The people closest to me know that I’m not too big into many primetime tv shows on the air. It took my wife to convince me to finally watch Breaking Bad and The Wire after several years. To be honest, the only tv shows I view outside my marriage (couple shows are a thing) is pro-wrestling. (Longtime wrestling fan, and I’m not ashamed to say so.) But the genre of sci-fi is one of my favorites. It is one of few genres that create worlds where ordinary people can become heroes and save not only the world but, also the entire universe.
That brings us to one of Netflix’s most outstanding and groundbreaking shows called Sense8. It debuted to much fanfare and critical reception in 2015. It was a show developed and created by the Wachowski’s (of Matrix, and Cloud Atlas fame) and Michael J. Straczynski (Babylon 5 creator and long-time comic book writer). Sense8 was a show of the present and of the future. The show featured eight characters from eight different countries, all bound together by an intense telepathic connection.
The show featured positive portrayals of men of color, Trans people, polyamorous relationships, and strong women lead characters. They were far from what stereotypical portrayals for what these diverse group people are typical shown in Hollywood and television shows. In Sense8, the characters were flawed, they were funny, they were sad, and most importantly they had agency and self-determination. The show was cumbersome at times, but robust and exciting characters along with amazing acting kept you glued to see what happens next.
It seems Netflix is following the path of networks like Fox, The WB, and UPN: creating original programming with people of color and LGTBQ people leading the charge, then building their brand until they reach mainstream success and dump their original edgier programming. Ever since ‘Netflix and chill’ became part of the American English lexicon its original programming has gone mainstream. Soon more shows not solely featuring “all-American’ mostly white lead characters will be canceled. Netflix canned The Get Down too, but we’re still stuck with Iron Fist…WTF!
It seems to be that people who are not defined as traditionally ‘all-American’ will continue to struggle to see those who look like them portrayed with any agency and self-determination in mainstream film and television. It seems that folks not identified as mainstream will be forced yet again to create own our original content starring black, brown, gay, straight, bi, trans, old, handicapped, and female lead characters and that content will likely live online. That’s what Issa Rae and Ali Wong did. But for now, I want to say goodbye to Nomi, Cepheus, Sun, Kala, Riley, Wolfgang, Lito and Will. I’ll see you all on the flipside.