CBS has announced that it is shelving a television series about the infamous Ghost Ship warehouse fire after many criticized the project.
Just a week earlier, the network announced the series, in a deal with novelists Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, who were to produce it. The two writers live in Berkeley, which is near the Oakland location of the warehouse. Elizabeth Weil, who reported on the fire, was to write the series.
The reaction to the development of the series was swift and mostly negative. Kitty Stryker, who is both an author and an activist and who lost friends in the tragedy, said, “I feel like TV shows tend to sensationalize these tragedies. A couple of wealthy white straight people who didn’t directly have any connections to the community were not the right storytellers, especially when so many who died were POC and queer artists. It felt disrespectful, especially when the survivors are artists and frankly, deserve that leg up to tell their stories themselves.”
Chabon and Waldman concurred with the criticism and have withdrawn the project.
In a joint statement, the two said, “Over the past few days . . . we’ve heard from parents of the victims, from friends and survivors, and from conscientious members of the community, appealing to us to reconsider telling the story of the Ghost Ship — because it’s too soon, because the wounds are too deep and too recent and the pain of reliving the experience would be too great. These appeals have been heartbreaking to hear, and they have changed our minds.”
The Ghost Ship warehouse fire happened on December 2, 2016, during a concert at what was both a living space and a venue, and 36 people died. In response, authorities filed charges against both the creative director of the Ghost Ship and its doorman. While the former was acquitted of 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, the latter’s trial ended in a hung jury.