I have little opinion about Netflix, some people lambast it and others love it. However, it is undeniable that with recent series such as Orange Is The New Black, Marvel’s Daredevil, Sense8, and Marvel’s Jessica Jones, some damn good television has been produced. However I want to talk about one in particular: Sense8.
While the Watchowski siblings have struck out after The Matrix – I mean, Jupiter Ascending was… “dissapointing” – their switch to series with Sense8 has sure broken some new ground. Sense8 is the story of 8 individuals across the world who become mentally linked, they are “sensates” and try to survive while being hunted by some undercover organisation.
Specifically in terms of content, the show does things in such a fresh way: it is the first time that a sci-fi series so unapologetically portrays queer issues, and so vividly intimate and realistic. The portrayal of a transgender character by an actual transgender actress is a great continuation of e.g. Orange Is The New Black; the visibility of a trans woman who is also a lesbian in the character of Nomi Marks is simple amazing. Sure a lesbian transwoman has appeared in movies before, very sparingly though but always unrealistic: an example is the movie Better than Chocolate; Peter Outerbridge’s portrayal of a transwoman who was attracted to a lesbian was a stereotypical caricature that used many of the trans-antagonistic tropes as comic relief…
While I wanted to write a proper review, touching upon many aspects, I am simply beyond impressed with the character of Nomi Marks… it is an unapologetic acceptance of the sexual diversity among trans women, even showing hints of the antagonism that trans women face from other (cis) queer women. The devotion and loyalty that she and Amanita (her partner) have for each other is heartwarming; their love is never questioned and never used to question Nomi’s gender. It is about time that a more diverse portrayal of trans people is moved to the fore.
Of course, other character portrayals are equally intriguing. Park Sun’s double life provides interesting commentary – albeit somewhat indirect, and perhaps not as clear to those not damiliar with contemporary Korean culture – on the prevailing patriarchal and neo confucianism that pressure her to take the fall for the embezzlement done by her younger brother in their family business, all to save the family name and business, and in respect to her father. Her struggle is portrayed through her struggle in the family business, but also her desire in participation in underground kickboxing competitions to break free from a life that is suffocating her.
Sense8 is not perfect, the narrative is somewhat dense at times; at few points exposition is somewhat forced. Also the language use takes away from the immersion into the “sensate’s world” that the different shifts and cuts in shots manages to convey. It would feel less strained if people simply spoke their own language instead of suffering through heavily accented English.
However, overall this serie is a breath of fresh air in so many ways. And it gave me something that I has missed in most Sci Fi up until now.