Why Cancelling Sense8 Matters: An Open Letter, From a So-so- Fan

Let me get this out of the way right now. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sense8.

It was a shaky (plot wise) show with a mountain full of loose ends, poorly crafted characters, and a story that fell into the lull of the focus being white savior complex because that was easy to market. The story started out with a strong start, had a sagging middle, and seemed to never get over that. The science fiction Netflix series opted to add more flash and bang, rather than help people understand the mythos behind the Sensates. No, I’m not talking about Nomi’s Where in The World in Carmen Sandiego like domestic escapades for the history of the Sensates. I’m talking about what the Sensates could and could not do. It was a show I watched the first season, with extreme excitement, and then the second because “why not?”.

To me, it never reached the potential it should have as a science fiction show. When the news of Sense8’s termination came out, my first response was; “knew it”. Honestly, I’m not surprised it was cancelled.

That doesn’t mean I’m not any less pissed.

Sense8 had something that no other show on TV, that was accessible to most people, had: diversity and representation. A person of color heavy cast, with multiple sexualities, a sex positive, pansexual positive undercurrent, and the driving message that ‘no matter who you are, you belong & have a purpose’, is what made Sense8 a spectacular show.

I’m a black gay man, who began writing novels because he could never see himself in books. I always had to adjust myself to fit the narrative; view things from a white, heterosexual lens, view things from a blonde white girl lens, etc. I’m sure not alone. Many marginalized authors started because of the need to see themselves in books. For many of us, Sense8 was the first, main-stream international way we saw ourselves in stories that were just about ‘sad marginalized people living with being sad and finding a way through life’. Sense8 allowed everyone, no matter who you are, to find yourself in the cast.

You’re a white guy? Check out Will. You’re questioning your gender? Nomi’s here to help. You’re a POC—or not—from an underrepresented area of the world? You can be as epic as Capheus. You feel, as a gay man, you’re stuck in a corner? Lito gets you and is here to help. You want to be something more—experience something more? Kala understands. You feel your family is out to get you? Sun’s got your back. And you’re just trying to find a way to survive, day by day? Wolfgang wants to have a drink with you.

Even the side characters had motive, agency, and drive that made them relatable and human. Every character was a person. Friend, foe, acquaintance, I felt like I was there with them—all over the world, and knew them. REALLY knew them. Even that damn DJing Riley had some maternal undertones & depths that gave her a unique space in the cluster and reminded us that sometimes—just existing and being there for people—is what makes you special.

Every person could find themselves in Sense8 and you can’t say that for every show. Sense8 was all about diversity in a sea of bland white boys and girls doing bland white boy and girls things in bland white town. How MANY stories like that can we have and praise as being ‘unique’ or ‘indie’? Trust me, I love indie films—that shit Netflix vomits out regularly isn’t indie. It’s SAFE.

So why was it cancelled? I have no fucking idea. Was it preforming exceptionally? No. But other shows, which have done worse, are still on. Was it perfectly written? Nope, but hey, 13 Reasons Why is still on. Was it repetitive? Yep. But we have ANOTHER season of Arrested Development coming out.

For whatever reason, Netflix decided this paradigm of diversity and inclusion was the right fat to cut. Same with The Get Down. Netflix saw these shows, with a diverse following, as expendable. For whatever secret, mustache twirling, capitalistic, villainous reason they had.   Most likely, to make way for another Adventure in Bland White World starting, Mary Sue and Gary Stu…but you didn’t hear that from me.

Let’s not ignore it was also cancelled on the first day of pride month. We see you, Netflix.

I’m not saying this is some attack on diversity and inclusion (-coughcough- it is—Fox cancelled Pitch too, another POC exceptional, unique and empowering drama), but what I’m saying is Sense8 did something no other Netflix show did so overtly. It made people, who were diverse, feel safe. It allowed us to dream, and it made us feel like our stories matter. How long will we have to wait for another POC driven show? How long will we have to wait for another Queer ensemble cast show? And DON’T GET ME STARTED ON HOW LONG WE’LL HAVE TO WAIT FOR BOTH IN ONE.

The answer? Forever.

Like a friend of mine said, was Sense8 perfect? No. Did it have flaws? Of course—many. Every show does. But the one saving grace it had was it made us all, no matter where we were from, who we were, or our backstories, feel like we can do anything. We can be heroes, we can be great, we can be loved, and we will find our home—sooner or later. Sense8’s storytelling did that.

So, even though I might not have loved the show, I thank you, Wachowskis, for making us part of your cluster. And for most of us, showing the world how kick ass people of color, and people across the sexual spectrum can be. And no matter what, even if the next show is cancelled--or the next ten shows one thing is for certain.

We'll survive. Together.