If you are a user of any kind of social media, you might have heard a lot of buzz this week about popular sci-fi show Sense8's cancellation. If you aren't someone who has seen the show, the hashtags and outcries which were at one point trending worldwide may have passed you by without much concern. Well, I am here to tell you that you should be concerned (and that you should be so concerned, you sign the growing fan petition to bring the show back now!)
The cancellation of Sense8 represents something larger than just another series succumbing to a fate that eventually would have caught up with it anyway. No, Netflix's shock decision to kill Sense8 while it is still in its' infancy - being only two seasons young - represents something that impacts all of us in some way. It represents the removal of a series that provided important representation and visibility for anyone who has ever felt different or has been made to feel different.
For those uninitiated into the Sense8 world, it's important for you to know that the show broke fresh ground by not focusing only on unimaginable fantasies or unrecognisable dystopian worlds, thereby bypassing the go-to writing formula for mainstream science-fiction writing. Rather, at the heart of every episode were divisive issues such as gender identity, mental health, politics, cultural differences, sexuality and much, much more. These are issues which shows rarely depict with much dimensionality or dignity but this is where the writers' of Sense8 excelled, earning a GLAAD award and positive feedback from fans who related to the issues playing out on screen. For some of them, this was the only show that provided an accurate representation of who they were.
The beloved show was the brainchild of the Wachowski sisters and J. Michael Straczynksi and premiered in 2013 with much fanfare, being acclaimed by critics and accumulating recognition on the award show circuit for its' progressive content and innovative approach to storytelling. The show centres on the story of eight strangers, each from a different part of the world, discovering they are 'sensates' - humans who have a mental and emotional link to each other, allowing them to communicate with each other despite the oceans, borders and languages that might otherwise separate them. An international cast was employed and filming for the show took place all over the world. The multi-lingual, multi-cultural nature of the show understandably pulled in an international fanbase and the show's focus on timely issues only further cemented the loyalty it received from its diverse audience.
Frustratingly, this is not Netflix's first strike at erasing a show which promoted diversity; Baz Luhrmann's 'The Get Down' was also axed last month. Variety's Chief TV Critic Maureen Ryan reflected today that there is a troubling trend in cancellations this year, with most shows that were cancelled featuring non-white and/or non-male leads or ensemble casts. Some of these cancelled shows include Pitch (female black lead, strong feminist messages), "Sweet/Vicious" (bisexual, feminist female lead), Underground/The Get Down (both featured a black ensemble cast), Rosewood (black lead) and many more.
In our current socio-political climate where our policies are worryingly favouring closed borders and the promotion of fear of those who are different from us in anyway, I dare anyone to defy that the loss of a yet another show that fights those stereotypes and misappropriations is a good thing. Sense8's focus on how empathy can resolve most problems caused by ignorance and fear is one the world could really use right now. And you know what? The representation of people of colour and people from diverse backgrounds on a major show could really touch someone feeling alienated by society. The fan petition might not bring the show back as fans would want, but we would be just as happy to gain an opportunity for the cast and crew to return for a one-off special that can provide some sort of closure to a series that means so much to so many for so many reasons.