Saving ‘Shadowhunters’ is a no-brainer. Why hasn’t it happened?
If you ever needed infallible proof that fandoms rule TV shows (and not the other way around), you need to be keeping up with the Shadowhunters fandom and more specifically the #SaveShadowhunters campaign. These aren’t just the most passionate and vocal fans – they’re also the most organized and resourceful.
When it was announced in June 2018 that Freeform made the decision to cancel the supernatural young adult show, Shadowhunters fans didn’t just take to Twitter to share their upset and disdain – they found active ways to publicize their campaign beyond the online bubble.
The fandom members have carried out a number of attention-grabbing actions to ensure they’re being heard in a market that has disregarded the value of their favorite TV show and their love for it. They’ve flown a #SaveShadowhunters banner over the Netflix headquarters, purchased a billboard in Times Square to showcase their message, and even placed ads within Seoul subway stations. As one fan proclaimed on Twitter: “We promoted this show more in 6 weeks than Freeform did in 3 years.”
In lieu of a formal Shadowhunters panel at Comic-Con 2018, fans brought the show to SDCC by sponsoring pedicabs with the #SaveShadowhunters message at the forefront – loud, clear, and unavoidable. For those unfamiliar with the SDCC pedicabs, they’re an essential form of transportation at the colossal and often exhausting event to help ferry people back and forth between various locations in an environmentally friendly (and sufficiently quirky) manner.
Like almost everything at the SDCC, the pedicabs are open to sponsorship from advertisers – but this may have been the first time they were commandeered by fans in a bid to make a provocative statement that could save a show. Like most other networks, Freeform has a presence at the convention and we can’t imagine the stunt sat well with the network, but that was precisely the point. Shadowhunters fans won’t allow their show to go and fight the cancellation with everything they’ve got.
If this campaign proved anything, it’s that there’s a tangible and sizeable fanbase attached to Shadowhunters more than worthy of investing in. It’s also clear that the fans are hardly requesting a ludicrously huge budget – they simply want a chance for the story to be told so they can follow their characters into the next few chapters of their respective journeys.
When the show was first announced as being cancelled, one fan on Tumblr glibly summarized the issue of cancelling a show based on “the economics” of production. “So Freeform cancelled Shadowhunters because they can’t afford production, as if season one wasn’t filmed in McG’s backyard with two flashlights and an iPhone.” Saving Shadowhunters seems like a no-brainer when there’s an existent, major fanbase that isn’t even asking for a lot.
A network or SVOD service may already be eyeing up the show but is hanging back to let this fan-made marketing frenzy provide a storm of publicity. The authenticity of fan-made marketing provides the sort of shining organic promotion that no marketing department could ever genuinely achieve. The #SaveShadowhunters campaign is keeping the show trending on Twitter, thus drawing in new fans.
If and when a new network or SVOD service sweeps in to save the show like a Warlock, it’ll be portrayed as the shining knight who saved Shadowhunters. There’s something cynical and irksome about that which rubs us the wrong way, as though the passion and resources of fans may be getting exploited by an unseen company loitering in the wings to see how the campaign pans out (although this is all just speculation.)
We think at this point Shadowhunters fans need to grab the reins of their show even further and create a crowdfunding campaign that can serve the show directly to fans. Need we remind everyone about the hugely successful crowdfunding campaign of the Veronica Mars movie in 2013? Showrunner Rob Thomas set up the Kickstarter project with the backing of cast members like Kristen Bell and it made history by raising over $5 million from 91,585 backers in record time.
Admittedly, the setup isn’t ideal. Fans shouldn’t have to be paying for the development of their favorite stories, but sadly too many major production companies are so dense that they can’t see why they should be investing in such major fandoms.
Shadowhunters fans might need the help of showrunner Todd Slavkin and cast members like Katherine McNamara, Dominic Sherwood, and Matthew Daddario to make this a reality, but it would be a worthwhile pursuit. The fandom has already taken initiative in challenging the show’s cancellation in some of the most ingenuitive ways possible, so it just makes sense for its members to take the next step in funding the future of the show (and harnessing some control over it).
Whatever happens, the Shadowhunters fans are absolutely killing it right now. For them not to see the story back on the small (or big) screen again is almost unfathomable. Someone, somewhere, has to take charge now and make this happen – the fans absolutely deserve it.