In-Sense8

Real quick: Sense8, the Wachowski’s Netflix series, is a mess.

I couldn’t stop watching it.

Why? I still don’t know. It’s a tonal catch-all. Thematically, we could argue that this inconsistency/contradiction is by design. The show is clearly promoting the primacy of interconnectivity and the transcendent power of empathy. Given the collective mind it’s striving to amplify and celebrate, while still preserving singular identity in the process, it makes sense that the show wouldn’t persist in a single form, or as one, clearly definable thing. Instead, it is One. It is all-encompassing. It is Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” as moving visual art.

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then, I contradict myself;

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

First of all, this is a brilliant defense of chaos (or order in chaos). Not sure what to make of me or my art? That’s because I’m willing it to be everything and nothing. To a viewer insisting on some measure of certainty and expressible judgment, this translates not to a description of “beautifully ineffable” but something more like “plainly insufferable.” Sense8 is easy to dismiss. At best, if eager to label it a failure, a critic could call it ambitious. It flails about, but strangely, it’s not desperate to be anything. It’s comfortable with its messiness, to the point that it’s not failure. It’s intention. Or at least that’s how I’m interpreting it. Because I experienced such a wide variety of emotions, and because I kept choosing to watch it (not just letting the Netflix next disease settle in), I’m assuming there was something in its creation that touched an eternal note.

All of the Wachowski’s work strives for this eternal feeling; they’re never not grasping at something that will resonate. As confounding as Cloud Atlas is, as disastrous as Jupiter Ascending is, they’re sincerely trying to do something more than what’s commercially viable. Weirdly, studios keep taking chances on them. It’s amazing how far a single commercial success can carry a filmmaker. The Matrix has made them remarkable invulnerable. And if Sense8 is evidence of what they might be able to capture as they continue to refine it, this is a good thing.

I’m not saying the Wachowski’s efforts are great. By most agreed-upon artistic measures, they’re wildly laughable. But their vision is honest. There’s an undeniable optimism that pervades all their creations. (Sense8 is likely aided by the fact that Lana’s experience as transgender is channeled through the character Nomi.) It’s this positive spirit and genuine curiosity that made it so I couldn’t be insensate. I was forced to reckon with a panoply of emotion, and in the end, I was grateful for it.

I’ve quoted him before, but Graham Greene is my main man, I guess: “Love is the wish to understand.” And what the Wachowski’s bring to their work is love. They may not communicate it effectively all the time, but it’s there. Our cynical culture makes it easy for us to look upon such endeavor with cold disdain and petty mockery, perhaps because we aren’t courageous enough to leave such muddy water. I’m not saying their work should be lauded, or liked, or anything. In fact, I’m not sure what I’m saying at all.

Very well then, I contradict myself.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *