‘Sense8′s’ unconventional narrative explores gender, the self, and ass kickery on Netflix now (NSFW)
There’s a lot to love in the new Netflix show Sense8, created and directed by the Wachowskis’ (The Matrix, a bunch of other terrible movies) – and there’s also a lot of muck to wade through.
But if you can make it to about episode sex and still stay interested, the last six episodes will keep you on the edge of your seat.
You’ll be asking yourself “why?” and “what?” a lot, but trust me, by mid season you’ll understand there’s a purpose to the chaos.
The story follows eight people from different corners of the globe who start out seemingly unconnected. As the show progresses, characters switch bodies and minds (sometimes willingly and sometimes unwillingly), creating one unified existence shared by the group. This one existence allows for shared memories, experiences, and skills – all of which are used to help push the seemingly-complicated narrative down a surprisingly traditional path.
This makes for a plethora of international characters and locals. This show was shot everywhere, and the attention to keep each character’s homeland authentically in the frame is beautifully respected.
There’s a lot of eye-candy in this show, and not just the fleshy-kind.
Sense8 is also about as gay/trans friendly as a TV show can get. Full frontal male nudity, a giant mind-sex orgy crossing genders, and metaphors around who and what makes us who we are, male or female, are not only present, but sometimes hit you like a brick to the face.
Lana Wachowski, a transwoman herself, should be proud of just how LGBTQ this show is and how well its carried out.
It’s refreshing, honestly. As a gay man, I don’t mind some solid dude-on-dude, or trans-woman-on-cis-woman, action mixed in to my TV watching. There’s dude-on-girl as well, but I’d say the sexuality is pretty evenly distributed, but always as intense and beautifully shot.
As for LGBTQ specifics, there’s Nomi Marks, a trans-woman played by trans actress Jamie Clayton. Mark’s back story is as sad as you can imagine – though admittedly from privilege, her mother misgenders her, and the first few episodes lock her in a medical nightmare paralleling an experience many trans folks have probably had to deal with. It’s heartbreaking to watch her struggle to express her identity to a mother who was more interested in outward appearances and ‘following the doctor’s orders’ even if it means turned her daughter into a vegetable .
As for gay folks, one storyline details Lito’s life as closeted Mexican blockbuster-movie actor. Lito, played by the straight Spanish actor Miguel Ángel Silvestre, ends up in a kind of love triangle with his incredibly beautiful male lover (Alfonso Herrera) and his female-beard (Erendira Ibarra). It’s a hot mess. And as the gifs below show, its a VERY hot mess:
Alright, dry yourself off, this review isn’t over.
Admittedly, it’s hard to explain and review this show without giving away plot points – the very structure of the show and its narrative are tied into some deep philosophies around what it means to be an individual and what it would be like to exist as more than one person at the same time.
I apologize if that sounds stupid, but trust me, if you’re into theorizing the deeper things in life, you’re going to enjoy this show.
Sense8’s issues comes down to an utter lack of story structure and pacing. While its lack of levity and humor are matters that can be discussed another day, what can’t be ignored is the show’s inability to build a properly paced narrative. The series jumps from moments of somber reflection, to high octane action, to plotting dribble, to mindless exposition and back again without any real pattern or logic.
The folk’s at the AV Club shared this perspective – Sense8 is a clusterfuck not unlike the rest of the Wachowskis’ work, but what it lacks in traditional narrative structure it makes up for visually.
With so many crudely drawn characters, most of whom never interact face to face, and a less-is-more approach to explaining the origin and goal of the sensate experiments, Sense8’s sumptuous visuals are its only consistent selling point. But usually, the look is all Sense8 needs, since it has far too many moving pieces to enroll the audience in trying to assemble them into a larger picture.
As I said earlier, this show really is a hot mess. Trying to weave together story arcs of eight characters who never meet face to face, let alone on the same continent, plus some side stories, could not be easy for anyone, let alone two people who’ve made a living telling contrived stories.
Some of the dialogue is heavy handed, and some of the situations are cliché, but the feat attempted deserves some respect.
Breaking the traditional narrative form is a ballsy move, and even if this show is hated by most, I have no doubt it will be remembered for its attempt at changing the way we see ourselves, and the way we consume stories in general.
Nomi and Lito talk positive LGBTQ relationships, being authentic, and the orgy scene from Netflix’s ‘Sense8′
“The thing that I love about Nomi and Amanita’s relationship is it’s such a middle finger to anyone who has you know a more conservative view of what a relationship is supposed to look like.”July 7, 2015
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