There’s something ironic about #SaveTheOA. For those who need a primer, the hashtag — and the movement around it — sprang up a few weeks ago when Netflix announced it was canceling the much-loved little-watched sci-fi drama. the OA† It’s no wonder fans flock online to save a show; such methods saved everything from Community until Veronica Mars† Oddly enough, #SaveTheOA’s most impactful results have manifested themselves IRL, somewhere far from the Netflix queues and web forums where the show made its home.
The latest demonstration took place earlier this week in Times Square in New York City. As flash mobs descended, a huge billboard — paid for by a GoFundMe — projected #SaveTheOA into Midtown’s main downtown area. The flash mobs performed the show’s “moves,” strange-looking dances intended to transcend time and space and also foster community. The billboard, which grossed more than $5,000 in 24 hours, was created using fan art and animated by a team spanning the globe. Last week, across the country, fans pecked outside Netflix’s Los Angeles headquarters with signs reading “Algorithms don’t tell stories. Human hearts do.” One fan even went on a hunger strike to bring the show back. There may be a hashtag, but the efforts to bring back the OA go far beyond the usual internet sluggishness.
To be clear, there is also a Change.org petition. Nearly 80,000 people have signed it since Netflix canceled the show on August 5. But at a time when Twitter is a show like Brooklyn Nine-Ninewhich was picked up by NBC almost as soon as Fox dropped it, the OAFans do a lot more than most to save their favorite shows. This shows a deep understanding of how TV works now. The OA vroom, as evidenced by their promotional campaigns and protest signs, know that a company like Netflix is primarily driven by ratings. They think the streaming giant hasn’t done enough to promote their show, so they’re doing it themselves.
“A lot of people haven’t seen this show,” organizer Mandy Paris told the Los Angeles Times† “But instead of running a hostile campaign, we want to draw attention to” the OA and shows Netflix that the show could have a much wider reach if people knew about it. We’re running a multifaceted campaign, hosted via a Discord chat with watchtheoa.com as our hub, targeting fans who want to help campaign for the show’s revamp.”
Fans used to write letters to rescue Star Trek or send light bulbs to NBC to renew Friday night lights† More recently, online boosterism has made a comeback Community and raised money for a Veronica Mars movie. But Netflix isn’t short on cash, and it’s highly unlikely that the company would let the show move to another outlet, so fans need to speak the language the streamer understands: ratings. The best chance they have is to convince so many people to watch the OA that Netflix should take notice and make more of it. It may be a long shot, but the fandom of Sense8 was able to persuade Netflix to create a two-hour finale for the Wachowski siblings’ quirky sci-fi drama. They may not get the five seasons Netflix once said it was planned, but they might get something.
In a climate where the streaming wars have made it easy to start and finish new series, getting a coda is a big deal, especially for fans of a show like the OA† Created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, the series has been largely embraced for the diversity it represents, including LGBTQ+ characters, people with mental health issues, and people of color. It is about facing adversity and overcoming it. Completing the storyline could end those who have found solace in the show, just as the series itself built a community among its fans, including on sites like The OA Is Real.
Over the weekend, Marling posted a lengthy letter to fans of her show on Instagram. In it she noted that: the OAThe “unexpected cancellation raises bigger questions about the role of storytelling and its fate within late capitalism’s push for consolidation and economies of scale.” She doesn’t mention Netflix, but it’s implied. Closing the note, she stated that the show’s story was no longer written by herself or Batmanglij; it was taken over by the fans. “You stand on street corners in the hot sun protesting. You meet new people in strange niches online and share stories of loss and renewal you never thought you’d tell anyone,” she wrote. “You learn choreography and move in ways you’ve never dared move before… It’s all worth something.”
It all seems to be part of the movement.
This story first appeared on Wired.com