When describing the Netflix original show, Sense8, to those unfamiliar, it's actually quite complicated. How do you accurately capture the complexities of a story that follows eight completely different individuals across (almost all) spectrums that have the ability to inhabit each other's consciousnesses? But can also experience physical connections? But from across the world? But also in person?
Yeah, it's a bit of a mind-tease.
That said, it's one of Netflix's most ambitious (and wildly followed) shows. Currently, there's only one season (and a movie-length holiday special). But with season two looming on the horizon (May 5, to be exact), it's time we revisit this important television achievement.
Why so important? We could give many reasons, from the unique storytelling, to the clever action scenes, to the ambitious premise. But what Sense8 has accomplished, above all else, is a level of inclusion and diversity unlike any other mainstream entertainment media to date.
1. Its creators are trans women.
The Wachowski siblings have come a long way since their first big Hollywood break. The masterminds behind The Matrix trilogy, these filmmaking talents have been behind some of the most ambitious projects to grace the big and small screens (to various degrees of success, to be sure). From Speed Racer to Cloud Atlas, these two aren't afraid to push the envelope. And they've done it all while making huge changes in their personal lives, as well.
Lana Wachowski made her first public appearance after her transition in 2012. Lilly came out as trans in 2016. Their unique journey, navigating celebrity and personal transformation, has, no doubt, impacted their approach to Sense8, from casting to character development. And speaking of characters ...
2. It's the most diverse cast on TV.
It might even be the most diverse cast on film, ever. Let's break it down: We have a driver, Capheus, from Nairobi; a kickboxer, Sun Bak, from Seoul; a trans activist, Nomi, from California; a Hindi pharmacist, Kala, from Mumbai; an Icelandic DJ, Riley, from London; a safe-cracker/locksmith, Wolfgang, from Berlin; a gay Spanish actor, Lito, from Mexico; and a cop, Will, from Chicago.
You'd think, at times, it'd be hard to keep everyone straight, but the show does an incredible job building up these characters and making you care for each one. And the best part?
They aren't stereotypical representations. These characters are so much more than their brief descriptions. Sense8 bucks the trend of relying on familiar tropes, instead, inviting the audience to get to know these characters as people, first, with fears, hopes, dreams and, yes, baggage.
3. It's the most queer show on TV.
While yes, the characters develop outside the tropes, that doesn't mean Sense8 steers clear of the innate queerness of its cast.
Nomi and Lito are the most obvious queer characters (in addition to Lito's boyfriend, Hernando, and Nomi's girlfriend, Amanita). The story of Nomi's transition, the rejection of her family and the love of Amanita -- it's a story that respects the struggle of the trans community, while also offering positive examples of love and inclusion. In the same vein, Lito's life as a closeted actor captures the pain many LGBTQ people feel, especially those who feel trapped in the closet. As viewers follow his journey, there's an element of catharsis, watching those around him come together and embrace him.
It's Sense8's ability to move beyond tried-and-true (and therefore, often harmful) LGBTQ story devices that makes it a breath of fresh air for its audience.
But the show doesn't stop there. After all, when you have such a diverse cast, so intimately connected, how could you not explore the complexities of sexuality and intimacy? In one of the show's most erotic (and talked about) moments, our "sensates" engage in an orgy. But it's more than just titillation. It's also a metaphor for exploration, for fluid understandings of who we are and what we think we know about ourselves. It's a beautiful commentary on queerness and openness.
We can only hope season two continues to push the boundaries, develop these characters and encourage these kinds of conversations. With queer representation always in danger (especially in media), it's important that shows like Sense8 continue to see success, educating and informing, all while entertaining.
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