06 Jun #RenewSense8
In case you missed it, the Netflix original series, Sense8 released an epic second season, starting with a two hour long holiday special. This episode is an epic movie on its own. If you don’t intend to watch Sense8 all the way through you must at least witness this masterpiece. Truly the most stunning montages you have ever seen. (NSFW)
Lana Wachowski, director and co-creator of Sense8 talks about why she wanted to release the holiday special.
Shockingly it has been announced that Sense8 will not be releasing a third season. This is a huge surprise as the show has received attention for being unlike anything we have ever seen on TV before. With a large fan base it seems odd that Netflix will not be giving Sense8 more screen time.
The news of Sense8 being cancelled: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/sense8-canceled-at-netflix-1009404
Does this matter? Is this just another show that has reached its end? Should fans not question why the series won’t continue?
I think it does matter and I will explain why. I will explain why Sense8 is an important endeavour and why it cannot simply be brushed aside.
The Wachowski are the creators and directors of Sense8. They are the siblings who brought us the iconic Matrix Trilogy and Cloud Atlas. The Wachowskis are known for their attention to detail and acute portrayal of human emotion. Their work is highly stylised and emotive. The characters of their worlds experience events that are elevated and extraordinary but still resonate with an audience because of their profound message about humanity. Sense8 is a testament to the Wachowski genius and talent.
The trailer for Sense8 season 1.
Both Lana and Lily Wachowski are trans women. Lana came out as trans in 2008 and in 2012 she received the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award. In her acceptance speech she said:
“There are some things we do for ourselves, but there are some things we do for others. I am here because when I was young, I wanted very badly to be a writer, I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I couldn’t find anyone like me in the world and it felt like my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others. If I can be that person for someone else, then the sacrifice of my private civic life may have value.”
Lily Wachowski, who only very recently came out to the public as trans, decided to take some time away from the series to focus on her transition and did not co direct season 2 of Sense8 with her sister.
The Wachowskis incorporate diverse characters and topical storylines in Sense8. Eight main characters and the supporting characters represent:
Topics about Womxan’s rights, addiction, loss, poverty, disease and mental disorder.
One of the main eight protagonists is Nomi Marks, portrayed by Jamie Clayton. She’s a trans woman living in San Francisco with her girlfriend Amanita Caplan, known as Neets, portrayed by Freema Agyeman.
This is fantastic as not only is a non cis hetero character being represented but they are also a hero in the series and portrayed by a trans woman in reality. It is so refreshing to finally see a transgender person being portrayed by a transgender person and not a cisgender actor standing in.
Jaime Clayton talks about why it was so important for the Wachowskis that Nomi be played by a trans woman.
The girlfriend of Nomi, Amanita Caplan is also a very capable character both loving and formidable. She too comes from a diverse background, being born to a Jewish mother and three African American fathers who are polyamorous and feminists. Amanita identifies as bisexual.
Nomi’s relationship with Ami is a true Hollywood romance, not hidden or reserved in any way. The pair have great chemistry and one cannot help but fall in love with them. This is a representation of a trans woman, lesbians and an interracial couple without any stigma showcased in a positive way which is truly a real first for mainstream entertainment.
This should not be taken for granted, there are very few other movies or series out there which give equal screen time to non cis people especially not as positive role models. Far too often diverse demographics are not represented in white washed Hollywood and the normative media we are fed. If LGBT people and also POC are portrayed in the media they are often represented with little sensitivity or worse, as comic relief or as the villain and are far too seldom depicted as relatable or dynamic heroes of the tale.
The series is inclusive in many ways as most of the other seven main characters in the series also depict people who are often never given equal representation due to race, gender, sexuality or poverty.
I am a massive fan of the show, which I’m sure is apparent and I will defend it in most respects. I have the utmost admiration for what the Wachowskis have created but there are certainly problematic elements to aspects of the show which cannot be overlooked and unfortunately must be called out. Particularly in regards to the story line of the character Caiphus Onyango and the depiction of life in Kenya; there are many who feel that there was a lack of sensitivity.
The show tries to highlight issues around poverty and this is most apparent in the depiction of Kenya. The show filmed on location, spanning 12 countries, so they did film in Kenya and used local extras. We cannot deny that there is poverty in Africa but the problem was the way in which Africa was used as a stereotype. Many have found the portrayal to be unnecessarily exaggerated and offensive. I don’t think that the depiction was intending to use Caiphus as a trope or to make a cliché out of Africa but it may have been received that way. Whether or not there are racist themes in Sense8 is hard for me to say as a white person and quite frankly it isn’t my place to try, but we should not lose sight of these critiques as they are certainly valid.
I’m curious if there is any connection to this and the reason why Caiphus was recast from Aml Ameen in season 1 to a new actor Toby Onwumere for season two. Aml Ameen said that he left because of artistic differences…
I did note that perhaps an effort was made in response to the Nairobi Situation. Season 2 featured a new character to Caiphus’s story life: A pansexual, female, feminist, also from Kenya, who questions Caiphus about his views on white saviours in movies.
Still, Sense8 stands alone in being the only mainstream show of this scale to offer an equal representation of trans people. The show has dealt with numerous important topics in an eye opening and thought provoking way, themes including identity, gender, sexuality, religion, poverty, addiction, loss and oppression.
A project of this importance cannot be brushed aside. Sense8 has been a leader in creating a timeless masterpiece, a ground breaking work of art with an important revolutionary message about humanity. It is not okay that something of this magnitude is simply allowed to disappear for no apparent reason. I am strongly opposed to just giving up and many others agree.
Please sign the petition and support #RenewSense8
Netflix has stated that they will not be continuing the series but it is not off the table completely. As has happened before with other shows, another network may want to take on the series. The Wachowskis have been very diplomatic about the prospect of the end. I guess they may not be able to voice what they truly think about the news. It also makes me wonder as to the reason of the decision. It makes me wonder why they would choose to discontinue now, announcing it on the first day of Pride Month, especially with the big ending of season 2, which carried a strong LGBTQIPA message.
I strongly believe there may have been disputes about the show being too controversial, but that is just my speculation. If the show is being ended because it is too controversial for Netflix viewers I only wonder how Black Mirror has been able to make it past its first horrible episode all the way to a season 4.
I sincerely hope they do continue with Sense8. I feel it would be a terrible shame to lose such a rare and incredible gem. Whether it will continue or not, I do not know, I only know that it is a project which has surpassed all others in making an effort to be more inclusive and that is a wonderful thing.
Who Am I? A fantastic scene from Sense8 season 2 (spoilers)