The OA Canceled by Netflix

Netflix Cancels The OA: The Risk of Deep Storytelling

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Out of nowhere, Netflix has announced the end of The OA, which had come to acquire quite the following despite not being marketed for mainstream audiences.

Whenever you have a movie, TV show, or book that includes deeper subject matter, you always run the risk of going over budget or not getting a big enough audience.

Given the extremely deep subject matter of The OA, this seemed almost guaranteed, even though the end of Season 2 left on a cliffhanger and everyone, up until today, thought that the series would be continued in the near future.

Trauma, Dimension, and the Mind

The OA handled a litany of deep subject matter, including the true meaning of dreams, connection with nature, harnessing the powers of the mind, the movements and flow of bodily energy, alternate and parallel dimensions, processing karma, and even reality itself.

Clearly, it was not marketed with the average viewer in mind. Brit Marling, star and writer of the series, has gravitated toward deep subjects and sci-fi for most of her career, and says on Instagram that she will continue to tell these stories in different ways and forms.

For some fans of the series, this comes a tragic and abrupt reminder that good storytelling is always at the mercy of budgets and red tape.

It’s highly likely that The OA was canceled because it was not meeting some kind of arbitrary demand. They are a business after all, and if The OA wasn’t bringing them the business they wanted, cancellation was sure to follow.

It’s a massive shame, however, because according to many of its fans, The OA was one of, if not the best shows on the streaming platform.

It’s a testament to growing public awareness that the show was even appreciated or understood at all. With a massively complex storyline and subject matter that was extreme and far-reaching, The OA stood out as a series that not only wanted to entertain, but to inform.

With its emphasis on ordinary people learning ancient ways of “hacking” reality through control of bodily energy, a solid look into the nature of dreams, as well as even deeper esoteric subjects, The OA was definitely a breath of fresh air.

Not to take away from Netflix’s other successful, well-written, and entertaining shows like the hit Stranger Things, and Orange is the New Black, The OA was clearly on another level in terms of content.

You could tell that at times, it was more concerned with teaching its viewers rather than purely entertaining them, which is also another possible reason for its cancellation.

There’s nothing certain segments of the population hate more than a lecture on what’s “really” going on out there.

And while The OA‘s subject matter was often fantastical, the average person would be shocked to know just how much of it was rooted in truth.

In fact, unbeknownst to the average fan of the show, it is clear that Brit and the others involved in the production of the show did their homework. There is a veritable truckload of accurate and viable esoteric and metaphysical information peppered throughout the show, not to mention solid life advice from an holistic perspective.

A good portion of the show actually focuses on overcoming and processing trauma.

For some, this was one of the show’s highlights.

Trauma is a popular subject these days because as a society, we are waking up and becoming aware of our collective trauma.

Our species in general has undergone a ton of trauma, which we have carried through generations. This generational trauma then infects our personal behavior, and creates personalized trauma, such as child abuse and neglect.

Processing this psychological damage correctly is a daunting and mystifying task for many people.

The OA handled this subject with a grace and power very few, if any, other shows ever have. You could easily argue that the show is one of the best visual / educational instruction manuals for dealing with and overcoming personal trauma to date.

Strong and Deep Characters Don’t Always Resonate

Deep storytelling usually includes deep, complex characters, and The OA has them by the bucketful. (Spoilers ahead!)

The characters are quite literally multidimensional.

A good portion of the latter half of the series delves into the multidimensional nature of the characters you grow to love in the start of the first season.

Seeing the multidimensional nature of a loved character can be unsettling. In metaphysics this is often called “shadow work.”

Even learning that you have other facets of your Self, whether mental or metaphysical, is something many people cannot comprehend or abide. They grow extremely fearful at the idea, because their egos exist on the predicated notion that they, and they alone, are all that matter and “exist” as it concerns their identity.

This is why people with over-developed and unhealthy egos never seem to care much about their dreams. They hate the very notion that there is more to their Self than what is contained in that physical body.

The OA visualizes what being multifaceted means, delving into such things as possible past and parallel lives, alternate dimensions we may be connected to, as well as working through astral planes to affect other selves in the physical. 

If you don’t have much experience with the show, just reading about the subject matter may turn you off. Deep storytelling has consequences it seems.

Just because a show has strong, relatable characters doesn’t mean it will succeed.

