Happy Pride Month my fellow LGBTarians and allies! Hope you’re all having a fancy shmancy time outdoors this June because television, or rather Netflix, is letting us down hard this season.
If you haven’t heard, Netflix is cancelling Sense8, the most diverse show whe have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. And why? Likely for financial reasons. Sense 8 wasn’t particularly well advertised and as a result not too many people knew about it. Shows like 13 Reasons Why and Iron Fist, on the other hand, had a huge budget behind its advertising. That in addition to being well-known before the show aired (through the original book and comics) brought them millions of views and will likely do so again in future seasons – though in the case of Iron Fist I’m not so sure anymore. But that’s a different story.
And I get it, Netflix is a company. Of course they will host the shows on their streaming network that will be the smartest choice economically. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business, as they say. But the cancellation of Sense8, on the first day of pride month nonetheless, did feel deeply personal to many fans of the show.
If you haven’t seen the show, here’s why it made such an enormous impact on its viewers (Spoilers ahead!):
Not only did Sense8 include actors from 7 different countries with a variety of racial, cultural and economic backgrounds, it was also shot in these countries. The show takes you on a journey from Iceland over India, South Korea, Kenya, Germany, the US to Mexico and many more. It features protagonists as well as a whole community of side characters and extras from these places, sometimes speaking in their native languages (though not so much in Season 2 anymore) or with their natural accents when they talk in English. And none of it feels fake or gratuitious.
Then there’s the queer aspect. Sense8 included 2 gay couples, a trans woman, a highly unusual poly-armorous relationship and the completely ambiguous identity philosophy behind the existence of Sensates that results in potentially (self-)destructive relationships, orgies and the central questions of “Who am I?” and “What am I?”
And the show isn’t afraid to go really deeply into the issues that surround the LGBT+ community.
Lito, the closeted Mexican actor, must decide between his love for his career and his love for boyfriend Hernando (who is hella cute, btw). When he chooses his boyfriend he must suffer the consequences in his professional and public life. But all that hardship, which Hernando and their third, platonic relationship-partner Daniella help him get through, pays off by the end of season 2 when Lito moves away from Mexican cinema to find a new home in Hollywood.
Nomi is the other main character in a same-sex realtionship, namely with her adorable, gorgeous and all-around perfect girlfriend Amanita. In season 1 Nomi has to deal with her mother’s harmful belief that being transgender equals having a mental illness. The cluster manages to free Nomi from the hospital just before her scheduled lobotomy but Nomi and Amanita have to go into hiding from the police after that. By the end of season 2, however, they catch a break when Nomi is finally accepted (publicly!) for her gender identity by her father.
Because a Sensate is just as much an individual as it is an extension of 7 other individuals – they are one person but also 8 persons at the same time – relationships within the cluster are almost unavoidable yet potentially quite dangerous and destructive. The two in-cluster relationships that are explored within the show are between Kala and Wolfgang and between Riley and Will. ‘Visiting’, which could be explained as astral-projection but with a tangible manifestation, is how these couples interact. Feelings develop rather quickly because how one Sensate feels heavily influences all the others. This also comes into play in the cluster orgies, which happen twice, once in season 1 and once in the Christmas special. Being part of a cluster is a complicated mess of emotions and thoughts and it can be a burden just as much as it can be life-saving. I swear, though, Freud would have a field day with this show!
As I said before, Sense8 is the most diverse show to date and many fans claim that cancelling it (while other, less inclusive shows are being renewed for another season) feels like a slap in the face. And it does seem as though quality is consistently valued far less than profit. But that’s nothing new, people! I don’t see why this should cause such an outrage. What does bother me, what really pisses me off, is that
a) the cancellation of the most inclusive show on English-speaking television/streaming was announced on the first day of pride month (classy move, Netflix) and
b) it seems so regressive.
We have enough shows about straigt caucasian teenagers in the leading roles and diversity being reduced to a stereotypical portrayal in side characters (anyone else reminded of Kevin Keller from Riverdale? No? Just me? Ok). Sense8 gave us a refreshing change of pace in that regard and it could have been the start of the age of unparalleled inclusivity in television (you can check out YouTuber rantasmo’s great video on the topic). The show had it’s flaws, no doubt, but it had the potential to be a milestone and Netflix passed on the opportunity to let it have a future.
I, for one, will definitely re-watch the 2 seasons + the special episode over and over again for years to come. And who knows, maybe the online petition to bring it back for another season will make a change. We shall see.