First Kill, a decision that was subsequently met with a huge amount of backlash. The show was massively successful on the streaming service — shooting into the top ten list during its release week, and, while in this top ten spot, amassing over 97 million hours viewed in total.
First Kill aired on Netflix at around the same time as Heartstopper, which features a high-school-romance storyline comparable to First Kill’s, though with the notable difference of portraying two queer men rather than women as its central couple. Although the show gained 53.4 million hours viewed while in Netflix’s top ten, considerably fewer than First Kill, Heartstopper was renewed for two more seasons within a month of airing.
First Kill fans did not go quietly. A visit to savefirstkill.com will yield a plethora of fan attempts to get the show either renewed by Netflix or picked up by another streaming service. Fans paid out of their own pockets to rent a Times Square billboard in August of 2022, displaying varying messages with the same meaning: Save First Kill. Much to the disappointment of the fans, their efforts fell on deaf ears, and First Kill unfortunately remains canceled with no prospects for a new season.
Other lesbian-centric shows canceled in 2022 include HBO’s Gentleman Jack, Netflix’s Warrior Nun, Amazon Prime’s The Wilds, Disney+’s Willow, Showtime’s The L Word: Generation Q and The CW’s Batwoman.
These cancellations may seem inconsequential, however, the distaste of the LGBTQ+ community should not be discounted as a profit-loss issue for companies.
In April 2022, The New York Times reported that Netflix had decreased in subscriptions for the first time in a decade, losing 200,000 in the first quarter of the year. Notably, this report came after The Human Rights Campaign declined to give Netflix a Corporate Equality Index, feeling that, following its support of Dave Chappelle’s ongoing anti-trans rhetoric, the streaming service did not merit one.
“So many of us already said they are not starting [to watch] any new Netflix shows unless they have 2 seasons AT LEAST because of their reputation of canceling everything. They should start actually thinking about how much that affects their shows,” a queer user said on X, formerly known as Twitter, lamenting Netflix’s habits.
Despite these statistics, there’s still hope.
Additionally, there is precedent for shows being canceled and then picked back up because of fan campaigns. Fans of the lesbian-centric show Wyonna Earp were able to get it back on the air for a final season after its cancellation by campaigning in a way similar to what A League of Their Own fans are doing now. Netflix’s Warrior Nun was also renewed after being canceled, thanks to the tireless efforts of fans.
Regardless of Amazon’s harsh cancellations, A League of Their Own fans remain optimistic. Creator Will Graham took to X to discuss the show’s cancellation, and told fans that they were “still fighting” for a second season.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that there wouldn’t be a home for a show that thanks to you was in the Nielsen Top 10 for three weeks, was the top show on Amazon for a month and in the top five for six, that was recognized by critics as something special, that’s been recognized with awards from GLAAD, HR and a million other organizations, that was on a million year-end top ten lists, and that has a built in and deeply passionate audience,” Graham wrote.With the hard work of fans, who will not stop advocating for queer creators’ rights to tell their own stories, A League of Their Own may find a new network for their second season, and continue the rising change in climate where the cancelation of queer shows will no longer be met with silent grief, but rather with loud opposition.