Leave your front door open.
Open door, open mind. A gesture of trust. Suspension of disbelief. Willingness to accept new ideas, and abandon old ones. The OA is a story about storytelling. The power of it, the need for it, the consequences. When we buy a book, see a movie, go to the theatre, we enter into an unwritten agreement.
It is agreed that something will happen, and more things will happen, and the protagonist reacts to the things by making other things happen. When the story draws to a close, most, if not all of the key plot points will have been resolved, and a new equilibrium is found. They make peace with their journey. Or, should do.
The OA tells the story of Prairie Johnson, a blind woman who disappeared seven years previously, reappears with her sight restored, and calls herself OA. She cannot find the words to explain her ordeal to her parents, because it’s too traumatic for them to bear. She cannot tell the authorities for fear they will not believe her.
OA talks to strangers instead, because somehow, that’s easier. Leave your front door open, she says as she invites them to meet her in the middle of the night, in an abandoned, candlelit house. A suburban campfire with something more than a ghost story. We watch these misfits – four lonely, disenfranchised teens and their downtrodden teacher – do as they are asked. They go out in the middle of the night, an unspoken agreement, and leave their doors open. They invite her in. The viewer implicitly does the same. We want to know. We all want to know how she got her sight back.
As the episodes progress, OA reveals via flashbacks the details of her seven-year ordeal. It involves dying, repeatedly, and coming back, repeatedly; her fellow captives endure the same horrors. Now separated from her cohorts, she recruits a new group to help her locate the original group using the five Movements – gestures that can alter reality and manipulate time and space.
I know. Sounds ridiculous. But you have to leave your front door open.
The rest of the group buy into her story, reluctantly at first, and then wholeheartedly. They perform the Movements – and they work. The story, as OA is telling it, is no longer a story. It is reality, unfolding in real-time as the flashbacks catch up to the start of the first episode. The story escapes its own confines and bleeds into reality. And, being the only five who know the truth, the teens and their teacher become friends; misfits no more.
Some people are saying that the #savetheoa community is like a family, because we’ve all bought into the same narrative as well. And like the book, the movie, the play – all narratives have structure. The OA was conceived as a five-part series: one part for each of the five movements.
Remember, we left our front doors open for this.
Lots of TV shows get cancelled. That’s a thing that happens, and often for very good reasons. What’s not so normal is when people start to believe that the cancellation is in fact AN INTENTIONAL PART OF THE STORY because everything that came before suggested the story had jumped IRL.
The final (to date) episode of The OA sees OA (played by Brit Marling) escape into a dimension where she is known as Brit Marling, and she’s the star of a show called The OA, and the filming is being shut down because she’s critically injured from a high-wire stunt, except now she knows that she actually IS The OA for real. The story escapes its own bounds, and bleeds into reality. A new equilibrium is found. The idea that the character now inhabits the same physical space as the actor who portrayed her is a game-changer – because it means that fantasy and reality co-exist, and the story has not yet drawn to a close. The agreement is not fulfilled.
Cue petitions. Cue mass cancellations. Cue endless tweets, comments and posts. Cue fan art, musical performances, flashmobs, videos of people learning the movements for real, sometimes against seemingly impossible odds, and protests, and hunger strikes, and tributes and poetry and cue me retweeting all of it because I am steaming pissed and not sure what else to do except, maybe, write something myself. Tell a different story. Tell this story. And then another one.
Today @offstage_news (fitting handle, considering the above) pointed out that O and A correspond with Omega and Alpha, the end and the beginning. The end of one thing signifying the start of something else. As OA’s past bleeds into her present, and her reality bleeds into our own, one can only wonder what will surface next. There have been charity drives. There have been environmental clean-ups. There have been billboards. More people have started watching the show SINCE it was cancelled because the cancellation and subsequent outrage have generated more attention for the show than Netflix’s (lack of) marketing. More people are getting angry. More people are leaving their front doors open.
The reason I made a conscious decision about ten years ago to commit to the solitary pursuit of writing books instead of the glamour of television – a decision that I stand by today – is that nobody can cancel a book. Television is inherently dependent on a lot of factors – budget, schedule, advertising among them. Whether the book is written or not is down to me and me alone. Whether the book is distributed or not, is down to me. I can conceive of a five-book arc, and stick to it. And I can make all the books kind of the same, or I can make them all completely different, and nobody can tell me that the first one didn’t sell enough to justify a second one. Because more and more people will open their doors.
If there’s any show that deserves a second chance, it’s the show about near-death experiences and reincarnation. It’s the show about the trans kid who protects his classmates from an active shooter. The show about the disenfranchised bully who decides to be better. The teacher who forgot her first reason, then remembered it again when the kids needed her most. Just some of the reasons why we continue to tweet #savetheoa.
But if that never happens, no matter. We are not OA. We are Steve chasing OA’s ambulance, over and over, trying to figure out what to make of it all.
On a final note, I dreamt a few weeks back that The OA Part III was an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure series (like Bandersnatch). OA looks into the camera and asks me to choose. I guess I choose to keep telling stories.
(I'll also keep tweeting #savetheoa and now you know why.)