Hunger Strikes And Flash Mobs: Fans Of ‘The OA’ Launch A Wild Campaign To Save The Show

"By not taking physical food, I’m saying that this show is more important food to me than actual food.”

The OA cancellation inspires dramatic #SaveOA movement

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Petitions are almost par for the course when a television show is cancelled — and as proven by Brooklyn Nine-Nine, they can be successful, too. But fans of Netflix’s axed sci-fi drama The OA have gone above and beyond to get the show back, staging flash mobs, buying billboards and even, in one case, holding hunger strikes.

Earlier this month, Netflix announced the show wouldn’t be renewed for a third season. The OA joins a growing graveyard of shows the streaming giant has left behind including American Vandal, Santa Clarita Diet and Tuca and Bertie. A petition and #RenewTheOA Twitter campaign immediately launched, but since then, fans have levelled up their game, knowing they have to spread the word beyond their own circles.

“Many people haven’t seen this show,” superfan Mandy Paris told the Los Angeles Times. “But rather than run a hostile campaign, we want to bring the attention to The OA and demonstrate to Netflix that the show could have a much wider reach if people knew about it.”

The OA‘s two seasons are generally critically acclaimed. Created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, the show is a sci-fi mystery focusing on a blind woman who returns after seven years missing and can now see. It was praised for its ambition and discussion of LBGTIQ+ issues, though some reviewers found the whole thing “half-baked”.

Fans believe the show was mis-marketed, and could still reach a bigger audience.

The first step was launching, a website where they can mobilise and organise new actions. Relatively small steps include online viewing parties to boost streaming numbers and sending notes and flowers to Netflix, a reference to The OA‘s second season.

Elsewhere, people have been fundraising for anti-human trafficking nonprofit A21 and cleaning up rubbish from public areas under the respective hashtags #GiveOA and #GreenOA.

A fundraising campaign to buy a billboard for the show in Times Square also passed its goal and hit the $5,500 mark, launching August 26 on the corner of 42nd and 7th street.

A flash mob of around 20 people also performed a dance in front of the billboard, inspired by one of The OA‘s The Movement dance scenes.

It was far from the first public protest. Last week, 15 people picketed Netflix’s LA offices with placards, standing outside for three hours — regular pickets in front of it and the NYC office have happened since.

A picketer named Emperial Young has even gone on hunger strike, beginning August 18.

In an interview with Insider, Young explained her reasoning: “Entertainment is food for the human soul and Netflix’s algorithm isn’t measuring that right now. And by not taking physical food, I’m saying that this show is more important food to me than actual food.”

On Twitter, Young — who says she is still on strike, 10 days in — has extrapolated in a long thread why she’s not eating. In it, she acknowledges going on a hunger strike for a tv show is “absurd”, but so is our “capitalist cycle”: “sometimes, a TV show is the best thing you have”.

The first day of her strike, she received support from Brandon Perea, one of The OA‘s actors.

Netflix has not commented on the campaign yet, but it’s worth noting it’s incredibly unlikely it will renew the show as the company are currently tightening their editorial belts.

Last year was the first in a decade where Netflix lost subscribers in the US. Where once the streaming giant has a de facto monopoly, growing competition in the past years from the likes of HBO Go, Amazon Prime and the impending juggernaut that’s Disney+ has seen users pick and choose where their money goes.

Renewing a show that hasn’t so far hit an audience is unlikely to provide more subscribers for Netflix, which without advertisements, brand partnerships or the possibility of syndication, remains their sole revenue stream. Since chopping Sense8 in 2017, Netflix has been increasingly selective with renewing shows, even those with a passionate fanbase — most notably, several Marvel shows have been axed.

As The Verge wrote, “How many new viewers will subscribe for a third season of The OA if they didn’t subscribe for the first two? As executives see it, that money might be better spent on an entirely new series, particularly in a less saturated international market.”

Like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which found new life on NBC after being dropped by Fox, The OA could be picked up by another distributor if Netflix don’t budge.

Then again, some fans have a wild conspiracy that the cancellation is a meta-play on a supposed Season 3’s reality-traversing plot, suggesting that the show’s creators have it all planned out.

Show creator and star Brit Marling has confirmed that’s not the case, but some remain convinced the truth is out there. Maybe they just want to believe a little too much.