BiMediaWatch: Sense8, Person Of Interest, OITNB & more

Sense8 is a science fiction series made for Netflix by the Wachowski siblings (who brought us The Matrix) along with BAFTA-nominated screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (who created Babylon 5 and wrote The Amazing Spider-Man comic book series), which won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series this year.

The series focuses on a group of eight characters from different cultures around the world who are drawn together when they all see a vision of a woman’s violent death. This turns out to be Angelica who dies to protect the eight “sensates” (yes, the title is a play on words) from being discovered by Whispers, who is unveiled over the twelve episodes as a sensate turned sensate hunter and a very bad man! Through seeing this vision, the eight realise that they are connected both mentally and emotionally and that they can communicate with each other and utilise each other’s language and skills. As the series progresses, this turns out to be very handy indeed!

The first three episodes focus on building the story and may seem a bit confusing at first as you are bombarded with new characters and story lines. This was a deliberate plot by the writers as they felt the confusion of the main characters should be felt by the audience too. There are a number of LGBT characters in Sense8 but as the series is written by two trans women that is to be expected. Firstly there is Nomi, played by Jamie Clayton. A trans woman who was told by her parents that there was “something wrong with someone like me”, she is a blogger and hacker living with her girlfriend Amanita (Freema Agyeman) in San Francisco. Lots of people have suggested that Amanita is bisexual, but that hasn’t been explicitly stated – yet. You also have Lito (Migueal Angel Silvestre) who is a closeted gay telenovela actor and his boyfriend Hernando. The other characters include London-based DJ Riley (Tuppence Middleton), a cop from Chicago named Will (Brian J. Smith), Capheus (Aml Ameen) the Nairobi matatu driver, Sun (Doona Bae) a Seoul-based businesswoman, Kala (Tina Desai) a chemist from Mumbai who is about to get married, and Wolfgang (Max Riemelt) the German thief and safe cracker.

As well as being a science fiction show, Sense8 explores subjects which have typically not had as direct a profile in other science fiction shows – AIDS, religion, politics, identity and sexuality all feature throughout the series, in our own world rather than through allegory. The show isn’t a “traditional” science fiction show by any means – the characters are normal people going through their daily lives, who are psychically linked together. The “rules” of how the characters are linked and interact are almost deliberately confusing, and it takes some time to figure out how it all works. That’s one of the best (or worst!) things about the show, though – you aren’t being handed the answers on a plate, you have to work to understand who can see who and what interactions are possible between the eight. A little hint of insight into the world of the “sensate” is given in episode two, but it’s not until episode four that there is a significant explanation of what it means to be a “sensate”.

Although there are no overtly bi characters yet, a variety of actors were filmed kissing each other during Sao Paulo Pride in late May, so I have high hopes for some bi recognition in series two which is due to air around Christmas time. If you want to see an introduction trailer for each character then you can find some really good ones at  http://crum.pl/meetTheSense8

The screenwriters have mapped out a five year plan for the show, including the final episode of that final series – I can’t wait for series two to return next year.

Lynsey

Over on Channel 5 Person of Interest reached its fourth season, with one more to go before it all wraps up.  Like Sense8 this is a nearly-current-world sci-fi show, exploring what might happen if anti-terrorist intelligent databases were put to other uses.

It’s high on shootouts and espionage and low on romance as a show, so it was a bit of a surprise when episode 11 opened up the potential romance between Root (Amy Acker) and Sameen (Sarah Shahi). Be warned though, this show looks like it is going to bounce around the worn story of same-sex love being tragic with at least one of them winding up dead.

As we go to press the new season of Orange is the New Black just went live on Netflix.  OITNB has a complicated track record: quite a bit of behavioural bisexuality but nary a mention of that awkward ‘b’ word.  Let’s just say it’s more of the same.  Still, good fun often-queer telly.

Also on Netflix we at last have Glee-like comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airing in the UK.  Or whatever the on-demand equivalent is called.  Notable for a remarkably positive depiction of a bisexual man working out his sexual orientation.

Over in the inky print media, Out magazine reported that Whitney Houston’s ex husband Bobby Brown has been talking about how Whitney had an affair with her assistant Robyn Crawford. This one puzzled me as news: I could have sworn it was all over the press about twenty years ago.

Perhaps it was because of an interview with Out she gave in 2000 where she said, “If I was gay, I would be proud to tell you, ‘cause I ain’t that kind of girl to say, ‘Naw, that ain’t me.’ The thing that hurt me the most was that they tried to pin something on me that I was not. My mother raised me to never, ever be ashamed of what I am. But I’m not a lesbian, darling. I’m not.”

Of course, assuming she was bi, that was not a word of a lie. Hardly her fault that a journalist didn’t ask the appropriate follow-up question.

Meanwhile the Guardian met Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Mpho Tutu van Furth, whose same-sex marriage cost her her vocation as a priest.

“My father campaigned for women’s ordination, and so every time I stand at the altar I know that this is part of his legacy. And it is painful, a very odd pain, to step down, to step back from exercising my priestly ministry,” she told them.

While same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa, where she lives, the Anglican church there holds to one of the many historic definitions of marriage, determined that it be a mixed-sex affair.

Married to a man she met a woman with whom she slowly fell in love. She makes an interesting case as a reluctant user of the word bi though:

“It was a matter of realising I was in love. If I have to wear a label, and if it makes a difference to wear a label, then maybe I’m willing to wear the label of being bisexual.

“But I almost wear the label under protest because it makes sex the centre of our relationship. Sex is not the centre of our relationship although it is significant – I’m not trying to pretend that I’m celibate, but for us it’s not the defining aspect of our relationship.

“What defines our relationship is that we love each other, that we enjoy each other’s company, we are mutually respectful, mutually supportive. It’s those things that really matter the most in the relationship – and in any relationship.”

It’s an interesting question about bisexuality; barring “bi” as shorthand, we lack a neat non-sex word akin to gay or lesbian.  Is that part of what puts people off?

Jen