The first day of Pride is supposed to be a time of remembrance for our community and those who sacrificed so much for young queers like me to live happy and free, instead a lot of us were devastated to hear that Sense8 had been canceled.
If you’re familiar with my blog I have gushed numerous times about how diverse, inclusive, and meaningful Sense8 is as a show. Created and directed by two trans women, staring a trans-woman playing a trans-woman, as well as a cast from literally all around the world, Sense8 was like the answer to all of our prayers. For years we had been begging for a show with positive queer representation, a show that treated it non-white characters just as well as it treated their white characters. Sense8 delivered all of that and more.
Aside from it’s obvious LGBT+ themes and the beautiful performances by it’s stars Jamie Clayton, Max Reimelt, Aml Ameen, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Brian J. Smith, Tina Desai, Bae Doona, Tuppence Middleton, and newcomer to the show, Toby Onwumere, it was also written beautifully. The show was filled with stunning cinematography that showed the beauty of cities like San Francisco and Chicago in America, London in the UK, Nairobi in Kenya, Berlin and Mexico City. It was also wonderfully written, managing to include classic sci-fi themes (a secret organization is rounding up sensates to use them for sick and inhumane experiments) while also exploring themes of race, religion, gender, family, and relationships.
The show, like many, had it’s faults. Having such a large and diveres cast made it sometimes difficult to follow the narrative. Not to mention I personally did not like their inclusion of tensions between the police and gang members in Chicago. But those were minor mistakes when compared to the white washing of Iron Fist and the yet to be released adaption of Death Note. When it came to a graphic scene where our main characters were being hanged in a staged suicide, the show cleverly managed not to show it’s one black character hanging from a noose. The creators, the same women who brought you The Matrix, Cloud Atlas, Speed Racer, and Jupiter Ascending, knew their audience and knew exactly what we would and wouldn’t want to see. Other Netflix shows, such as 13 Reasons Why, had no problem depicting a most likely triggering and graphic, not to mention textually inaccurate portrayal of a suicide by a young teenage girl.
But guess what show is coming back for a second season?
Now, I can’t speak for everyone. I don’t know their reasons for feeling betrayed by Netflix canceling such a beautifully made and wonderfully diverse show. But I do know why I, personally, felt betrayed.
Sense8 came out the same year I came out. I remember how new I was to my sexuality and my acceptance of it. I had just started going to my local queer center, and I was still tentative about my sexuality and discussing it and feeling like I could discuss it. I come from a Black Christian family, I went to Sunday school and sang in my church choir. Watching one character Lito Hernandez, also struggle with his sexuality and his career, was like looking at a mirror image. I felt his pain in leading a double life, the paranoia that your family will find out, the fear of rejection, the fear of hate and ridicule. But then there was Nomi Marks, a trans-woman who had a loving and supportive girlfriend, played magnificently by Freema Agyeman. Nomi was secure in her identity, even as her mother continued to misgender her and call her by her old name. Nomi was a model of who I wanted to grow to be some day. I wanted to be proud of being pansexual I wanted to be proud of being genderfluid. I wanted all of this because I saw that Nomi was happy in who she was, and Lito was constantly plagued by doubt and anxiety and I didn’t want that for myself.
As the season goes on, Lito grows, and I felt like I grew too. I was 17, and this show helped me become who I wanted to be. This show and it’s characters taught me that your past and the mistakes within it don’t define you, but they did help shape the person you are today. This show taught me that family doesn’t end in blood, and just because your family rejects you doesn’t mean there isn’t a family out there waiting to accept you for who you are and who you want to be.
The sad part is, this isn’t the first time Netflix has disappointed me. Earlier this year it was announced that The Get Down had been canceled, a show filled with beautiful and talented and complex Black, Latino, and Afro-Latino talent. I saw people who looked like me, who were young like me and ambitious like me, striving to survive in an environment that can suck you dry if you let it.
I grew up in Compton, my mom did everything she could to shelter me from the gangs and the violence but I still heard the gunshots. I still noticed the vigils on street corners. Before I transferred to Poly in Long Beach, I went to Centennial. Not too long before I attended there were riots, fights, people bringing guns to school. It had calmed down considerably by the time I was a freshman but you still heard things. I recognized the kids in The Get Down because I grew up with them. Netflix canceling that show was like telling me that the stories of my people don’t matter.
I’ve heard theories about why The Get Down and Sense8 were canceled. Some say it was because the budgets were too high, some say it’s because the current CEO of Netflix wanted them to be more edgy by having more cancellations. I don’t care what the excuse is because Netflix had the budget to create the mediocrity that is Iron Fist. Netflix has the budget to order a season two for 13 Reasons Why, despite the actual story in the show already being completed. If Netflix has the budget for these shows, and any of the other unnecessary shows that it produces, why doesn’t it have the budget for actual diverse, inclusive, and beautifully written shows like The Get Down and Sense8?
I want to close this post by giving a personal Fuck You to whomever thought it was a good idea to announce the cancellation on the first day of Pride. As if the cancellation wasn’t enough of a punch in the gut.