Cyndi Lauper said it best — girls just want to have fun.
We don’t want to stumble around, looking for ways to intellectualize our entertainment, until watching TV becomes more of a chore than our actual schoolwork. We don’t want to pretend we only watch Very Serious TV Shows about middle-aged men in failing marriages. We want to watch things that are silly and tragic and adorable and fantastical and, most of all, fun.
When I describe V.E. Schwab’s “First Kill” as fun, that’s not to say there’s nothing of substance in it. Rather, it’s to say there’s nothing, or at least very little, of substance to its critiques. Its Rotten Tomatoes reviews are split jarringly, with critics finding much less to enjoy about it than audiences. One particularly vengeful critic described it as “the kind of young-adult genre show that Netflix churned out by the truckload before beginning to pull back.” The consensus among the Very Serious People who watch Very Serious TV Shows was clear — “First Kill” was derivative in the worst way possible. It was derivative because it didn’t speak to them.
But it spoke to me.
And it spoke to thousands of other fans, who rushed to Twitter and Instagram to beg Netflix not to cancel our cute, quirky show that put queer people and Black people in leading roles, and didn’t linger on their suffering more than their joy.
Netflix’s excuse for canceling “First Kill” was that not enough people watched the show to its bitter end — according to SVOD data company Digital I, if no more than 50% of people finish a show’s first season, it’s unlikely to be renewed for a second.
But if there’s any reason to break from tradition, it’s “First Kill.” It was the most in-demand new Netflix show just two weeks after it came out, despite not being heavily marketed or given any sort of budget.
And unlike comparable LGBTQ+ centric Netflix shows (like “Heartstopper”), for which the episode length averaged out at 30 minutes, “First Kill” released eight episodes, all at once, each episode being an hour long. How is it reasonable to expect people to finish all eight episodes in just a few weeks?
It even held its own against much more heavily-marketed, Very Serious Shows in its first few weeks, purely through the moxie of the LGBTQ+ people who took to the internet to plead with anyone, anywhere, to watch our show.
Netflix just doesn’t like queer people it can’t force into a fabulous, marketable package. Shows like “Heartstopper” and “Sex Education” fit that box well enough. “First Kill” doesn’t.
Because it’s about queer women and people of color. Because it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Because it imagines a fun, enjoyable fantasy world, one you actually want to live and stay in, and doesn’t worry about whether embracing that silliness might be considered embarrassing.
“First Kill” wasn’t canceled because it was bad. It was canceled because it was fun.