Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Has anybody out there seen Sense8?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'm referring to the new Netflix original scifi series that premiered on June 5th, written and executive-produced by Andy and Lana Wachowski (yes, the people who brought us the Matrix) and J. Michael Straczynski. In a nutshell, the story is about eight previously unconnected people from different parts of the world who suddenly find themselves connected to one another telepathically, becoming capable of sharing one anothers' thoughts, feelings, and life experiences. Meanwhile, there is a mysterious quasi-governmental organization that is trying to hunt them down, for some reason that is not made clear in the series.  

I have been somewhat binge-watching this series over the last few days (by "binge-watching", I mean an average of two episodes a day, which, I'm sure, is a very conservative rate of media-consumption by the standards of most binge-watchers....), and have watched 10 of the 12 episodes in Season One thus far. I've been really enjoying it. I think it does a really good job of using the theme of telepathy to explore empathy among individual human beings--in particular, individuals who are LGBTQ--in a way that does not exploit or make light of these individuals' lives or experiences. I really think the Wachowskis and Straczynski are breaking new narrative ground here; with Sense8, they are doing for millennial politically-aware-character-driven drama what the Matrix did for sci-fi action movies.

The main characters in Sense8
[Image taken from io9.com]


As is hopefully very clear from the above, I am a great fan of this series. I hope there will be a Season Two, and I can't wait for it to come out. But there's one thing that kind of disturbs me about the series. There are three non-Caucasian characters (played by Tina Desai, Aml Ameen, and Bae Doona). While I think that the story arcs of these three characters are really compelling, engaging and real, I also notice that they all have one thing in common: They don't seem to have much of a sex life. I mean, yes, it is true that two of these characters (Desai's young Hindu woman character, and Bae's character, a Korean woman brought up in a patriarchal family) hail from very traditional Asian households. But coming from a traditional upbringing shouldn't deprive one of a sex drive, should it?

 [Warning: Spoiler alert coming! Read no further if you do not want to be spoiled!]

This sexuality disconnect between the Caucasian and non-Caucasian characters becomes very glaring at the end of episode six, when five of the eight main characters (namely, the Caucasian ones) engage in a psychic orgy. What is a psychic orgy? Well, you know, having sex with somebody via telepathy, without having to actually be in the other's physical presence... how is this possible? The hell would I know, I'm not a psychic! But I digress. My point is, why aren't the non-Caucasians in that orgy? And this isn't just a sexual issue: If this orgy is not just a melding of bodies, but of minds and consciousnesses, could the absence of the non-Caucasians in this scene be interpreted as a sort of political statement about non-Caucasian consciousnesses?

What do you think? Any thoughts on this?

13 comments:

  1. Okay,commenting without having read the whole post. I live in fear that it is going to be cancelled after just one season!! Now I'll go back to read your impressions...

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  2. Yikes, all I can say is that my white privilege prevented me from even noticing the absence of those characters in that scene. Particularly glaring when the attraction between the guy from Berlin and the woman from Mumbai is so strong.

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    1. Oh, btw, do you have reason to think that they will cancel the series? Just curious.

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    2. I am sure that by now you and most people know that I am a very real introvert in real life but it turns out that my social media self is not quite that introverted. I mention that because my reason to worry is the utter lack of comments (pro or con) on FB, Twitter, Blogs, and websites that cover entertainment. Your post was the first mention of the series, aside from the obligatory reviews on the entertainment section of national newspapers when it premiered.

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    3. Oh, I see. Well, ever since I stopped blogging about yoga, much of my attention has been freed up to look at other things in the world. Maybe this gives us a hint as to why there is a lack of coverage on social media...?

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  3. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you are definitely not alone in not noticing this absence. Over the last few days, I have read a whole bunch of reviews online, and while many reviewers are quick to point out what they perceive to be flaws in the series (a certain lack of tightness in the logic of the storyline, heavyhandedness in presenting the LGBTQ issues, etc.), none have pointed out the issue I bring up here, to my knowledge.

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  6. Hi Nobel,

    I totally binged watched all episodes on a weekend. The first 3 episodes didn't make that much sense, but by the fourth one I was hooked and had to watch everything. I think they're maybe a little too ambitious with 8 characters. I'm sure they lost some audiences who couldn't figure out what was going on by the end of episode 2. They would have been able to finish introducing everyone in 1 episode if they had 5 characters only.

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    1. Well, maybe the setup would have been quicker if they had only 5 characters, but "Sense5" doesn't sound nearly as catchy as "Sense8", does it? ;-)

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