But before I can talk about Sense8, I need to talk about The Matrix for a minute.
I saw The Matrix--the first one, the sequels are dead to me—in the theater with a bunch of friends in college. We were mostly a bunch of fantasy nerds, loving casual sci-fi like X-Files, but much more involved in Mercedes Lackey, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman's style of fantasy/urban fantasy. So to us, The Matrix was shockingly fresh, new, original, ground-breaking.
I had one friend, however, who was deeply into cyberpunk, and while the rest of us squealed and shouted about how our minds had been blown, he just shook his head. The Matrix was fresh and exciting...for the mainstream.
This is, in part, how I feel about Sense8. It's good, it's fun, it's exciting...but it's a story I've seen and read before. And loved! The whole dynamic of "we're a diverse group of people who have to come together to defend ourselves from the Bad Guy" is fantastic fun, and with a great writer, can be an epic story. But it's not new. It's not ground breaking.
Now, there are some things that Sense8 did extremely well. Nomi, a hacker whose transness is almost a footnote, as she is completely transitioned and out and comfortable with herself, is a refreshing depiction that modern media needs MANY more of, especially since the actress playing Nomi is also trans. Wolfgang and Kala are romance-writer catnip, as are Will and Riley. And any show that has more people of color in its primary cast than white people is going to get some serious attention from me. So all of that is great.
What I want to do now, though, is hash through some of what really bothered me about the show.
So many queer people, yet so heteronormative.
The first time we see Nomi and Amanita, they're fucking, and there's a big show made about how Amanita was wearing a strap-on. This prompted me to rant on Twitter about how it's actually possible to have sex without a phallus.
During the orgy scene, when Lito and Hernando start to make out, Dani watches them, and then slips her hand into her panties. We've never seen any sign that they consent to her being sexual with them; in fact, what little we've seen makes us think, at that point, that Lito in particular wishes she'd go away. This bothered me.
Then, there's Lito's ENTIRE storyline. The closeted gay man, paralyzed by self-hatred, who has to learn that he's losing people he loves through his actions. YAWN. I've read this book, seen this movie, and I am officially *over* it. In fact, most of the queer folk I know, myself included, were over this shit back when we were closeted, self-hating queers. Give me depictions of queer people just living. You know, like Nomi is.
So, about the tin huts in Africa.
I am a white woman whose ancestry is from Western Europe and who lives in the U.S., so I know I'm hardly someone with a lot of credibility in terms of discussing potentially racist portrayals of African countries. That said, I've read a number of articles in recent months about how concerning it is that all Americans see of African nations in their media is guns, drugs, AIDS, and slums.
So Capheus's story really struck a wrong note with me. Especially since the other sensates only seemed to draw on his abilities regarding driving recklessly and fixing broken cars.
And then there was Sun.
Again, I am commenting from the perspective of a white girl in the U.S., and completely understand that I'm speaking from incredible privilege here. But the emotionally-removed Asian who is also an incredible martial-artist. Isn't this one of those stereotypes that we all know has been done to death? Yes, the line about pushing all her feelings into her fist and then fighting for them? That was beautiful. But I found myself not caring about Sun nearly as much as I wanted to, because she was blank so much of the time.
And then there was Capheus and Sun.
One of the big draws to Sense8 has been its diversity. The cast is awesome, and I loved it. I loved how romancey it was. Honestly, if I shared someone's every thought, I'd end up hating or loving them, nothing inbetween. So Will gets the girl (even if he's now being kept indefinitely unconscious or something?). And Wolfgang gets a great speech about how he's such a monster, so he doesn't deserve the girl. And I was ALL ABOUT IT until I realized that neither Sun nor Capheus even got to be romantic. No romance, no sexuality, nothing.
If I got the idea that the narrative wanted them to be asexual or aromantic, this would bother me less. But seeing that all of the main cast who were white were in a stable relationship, of one kind or another, by the end of the show, and only one of the non-white main cast were...that really rubbed me the wrong way. BIG. TIME.
I NEED TO TALK ABOUT DANI.
So there's this thing right now where a lot of straight women seem to be really super into fetishizing gay men. It creeps me out, I'm not going to lie. This is probably because I spent most of my late teens and early 20s getting side-eyed when I was out with my girlfriend, and having total strangers offer us money if they could watch.
Dani figures out Lito's secret and hops into bed. We see Lito being annoyed by her. We see her doing a better job of being sweet with Hernando than Lito does. And then we see Lito and Hernando getting all kinds of sexy, and Dani slipping her fingers into her panties.
If she'd retreated to her room to finger herself, no worries. If they'd had one conversation where she was like "I want to touch myself while you guys get off," fine. But especially given that it's later revealed she's been taking pictures of them without Lito or Hernando knowing? This reads as a huge, major, serious consent violation for me. I was INCREDIBLY displeased.
I mean, even Jayne had the decency to say he'd be in his bunk. When Jayne is a step above you on the social graces chart, I need you to stop and rethink your decisions.
A lot of my friends are reading Dani, Lito, and Hernando as a stable poly triad, and I can see it, but I don't think it's in the narrative. I would buy it as fanfic, but I don't think it's in the text, not as it's written.
And then, there's mother-trauma-porn.
I. Am. Done. With. Childbirth. Trauma.
I am over women giving up on life because their babies die.
I am over this being the main motivator for virtually every sad, depressed, or lonely woman we see in the media.
I am incredibly grateful I was spoiled as to what was going on with Riley, because it saved me from days of crying. But seriously. I am still so mad about the end of that particular arc that I can't even articulate it.
To wrap up:
I liked Sense8 well enough. It was fun, Wolfgang's cock is glorious, the story was cool and fun. If friends of mine have watched it and enjoyed it, I'll happily talk about the good parts of it with them. But I'm not going to be recommending it to anyone I know, not anytime soon.
Hopefully, this post works, since the first version of it was eaten by Weebly. Darn you, Weebly, darn you all to heck!