Spoiler Warning: I will be discussing some plot details of a very new show called Sense8 which is on netflix. If you don’t want anything spoiled, do not read this unless you’ve seen at least the first 5 episodes. You have been warned.
Sense8 may be the best new property I’ve seen a very long time. The show reminds me a lot of the first season of Heroes. Interesting and diverse ensemble cast, mysterious plot full of interesting questions, and great action and use of the powers of the characters. I hope the show will continue into more seasons, as the first was full of emotion and great story telling.
The basic plot is there are 8 people who are all somehow psychically linked to each other. They are starting to learn to share senses, as in they can see, hear, taste, whatever another is, as well as talk to each other, or even let them take control and use their skill. As for the how and why, you’ll just have to watch to find out.
There’s a reason this is something I wanted to talk about on my blog, aside from just being absolutely amazing and full of emotion. The show had me crying, gasping, even audibly cheering at points. But there’s something I knew going in that had gained my interest in the show. That reason is that it’s open pro-transgender issues.
The show is the brain child of J. Michael Straczynski and the Wachowskis. Straczynski is famous for his sci-fi shows, maybe best well known being Babylon 5. The Wachowskis are of course the siblings who made the Matrix movies as well as several others that I personally love. And Lana Wachowki is a trans woman. In fact she’s one of my idols. And they used this platform, as well as netflix’s progressive attitudes to not only include a transgender character in the main 8 characters, but also cast a trans actress to play her. Let me reiterate: This is a trans character, written by a trans woman, played by a trans woman. This may be the very first piece of television fiction written that isn’t in some ways exploiting trans people.
Now shows like Transparent and Orange is the New Black both include wonderful and positive examples of trans characters, and are definitely from a place of support. But the fact is, they never fully understand how to truly tell those stories. They’re the outsiders perspective on what it means to be trans. This doesn’t make them bad, and in fact are very valuable. But there’s a need for trans writers and creators to be allowed to speak for us. For trans individuals to represent us on the big and small screen.
Now that that’s all out of the way, here’s what I wanted to say about the show. They quite clearly metaphorically show my biggest irrational fear, one I’m sure many trans people face in their lives. This is metaphorical, but in the show, the sensates (those with the psychic link) brains are developing into a different way than normal people. After a fainting spell Nomi, the trans character, wakes up in a hospital with her mother there, who is horrible to her, constantly misgendering her and calling her by her old name. That’s a big enough fear, but the big fear comes from a mysterious doctor, who with her mother, has had her right to care for herself, and are going to lobotomize her “for her own safety.”
Now in the show it has to do with her abilities and the mystery of how these people have this ability. But my personal biggest irrational fear is that someone will be able to use the fact that I’m trans to say I’m mentally unfit to care for myself, get me locked up, and even try to forcibly change my brain. This fear isn’t unfounded. All you have to do is look up the ways the “civilized world” has treated trans people. These things have all happened. Now it’s irrational for me to fear this, as this isn’t something that happens, at least not in America. I’m much more likely to be killed or at least assaulted for being myself. But those things don’t scare me the way the other does. So that part of the story had a major impact on me.
At this point I have a total crush on Nomi, and hope some day to be half that pretty, or even a quarter. I laughed with her, I cried with her. When she tells Lito her history, I could not stop crying. Just thinking about that, about the ways they story mirrors my own feelings and experiences, I start to tear up still.
Do yourself, and the world, a favor: Watch Sense8. The more people who watch, the more likely we will get more. If for no other reason than to let Hollywood know that trans writers and actors need to be allowed to tell our stories.