Okay, alright, by now you’re tired of everyone’s #renewsense8 rants but hear me out. The creators are transgender sisters, Lana and Lili Wachowski, the duo behind The Matrix, and the show features four women of color as their leads and they are all bad ass, smart women. What’s not to love? I wish I could see more characters like these on television, especially WOC in positions of power. These ladies have bigger problems than finding the perfect dress, shoes or guy.
Do I wish they had more WOC? Do I wish one of them was played by an afro-latina? Do I wish there was one cluster exclusively made up of WOC? YES, YES, YES!
But until then, here are my favorite intersectional feminist ladies of Sense8. These characters seem ideal pieces in a liberal agenda but their love, their family issues, their fears, and self-doubt make them real and total achievable #feminstgoals
NOTE: The analysis contains spoilers
“Art is love made public”– Hernando
AMANITA: Freema Agyeman, also known as Martha in Doctor Who, plays the all inclusive, hippy child lesbian, Amanita. Amanita wins my heart because she loves her transgender girlfriend Nomi unconditionally. She’s the only non-sensate that not only accepts the truth but embraces it and helps out everyone as much as they need. Willing to break the law and almost get killed, Amanita is the epidemy of a true partner in crime. As a smart, confident woman of color, she embodies true self-love and acceptance. I believe this is why it’s so easy for her to love, accept and truly become an ally to the rest of the sensates, specially Nomi. Her confidence comes from her loving polyamorous family composed of three black fathers and one white mother. Growing up in a completely different environment from all of the other characters, Amanita learns to love herself and others pretty early on. I like that the creators of the show added this character to their story because she represents what we all want to be and what we wish most people were like, open and loving. She is the ideal.
“The real violence, the violence I realized was unforgivable, is the violence that we do to ourselves when we’re too afraid to be who we really are.”–Nomi
NOMI: The transgender hacktivist Nomi Marks played by transgender actress Jaime Clayton, is probably everyone’s favorite character. Smart, fiercely loyal and unapologetically herself, Nomi is the glue of the group. Yes, we can argue for Will, but let’s face it, they would all be dead if it wasn’t for Nomi (and Sun). Nomi, the other half the Nancy Drew Crew, reminds us again and again that the best way to be is to live honestly; our true selves. Though she comes from a privileged white background, her persecution for being trans keeps her grounded, vulnerable but open to others and their baggage. And though she was rejected by her mother, she becomes the cluster’s motherly figure. She’s the one everyone calls for tech help, relationship advice, and moral dilemmas. Nomi is an intersectional feminist because she helps those who can’t help themselves. Her non-judgmental disposition and her ability to be raw and vulnerable makes her everyone’s best friend. I love that she finds total and complete acceptance in Amanita. This has made her stronger and able to be there for the rest of the cluster.
“We may be married by my body is my mine”–Kala
KALA: The Indian pharmaceutical scientist gets better with time. Kala, played by Tina Desai, represents those people that are open and accepting but wrestles with her own traditional, cultural and individual values in a hyper-sexual world. She cares more about science, doing the right thing and helping those in need instead of marriage, love, and sex. Though her story of arranged marriage is a bit cliche, what saves Kala from falling into a stereotype is her inner strength and willingness to stand up for herself. She makes this very clear when her husband brings up the fact that she’s a virgin and they haven’t consummated their marriage, “We may be married by my body is mine.” I love this statement because sometimes us women forget that being in a committed relationship doesn’t give anyone the right to treat us like property and demand something from us that we aren’t comfortable doing so. Though it is implied that she eventually does actually consummate her relationship she makes it clear that this was done on her own term and at her own time. Unlike the rest of the characters, Kala is not experienced with or comfortable with committing a crime. She, a scientist, believes in using her mind instead of her fists in order to resolve an issue. However, as she connects with others like Sun and Wolfgang, she becomes a bit more of a fighter, creating explosives and provoking fights as she did with Lila. She starts off as a sheltered character who later witnesses what people are capable off and instead of judging, falls in love for the first time with a gangster, atheist, hypersexual man. Kala, like most us, tries to please everyone around her; her husband and her family. It’s not until she starts thinking about her own happiness and even questions if she is capable of being happy at all, that she finally is able to really breathe and be herself. She makes her own happiness, her own way. This is showcased when she has sensate sex with Wolfgang. I love that she comes to him on her time, her own way and the directors/writers create have her be fully clothed for this scene. Kala reminds us that you can be a feminist (especially when she reminds her parents that she went to school to use her degree not to meet a man and have babies), and still have individual, cultural and religious convictions.
