Photo: Zoe Kravitz in High Fidelity/Hulu
Actress Zoe Kravitz posted an Instagram photo of herself with the cast of her show High Fidelity, which Hulu cancelled after one season. In the caption, she wrote “I wanna give a shout out to my #highfidelity family. Thank you for all the love and heart you put into this show. I’m in awe of all of you. And thank you to everyone who watched, loved and supported us. #breakupssuck.”
Fellow actress Tessa Thompson commented, saying how much she will miss everyone, to which Kravitz replied “It’s cool. At least Hulu has a ton of other shows starring women of color we can watch. Oh wait.”
Let’s investigate Zoe Kravitz Statement
How accurate is Kravitz’s accusation? Well, it depends. If you’re simply talking about shows with female minorities in the cast, there are plenty of those in its “Black Stories” section. Atlanta, Power, and Everybody Hates Chris are among the most noteworthy. However, if you’re looking for shows with female minorities in leading roles, it’s a much different conversation.
All three of the aforementioned shows have men in the leading roles. In fact, that’s the case for most of the shows in this section. There are some exceptions, such as Queen Sugar, Grown-ish, and Little Fires Everywhere, but the selection is not plentiful.
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What about other ethnic groups?
In their “Latino” section, it’s a similar story. There are a couple of female-led shows, such as East Los High and I Love Jenni. However, there are many more male-led shows. Even worse, there are no other “ethnic” TV shows in this section. There is an international section, but it includes mainly white-dominated shows from Europe (as well as anime, but let’s focus on live-action content). It certainly appears that Kravitz was not only accurate in her criticism, but also observant enough to point out an issue that could have gone relatively unnoticed by the general public.
Of course, this leads us to the all-important question: why doesn’t Hulu have more of these types of shows? And why would it cancel one of its only shows that had a female minority in the main role?
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It doesn’t make sense on multiple levels
According to Brady Langmann and Adrienne Westenfeld from Esquire, “We’re in the middle of a streaming TV boom as of last year, Hulu reportedly was working with a $2.5 billion programming budget. That’s still a fraction of Netflix’s $8 billion wallet, but you’d think Hulu could carve out a home for High Fidelity amidst the Future Mans of its platform. Even if High Fidelity attracted only a modest audience, the show was an important step forward for Hulu, a platform still lagging woefully behind its competitors in offering original content starring women of color.”
Of course, there will always be a moral obligation for Hulu, and all entertainment companies, to include women and people of color in its content. However, it also makes more sense to do so from a business perspective. Rather than limiting itself, why not expand its audience to people of different cultures, which would in turn make more profit? Instead, Hulu decided to discontinue one of its most progressive shows after just one season, alienating Kravitz and her followers in the process. While Hulu may not be as big as Netflix, $2.5 billion is plenty to fund some more inclusive shows. There are no excuses at this point.
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How does Hulu compare to Netlix?
Netflix blows Hulu’s selection out of the water. Its “Black Stories” section features a myriad of options with female leads, such as Dear White People, Pose, Moesha, Self Made, Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, and She’s Gotta Have It, a spin-off of the classic 1986 Spike Lee film of the same name. These are just a few of the many selections. Its “Spanish Language” section includes Netflix original shows such as Ingobernable, Dark Desire and High Seas, all with Latina women as leads. Also, the fact that Netflix itself is producing these shows, rather than buying them from a third party, shows its dedication to diversity and inclusion even more.
Additionally, it has a “K-dramas” section, centering on Korean shows. This is a whole group of people to whom Hulu has not bothered to cater to at all yet. The section has several Netflix original shows with female leads, including Was It Love? and Love Alarm. If Hulu wants to become as popular as Netflix any time soon, it would be wise to make more of an effort to appeal to a multitude ethnicities.
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What made High Fidelity special?
Personally, I’ve never heard of a show changing the race and gender of the original main character. That’s what High Fidelity did, remaking the 2000 film of the same name. In that movie, the main character was Robert Fleming, a straight white male who owns a record store and has issues in the romance arena. In the Hulu show, Robert is replaced by Robyn Fleming, an African-American women with the same occupation and troubles in her love life (played by Kravitz). Additionally, it appeals to the LGBTQ community, with Rob having an interest in both sexes, while her friend Simon is also gay.
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“The amount of comments, DMs, things on Twitter, articles written about Brown women who love music, were afraid of commitment, who’ve never seen a person like them on television — they feel seen for the first time,” said Kravitz on an episode of Variety and iHeartRadio’s “The Big Ticket” podcast. “I have a friend who — one of his best friends loves punk music and is gay — it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m watching a gay man in a Minor Threat shirt. I’ve never seen that before.’ Just breaking away from the stereotypes, I feel like people need that. So I feel very lucky to have been able to deliver that, because one of the most important things for me was authenticity and bringing a real world to life. I’ve lived in New York for a long time, and in a lot of ways this was a love letter to New York with all its messiness and diversity.”
At the end of the day, Hulu can only benefit from including more groups of people in their shows. Even if they aren’t immediately huge hits, people will eventually appreciate “being seen for the first time,” as Kravitz put it. High Fidelity is exactly the type of show Hulu should be promoting, not cancelling. Sometimes people have to take a couple of steps backwards before they can move forward.
Verdict: Hulu needs to do better and make more shows with Black & Brown actresses in leading roles.
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