Sanditon fans today are celebrating BritBox UK replacing ITV as the UK sponsor for Seasons 2 and 3 of the series. Without BritBox UK, it wouldn’t be possible for Masterpiece to fund the production alone, despite US fan interest. Congratulations to the cast and crew who worked really hard to promote their work in the middle of a pandemic! However, as someone who has been a consistent critic of this fandom’s attitudes towards both the renewal campaign and towards racist fandom behavior, today’s victory comes with the sting of revisiting past trauma, not just hopes of a brighter future for the series.
I was a vocal critic of the renewal campaign because until today, there was NO confirmation from Masterpiece or official UK funders Red Planet Pictures and ITV. Fans consistently posted unsubstantiated rumors from gossip blogs with no links to the decision-makers for Sanditon. We cannot tolerate the proliferation of gossip as a substitute for the truth in pop culture journalism. For months, the renewal campaign thrived on misleading thousands with false hope and flooding PBS, ITV, and other US media companies with messages well beyond reasonable requests for renewal. As many are saying on social media, the renewal is sending the message that bad fan behavior can be rewarded.
Sanditon fans may believe their persistence changed minds in the UK, but there was a considerable shift in the entertainment industry since the fall of 2019 when ITV announced the Sanditon cancelation. Bridgerton delivering record breaking viewership and profits for Netflix is more likely what tipped the scales for UK re-investment in Sanditon. People who never watched Sanditon flocked to Bridgerton because they saw more than one Black character, and because the series committed to using diverse casting to bring a more inclusive vision of Regency England.
BlPOC fans who initially loved Sanditon because Georgiana Lambe represented a reset on whitewashed dramas, but who were turned off by the ending which left Georgiana as a pawn for Sidlotte (the fandom’s name for the Sidney/Charlotte relationship) also embraced Bridgerton. Simon the Duke of Hastings, Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury, and Marina were not shoved aside for redeeming a white character who may have made money off the slave trade (Sidney’s backstory on Sanditon). Bridgerton had no intentions of recreating anything resembling an Austen story, and that appears to be the main reason why many Sanditon fans were initially resentful of the success of the series for Netflix. They should have seen the writing on the wall that Sanditon’s potential for mass appeal beyond dedicated Austen fans was Georgiana. Without Bridgerton, the UK studios would likely have continued to see Sanditon as a too expensive production (especially during a pandemic).
It is extremely hypocritical that the same people who attacked Black and POC fans for criticizing Andrew Davies’ writing of Georgiana and for discussing how racist the pineapple emojis were in fandom when Sanditon aired in the US are now the ones shouting from the rooftops that they want to see Georgiana’s story completed. Wasn’t the whole point of the campaign that Sidney and Charlotte’s unhappy ending was the main reason why Season 2 had to happen? These campaigners are now taking credit for the hard work myself and others did in order for Crystal Clarke to announce today that Sanditon is hiring additional Black writers for Seasons 2 and 3. While Season 2 petitions paid lip service to inclusive period drama, nearly all of the dialogue was about Sidney and Charlotte, two white characters. Thousands of tweets can’t be handwaved away so easily. We remember, no matter how much people cover up their tracks. I distinctly remember these same people telling me to shut up during PineappleGate because they felt that talking about the racism tied to the pineapple emoji derailed their renewal attempts. I also remember people saying that it was OK to call Georgiana a “brat” because she didn’t like Sidney. It’s no surprise that someone took the time to reply to one of my tweets unrelated to the Sanditon fandom to brag about “victory” because there is still the false perception out there that I hate the series. I enjoyed the series, but do not enjoy how the fandom has tarnished my favorite parts of the series.
If you’re a white Sanditon fan reading this, hold your fellow fans and leaders of the fandom accountable while you’re celebrating. Accept that not everyone is happy about the renewal. Ask your fellow fans why they thought changing the pineapple emojis to tophats and seashells was all they had to do to be successfully antiracist. Ask why the Sanditon fandom spent months after the initial cancellation announcement spreading incorrect information on social media. Demand that Sanditon blogs, Facebook groups and other spaces stop silencing BIPOC fans by calling PineappleGate “old news” and claiming that talking about racism disrupts fandom unity. Tell these leaders in the fandom to kick out racists complaining about “political correctness” from their spaces. Use your platform to express support for more diversity in the Sanditon cast, crew, and writers’ room and pledge to hold the show accountable during Season 2. Support myself and others actively working to make all of the Austen fandom an antiracist space.
I will only congratulate all the fans on Sanditon’s renewal when everyone who behaved badly from August 2019 through yesterday fully acknowledges their complicity in the toxicity and racism of the Sanditon fandom during the renewal campaign.