Thank You, Sense8

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Jonathan G

Writer. Feminist. Eater of most things.

Two years ago, I remember seeing Sense8 on Netflix. I had just finished a season of Orange Is The New Black. I hovered my mouse over the cover, read the caption, and proceeded to exit out. I was interested, but not enough to binge in that very moment.

Months later, my social media feeds were flooded with this Netflix show everyone seemed to be talking about because of its amazing cast and engrossing storytelling. Best of all, this show boasted one of the most culturally diverse characters, each with their own stories and agency. To my surprise, the show turned out to be Sense8.

One episode in, I immediately regretted waiting so long to watch the show. Sense8 followed the lives of eight interconnected people (mentally and emotionally), all across the world, following different paths of life. Before long, the show connected with me on a such a strong level. It also earned praise from the feminist community. And with a diverse cast, strong female characters with their own agency, and badass queer representation, why wouldn’t it?

It’s not a far-fetched idea to suggest that Sense8’s main themes represent the queer experience. The main characters form a group that is often ostracized and even targeted for something they had no control over, for something that does not affect anyone negatively. The characters are forced to find solace in what makes them different. Conversely, in realizing their differences, they form a community that values pride and individuality.

Earlier this year, Netflix announced the cancellation of Sense8 after just two seasons. Of course, the show’s fanbase (myself included) didn’t take this news lightly. Petitions and online campaigns were created to rally support. Now, almost a month after the cancellation, the show has been picked up for another two-hour special next year — which could open the door to future specials. In celebration, I’m counting down what some of the characters mean to me.

Lito Rodriguez

Lito’s character, who is gay and also Hispanic, often found himself at odds with his identity and how it affected how people perceived him. Being Hispanic myself, I often find myself in his shoes. Hispanic culture emphasizes family culture, but at the same time, it can be oppressive in its value of masculinity.

After Lito comes out, he loses his job due to homophobia. This is still a reality that queer individuals face today. While there are legal protections (depending on where you live), these protections are constantly under attack. His story is a strong reminder that queer lives are still at risk. Yes, we’ve progressed and things are better, but that does not mean that troubles don’t loom.

Lito taught me that bravery does not always mean the rejection of fear or emotions. There are so many moments when I have been afraid to show emotions, especially about my identity. I want to broadcast myself as strong, as someone who doesn’t care about what others say about my identity. But Lito taught me that it is okay to feel. Bravery is not the rejection of fear or emotion, but rather what you do with it.

Nomi Marks

In the second episode of season one, Nomi, a trans woman, attended her first Pride parade. During the parade, she ruminates about her family’s connection to religion and how that affects their relationship. Nomi says:

Her words struck a chord with me. I come from a religious household and have faced some of the same shaming and hate. Reconciling who I am with how my family raised me often leads to a spiral of emotional turmoil. Nomi taught me that it is okay to be proud of who I am, despite what any family members say.

Seeing her father accept her in season two ignites hope that every queer individual will one day find the same acceptance. But at the end of the day, all that matters is that you accept yourself.

Sun Bak

(Sun Bak on the left, Kala Dandekar on the right)

Sun’s character faces inner turmoil due to how her family treats her. Her story was my favorite of season two. What’s interesting about Sun is that her love for her family still persists despite what they put her through. While it’s not explicitly stated, I feel that this can be related to the queer experience. At the very least, I related to it.

Sun taught me that these feelings are valid. I often wish I can turn off how I feel about some of my family members, especially for the way I’ve been treated by them. No matter what hateful things have been said to me, I can’t shake how I feel about my family. I still want the best for them.

Sun is a portrait of true strength and resilience. As a queer individual, her character is someone I aspire to be like.

Final Thoughts

Seeing Sense8 fans rally around the show makes me believe that the media landscape will change. There is a strong desire for real characters of many backgrounds. In addition, Sense8 has taught me to value myself and to be a better ally to my own community and others.

Thank you, Sense8. See you soon.