Newsletter: Why is this TV fan on a hunger strike to save her favorite show?
Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Aug. 28, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.
Emperial Young’s rallying cry is written in hand-drawn capital letters: “Netflix Save The OA.” Just below that, a second, smaller sign affixed to the same upside-down broom spells out her tactics: “Hunger Strike Day 8.”
Netflix’s shiny, new 13-story building — whose lobby the New York Times recently declared to be not just the “hottest see-and-be-seen spot in Hollywood” but also the “symbolic epicenter” of our current Hollywood era — looms behind her. Young has been standing on this corner of Sunset Boulevard with her homemade sign and fervent plea for days.
A few weeks ago, the streaming behemoth announced that “The OA,” a sci-fi mystery thriller, would not be returning for a third season after ending Season 2 on a massive cliffhanger. Ardent fans responded in kind, going beyond the usual social media campaigns to crowdfund a Times Square billboard and launch a green initiative, among other novel tactics, as detailed in a recent Los Angeles Times story.
[Read the story: “Flowers. Billboards. A hunger strike. Inside the campaign to save Netflix’s ‘The OA’ ” in the Los Angeles Times]
But none of that requires renouncing food or spending six-ish hours a day just west of the 101 on-ramp and catty-corner from a Denny’s, in the literal shadow of the tech company that upended the entertainment industry — albeit several security checkpoints away from any of its decision-makers. So what is Young doing out here, and why does this show matter so much to her?
Netflix once had a reputation for “saving” and reviving beloved shows that been dropped by other networks, like “Arrested Development.” But it’s been taking a media drubbing of late for its slate of cancellations, including several critical and fan darlings that many argued had never been adequately promoted in the first place.
That said, it’s worth noting that Bloomberg media reporter Lucas Shaw crunched the numbers and found that Netflix’s “bloodbath” reputation for canceling shows is actually overblown: “Netflix is no quicker to drop shows than other networks,” Shaw wrote.
The lure of the entertainment industry drew Young west from Florida in 2007, the same year that Netflix launched its streaming video service. She had ambitions of working in scripted dramatic television. Instead, she spent a decade in the unscripted fringes of the dream factory, working her way up from a transcriber to a story producer over eight seasons on “Big Brother,” and toiling on “a dozen other reality shows you’ve never heard of.” As of late, she had been doing copy-writing for a video game company, but that work dried up in March.
The slight 35-year-old, who lives with a roommate in North Hollywood and looks young enough to pass for a teenage student from the high school across the street, is well aware of the quixotic absurdity of her quest — particularly during a time when so many have so much to protest in this country.
“It is an absurd overreaction to protest with a hunger strike over the cancellation of a television show,” she said. “And I acknowledge that, but it’s because my protest for ‘The OA’ is really a culmination of multiple factors.“
As anyone who has ever been a true fan of anything knows, real fandom is, at its core, the polar opposite of aloneness. We love shows and movies and bands because they reflect some shard of ourselves that makes us feel seen and a part of, to say nothing of the raw faith and very real community that fandom breeds.
“It’s helped people process their trauma. It’s helped people feel like they’re not invisible,” Young said, explaining why she cared so much about the show. According to television writer Susan Hornik’s story for this paper, fans say the show “has resonated with many marginalized viewers, because it imagines a world in which people can confront trauma and emerge a stronger version of themselves.”
“I think people underestimate how much representation in media can matter to somebody who feels powerless. If you see that representation, you start to feel like maybe you do have power,” Young continued. (The show’s star and co-creator, Brit Marling, is a white woman, but “The OA” has been hailed for its queer narratives and for featuring one of the few trans men on television.)
The past few months have been especially rough for Young, as she sent out job application after job application into the abyss with nary a response. Television, and this show specifically, was “one of the few things that I and others have as a coping mechanism” when the world felt crazy and hopeless.
“I don’t know where my future is going,” she said. So, she decided to make a sign and try to do something. “To see if a human could move a corporation, which is probably impossible.”
“What do you have to lose?” she asked.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
Los Angeles has lined up record-cheap solar power. But there’s a problem. The city has been sitting on a contract for solar power for more than a month — and city officials declined to approve it Tuesday because of concerns raised by the city-run utility’s labor union, which is still fuming over Mayor Eric Garcetti’s decision to shut down three gas-fired power plants. Los Angeles Times
As California considers a fur ban, many in L.A. cling to their minks. With the state poised to become the first in the country to ban furs, sunny Los Angeles has become the unlikely star of the ensuing legislative drama. Los Angeles Times
He listed his luxury Marina del Rey home for sale. Then, police say, he was murdered. Los Angeles Times
An old brochure reveals how the Palos Verdes Peninsula became a massive planned community. Los Angeles Magazine
Our restaurant critic thinks this should be your sake spot. Los Angeles Times
Here are 13 of the best cake slices to be had in Los Angeles. Eater LA
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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER
A Border Patrol agent has resigned after pleading guilty to assaulting a migrant. Jason McGilvray, who worked in Calexico, agreed to resign from federal law enforcement as part of his misdemeanor plea agreement. San Diego Union-Tribune
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg joined Uber and Lyft drivers in a San Francisco gig-work protest. The drivers were lobbying for the passage of AB 5, a state bill that would reclassify many gig workers as employees. San Francisco Chronicle
CRIME AND COURTS
Three Muslim men are suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, alleging they were denied access to an observant diet and proper religious garments and texts, while the same accommodations were made for inmates of other faiths. Los Angeles Times
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
PG&E is starting to publicly forecast how likely it is to turn off power lines so they don’t start more deadly wildfires. The utility now has a section on its website that breaks down a seven-day potential for power shutoffs across nine geographic zones in its service territory. San Francisco Chronicle
Hikers with dogs now risk $500 fines on these four popular Palm Springs trails. Desert Sun
Humboldt County native Guy Fieri invited California Highway Patrol officers and their families for free admission (and food!) at the Humboldt County Fair. Eureka Times-Standard
An electrical fire at Zendesk HQ in San Francisco shut down part of Market Street for several hours. San Francisco Chronicle
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made a surprise visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Salinas Californian
The 71st annual Pinedorado Parade hits Cambria this weekend, and here’s everything you need to know. San Luis Obispo Tribune
Bad news for taking souvenirs home from Disneyland: TSA has banned Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge “thermal detonator” Coke bottles from checked and carry-on luggage in the U.S. Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles: sunny, 84. San Diego: partly sunny, 76. San Francisco: partly sunny, 70. San Jose: sunny, 85. Sacramento: sunny, 95. More weather is here.
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— — Ross Macdonald
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