The Cancellation of Good Girls Revolt and The Diversity Crater It Left

As you may have guessed from reading this blog, I love historical fiction. So when Amazon Streaming released the new series Good Girls Revolt I watched episode one then quickly moved on to episode two and before I know it, it was two days later and I was lamenting the end of season one.

Based on the landmark class action lawsuit against “Newsweek” for their refusal to allow women to write, the show had everything. It had characters to root for, it made women’s lib tangible. Modern women could relate. It was sexy and filled with drama. And… if you notice I am talking about the show in the past tense because Amazon decided to ax the show.  In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter the entertainment behemoth said:

“We had high hopes for Good Girls Revolt, and have tremendous respect for the creators, cast and Sony, but I can tell you that the Symphony numbers being reported are wrong and that the show wasn’t performing at the levels we had hoped for — either in total viewership or completion rates.”

I call bullshit.

Exhibit A, no one knew about “Mozart in the Jungle” when it won all those Golden Globes. Proving that with an independent streaming network if they have faith in a show they can keep it going regardless of the numbers. Which, conveniently Amazon (like Netlix) doesn’t release.

However, this cancellation brings with it an even bigger issue: Amazon’s utter lack of diversity. I couldn’t help but wonder; How many men and women of color are portrayed in Amazon’s original programming? This is what I found:

My research parameters were that they had to be in multiple episodes and a person of color meant anyone who wasn’t white (this includes hispanic, asian and African American Nationalities). This is what I found:

  1. The aforementioned “Mozart in the Jungle.” Here we have a Mexican symphony conductor who is a bit of a playboy and a diva in his own right. He travels to New York City to take over the struggling symphony and make it cool again and is surrounded by a sea of white people. Named Characters of Color: 1
  2.  “Transparent” Another of Amazon’s hits. In this show, we have a man that is going through the process of becoming a woman. Though I love Jeffrey Tambor, he is a brilliant actor, at the end of the day, he gets to wipe off the makeup and go home a straight white man. I’m sorry, but with “Orange is the New Black” setting the standard for how transgendered people should be portrayed on television with characters actually being portrayed by a transgendered actor/actress this isn’t good enough. Remember kids, black face was once socially acceptable. And our named characters of color in this show: 0
  3. “Bosch.” The story about a detective in Hollywood. I’m not a big legal procedural tv show watcher. (I work in the legal field during the day, why do I want to be reminded of my day job when I go home?) This gritty drama centered around a white detective has some characters of color: 4
  4. “Hand of God.” Does anyone watch this show? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? So here we have a morally corrupt judge who, after a nervous breakdown, believes that God is speaking to him. And you guessed it, God wants him to be a vigilante. Why is it that God always wants people to be vigilantes? Why doesn’t he want them to open soup kitchens, or go around the world helping people ala Johnny Appleseed…Anyway, in this show, the primary characters are you named it: All white. But there is one named character of color that has been on for ten episodes. So their grand total is:  1
  5. This brings us to “The Man in High Castle.” “The Man in High Castle” tells the story of what could have been if the Nazi’s won in WW2. It’s the age-old belief that its ok to have marginalized people in entertainment, so long as they stay marginalized. Our named character of color total: 5
  6. “One Mississippi.” Though I have to commend the show for having a stripped down realistic look at grief, illness and a homosexual relationship there are no named characters of color in the show. The show takes place in Mississippi and Louisiana. I lived in the south for three and a half years. I have driven through Louisiana. I have stayed within Louisiana. I kind of find it hard to believe that this family lives within a white bubble. There has been one person of color who was a named character and she did only one episode, even though she was the mother’s maid and friend. (insert frustrated grumble here). Unfortunately, that doesn’t meet my research parameters. Sadly the total named characters of color for this show: 0
  7. “Goliath,” Amazon’s latest show centers around a has-been white male attorney making a comeback against the large powerful firm that he helped create. (The premise is a total shocker, I know). This now holds the crown as being the most diverse cast, only slightly more so than “The Man in High Castle.” It edges out “High Castle” in that there are more female named characters of color. Frankly, it beats out all the other shows for having the most female characters of color, which given the number of characters of color in the show is kind of sad. Total characters of color: 7

Out of Amazon’s top 7 shows (i didn’t include the children’s programming which is surprisingly diverse), we have a grand total of 18 people of color as named characters that appear in multiple episodes. And the sad thing is that it’s not going to change with the new shows that are set to premiere in 2017. I shouldn’t be able to sit down and count how many characters of color there are on a streaming network. In an age where our television and movies are reflecting the diverse society in which we live, Amazon is clearly falling behind. With the exception of “One Mississippi” and “The Man in High Castle” the women of these shows are purely reactionary. Perhaps it’s time to check some of these shows against the Bechdel Test.

“Good Girls Revolt” was the network’s saving grace. There were multiple characters of color, though it was not necessarily the most diverse of shows when it came to named characters of color, based on my research parameters, (The show’s total was 5 putting it towards the top of the pack) it dealt with the important history of African-American Civil Rights Movement. We had a fantastic feminist icon in Eleanor Holmes Norton who in addition to being a happily married woman with child, is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). As a side note, real life Eleanor would go on to become a United States Senator.

Arguably this show made up for the fact that Amazon has such a lack of diversity in their programming. And it passed the infamous Bechdel Test with flying colors. The cancellation of the show leaves a crater-sized hole in its programming. As consumers we need to demand that our entertainment be diverse; it’s the only way the powers that be will listen. Because I’ll be damned if “Good Girls Revolt” goes the way of “Firefly.”


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