So Tuca & Bertie was cancelled
Perhaps women’s issues are palatable only when not preachy, and provided in a way that is digestible for the privileged audiences that have access to Netflix
In July, Lisa Hanawalt, the creator of Tuca & Bertie, announced on Twitter that Netflix had cancelled the show; it won’t be returning for a second season. While the demise of a show usually doesn’t ruffle many feathers, in some cases where the show is beloved to a particular audience, much furore and backlash ensues. As happened in the case of Tuca & Bertie, which was received wonderfully, by women in particular.
I read the tweets with shock and disappointment; it seemed like the world simply did not want to listen to women whenever they created wonderful things to tell the truth about their lives. More than that, it was the realisation that the story of our bodies and our existence was relevant only when big corporations like Netflix deemed fit. Only when there was some capitalistic value to be gained from showing us twerking, sweating, and crying, was it to be considered.
Presumably, this news, like so many others that keep hitting us every second, must be received dryly. After all, it’s not like this hasn’t happened before, this cherry-picking and abandonment of issue-based content according to a capitalist lens. Gillette decided toxic masculinity was the next ‘in’ thing to tackle, owing to the upsurge in conversations around misogyny and abuse after Donald Trump’s election and the #MeToo movement. Bollywood jumped out of its hideouts to declare 'Love is Love', cast Sonam Kapoor in a hideous movie representation of queer love, and posted hearts on Instagram accounts after Section 377 was struck down. The exploitation of queer, female, and PoC narratives for profits has been a general global phenomenon, especially in the past few years. And the ubiquity of this is perfectly in keeping with what is expected of us: so much is happening, that nothing is shocking anymore. Who would care about a small-scale adult animation show for women when the world is burning and madmen are presidents and billionaires?
So why does this cancellation particularly sting? Perhaps because Tuca & Bertie was a perfect collection of a lot of good things all at once. A woman, sketching and controlling the entire narrative, with a bunch of fantastic people; Asian and black protagonists; surrealist artwork and snappy dialogue; heart-rending, painful truths shown with incredible compassion and understanding; a male protagonist we could all get behind, who wasn’t problematic and entitled for once. (The bar is so low that finding a man like this feels like an achievement.) Issues like sexual harassment, which gain layers upon layers of complications and shades when viewed and reported by different people — all of them not the victims — are given the platform needed without betraying the anger and hurt we go through every day of our lives.
Perhaps women’s issues are palatable only when not preachy, and provided in a way that is digestible for the privileged audiences that have access to Netflix. Of these privileged audiences, I particularly look at the ‘dudebro’ who goes on Twitter to say "All feminists are man-hating loonies" and lounges in derogatory meme groups on Facebook. ‘Dank’ memes, after all, are the easiest method for our men boys to hide their misogyny and sense of entitlement under the guise of dark humour.
Tuca & Bertie is both not for these people and exactly for them. You have buildings with breasts for windows, along with an overbearing boss who treads the line between intimidation and harassment initially, and then neatly crosses over towards the end. You have female friendships, female-owned businesses, healthy attitudes towards sex, a boyfriend who is exhausted but not exasperating, and a feeling of being underwater for most of the day, but also lying on the beach with your girls, full of strength, spirit, and happiness. Tuca & Bertie is a ray of hope even when it doesn’t profess to be anything like that; it tells the story of bodies and hurt as it is.
But in today’s times, a person who is happy is a liability which cannot be turned into hard cash. Tuca & Bertie was taken off precisely for this. We will find other ways to be heard; after all, Netflix is just a bunch of white men pretending to enjoy Riverdale. Why would they like a bird yelling ‘You dirty bitch!’ and another twerking?