“In this country, sometimes the only place you can find a brave and honest woman is in prison.” —Prisoner 818
SUN: Played by Doona Bae, the Korean kick-ass businesswoman is my favorite character. I would watch a show all about Sun. She’s quiet, wise; a warrior in a suite. She can definitely be an asset to Olivia Pope’s gladiators. She represents the inner warrior in all of us at work where we are not respected for our brains but for our abilities to smile and get coffee. Sun goes to jail to protect the men in her family but this unfortunate event leads her to unleash her repressive emotions. Sun is not a crier, she’s a fighter, instead of shedding tears she hurts herself by punching a concrete wall. Sun’s story could’ve just been about revenge but in her quest to write the wrongs of her brother, she connects with others, she finally is able to be vulnerable and learns that it’s okay to feel, to wallow and cry it out. One of my favorite scenes is her interaction with Lito who is much more open with his emotions. She goes to a “love motel” to be alone but Lito keeps popping up, crying, feeling like his world was crashing. Neither really understand why they are connected at this moment until Sun tells him that he has everything in life, a man who loves him and a mother who accepts him. At this moment they realize that Sun, the fugitive, always running, always alone, doesn’t have either of those things and she’s the one who is suppose to be in bed, crying and feeling her like her world is coming down on her. We then see her actually curl up with Lito, knowing that she’s not alone and it’s okay to feel whatever it is that she’s feeling. In her silence, Sun proves to be more than just a fighter; she’s able to connect with all of the other sensates even the most reluctant ones like Wolfgang. She’s like a big sister to Kala and Riley who always seek her advice. Two of my favorite things about this character is that she is not given any real romance (except for one kiss) and besides a brief flashback, she’s the only sensate who understands the meaning of sex but never actually has it. She always connects with other women as she makes friends in prison and meets extraordinary people like Min-Jung played by veteran Korean actress Yoon Yuh Jung—— who like her, are warriors and in a society that thinks of them as second class citizens, felt like they had no other choice but to eliminate the men who made their lives a living hell. This strengthens Sun’s convictions but sets her into a different path: justice. Sun is the survivor in all us.
“I fall in love the person, not their genitals”
ZAKIA: The Kenyan, privileged, pansexual journalist is portrayed by Mumbi Maina (gorgeous by the way), came very late to the series and its a shame. My favorite part of her character is her honesty when checking her own privilege. Given the opportunity to study in London Zakia came back to her native country to expose corruption and give back to her people. However, her character is someone who, like many of us immigrants that go back to our native land, is seen as foreigner, snob and pretentious. I love her apartment, filled with books, not only because it portrays her status, but it also speaks to her open-mindedness and her exposure to different ideologies and ways of life. This is juxtaposed with Cepheus, who is raised humbly but has the potential to be a great leader and his openness comes from his connection to the sensates around the world. This is showcased when Zakias argues that Van Dam, Cepheus’ hero, is a white hero and that his story is once again a white savior’s story. Cepheus acknowledges this but also argues for the overall theme of Van Dam: courage (which is another motif in the series). Zakia could have been another latte drinking, ‘I’m too good’ for you stereotype of a privileged WOC but she breaks this mold by demonstrating her confidence without putting down those around her.
“I have a relationship with these two men that isn’t based on threats, or control, or money.”
DANIELA: The gay porn loving, melodramatic party girl could have been left at that. However, Mexican actress, Eréndira Ibarra, who has experience portraying complex characters like Mariana in Las Aparicio and Anna in Ingovernable, gives Daniela a brain, a heart and the courage to be the perfect third wheel. Sure, she loses points when it comes to judgment but Daniela, similarly to Amanita, she becomes a great ally to Lito and Hernando. She completes the family and is part of the decision making in this trio. I like that she’s also hypersexualized but in a different way than Wolfgang. She’s up for anything but we mostly see her doing herself! This Latina came on a little too strong at the beginning then became a damsel in distress, taking a few beatings from her ex. However, she doesn’t play the victim, she knows this is something she has to bear in order to save her friend’s reputation/career. After her rescue, she becomes a source of everlasting light, life, and motivation in the Lito-Hernando love story. Daniela wins us over when she chooses to stay with the boys and create a different kind of family apart from her repressive parents. They disown her but she doesn’t care because like she says, “I’m happy here—I can’t be with an asshole who uses my face as a punching bag—I have a relationship with these two men that isn’t based on threats, or control or money.” In the end, Daniela learns the true meaning of friendship, family, and love. It’s great to see a woman choosing to be in a healthier relationship (even if it’s not a romantic relationship). Dani also proves that she’s more than just a cute accessory to take to parties when she cleverly becomes Lito’s agent by landing him an interview in less than a minute!
As of today, June 7th, 2017, the Netflix has decided to cancel this fantastic show. Though it has its shortcomings, Sense8 prompts its viewers to reflect on social issues such as gender, sexuality, cultural obligations, religion, ethical science, what it means to be human and of course, what it truly means to love unconditionally. I hope these ladies don’t die here but more people take notice on how to write and direct powerful female characters and give more roles to actresses of color. Let these characters be a jump point because
#thefuture is female after all!