I personally believe that one of the reasons the show may have floundered is because some people saw too much of themselves and their flaws in the flawed characters of the show. It was “too” relatable in a sense.

The trauma illustrated on the show may have been completely unrelatable from the purely physical sense (very few of us are locked up in the middle of nowhere in some crazy dude’s basement, in a glass prison and are routinely experimented on in order to induce near death experiences), but the essence of the trauma was perhaps all too familiar.

It was visceral, indiscriminate, and at the behest of “progress.”

There was a very cold, capitalist kind of warning behind this trauma the main characters were enduring throughout Season 1. It was the pain and suffering many of us collectively experience here in this world, the feeling of being a rat in a glass cage, the feeling of being disconnected by technology despite sleeping within inches of each other, the need for deeper meaning but it always being elusive and out of grasp.

The more down to Earth issues that the group of kids Brit Marling’s character later runs into are also all too relatable: drug addiction, fractured and empty homes, loneliness, despair.

The OA shows us not only how to conquer the collective metaphysical trauma of an empty disconnected hyper-capitalist society, but also shows us how to overcome the personal problems and traumas we all have to face on a daily basis, including one of the biggest hurdles of them all: just dealing with every day life when you come from a broken past.

Nothing Else Quite Like The OA

Do yourself a favor and give it a watch if you haven’t already.

Re-watch it multiple times if you want to really dive into the deeper aspects. There is a lot to unpack in this series. The second season is practically a metaphysical dissertation.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to support “deep” media. We need more shows like The OA, that are brave enough to discuss trauma, dreams, human connection, and the parts of ourselves that rarely ever get any limelight in mainstream productions.

Yes, The OA may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s perfectly fine. But every TV show can’t be a mass hit.

For those of us with an appreciation for art, the workings of the mind, the nature of reality, and great storytelling, there is a place for shows just like The OA.

Let’s hope with enough outcry Netflix discovers a few extra million for the Season 3 budget.

Until then, support the actors and actresses, and seek out and watch other enriching and stimulating TV shows on Netflix and other streaming platforms.

The OA touched many lives and helped many people through difficult times in their lives. This is the power of meaningful media. It may not be for everyone, but for those who needed it, it mattered.

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  • Avatar
    Sarah
    August 13, 2019

    Great article, Matthew. You say at one point, “Clearly, it was not marketed with the average viewer in mind”, when the truth is it wasn’t actually marketed at all. Despite watching season 1 multiple times and having it on our “List”, the majority only found out about the release of season 2 through the actors or through word of mouth. There was not even any indication of the new season on the Netflix home page when opening the app.

    • Avatar
      August 14, 2019

      Thank you! The lack of marketing is very unfortunate. I personally never saw any billboard or commercial advertising the second season either. Far too few people even know this amazing show exists, and it’s a shame. More need to be exposed to the messages and teachings the show has to offer. It was created by brilliant minds and it shows in every scene.

  • Avatar
    Milk
    August 15, 2019

    Thank you for this. This is the first article I’ve seen written since the cancellation where I can tell the author REALLY watched the show. This show being cancelled is heartbreaking, but I’m grateful for what of it I did get to see. It has changed my perspective in a very real and permanent way.

    • Avatar
      August 15, 2019

      Thank you, the show meant a lot to so many people and I’ve seen how it shifts people’s perspectives higher. I’m grateful for the show as well, but the most heartbreaking part of all this is that we know there were even deeper, more important messages yet to be revealed. Not only does the story deserve a proper conclusion, but these deeper revelations should have a chance to reach people’s eyes and ears. #SaveTheOA

  • Avatar
    Ceri
    August 15, 2019

    Matt, you helped put into words what I could not through feeling alone. Thank you for describing it as more than a sci-fi fantasy, or the fans being crazed. You are right about the show impacting peoples lives and at least leading us to crawl out of the thought patterns accepted by the masses, when there aren’t any “right” or “wrong” ways of thinking at all

    • Avatar
      August 15, 2019

      The OA definitely has the power to guide people to a deeper understanding of themselves and the world. Happy the article’s message resonated with you. I want to bring awareness to how this show has the ability to transform perspectives and ask deeper questions than what we’re used to seeing on TV. It’s a lot more than just entertainment for most of the people who watched it.

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