'Sense8', the new 12-episode Netflix drama from Lana and Andy Wachowski, the infamous siblings who brought us 'The Matrix'
If there’s one thing the Internet loves, it’s making up new names for everything. “Normcore,” “dadbod,” and recently “Yuccies” or “Young Urban Creatives” are being touted as the Next Big Thing.
The term “Yuccies” originated with a Mashable article [bit.ly/yuccieorigin] that explains they are “borne of suburban comfort, indoctrinated with the transcendent power of education, and infected by the conviction that not only do we deserve to pursue our dreams; we should profit from them.” Good grief. In other words they are fussy, smartypants hipsters with a purpose. In fact reading this review might actually plop you down in the midst of this newly named demographic, so gird your loins.
The good news is that Yuccies now have their own sci-fi series, and that show is “Sense8” [bit.ly/senseeight], the new 12-episode Netflix drama from Lana and Andy Wachowski, the infamous siblings who brought us “The Matrix.” The octet of main characters in “Sense8” reads like a New York Times article about South by Southwest, including a DJ, an actor and a so-called “hacktivist.” They’re all young, good looking and fashionably run the gamut of sexual identities from gay to trans. They’re certainly comfortable in their San Francisco lofts and Mexican penthouses. They have abundant access to recreational drugs. They’re also incredibly fit and have little issue with nudity and wild sex, so plan your wardrobe accordingly. Oh you’ll want to be a Sense8, trust me.
The main problem occurs when they speak. The script is incredibly pretentious, trading in platitudes more suitable for 12-step meetings or inspirational posters. “I’m not just a me, I’m also a we,” the trans lesbian dramatically intones to her video journal at one point. Of <course> you are, dear. Even the episode titles themselves, like “Death Doesn’t Let You Say Goodbye” (something a character actually says) are just maudlin homilies disguised as deep thoughts. All that’s missing is pictures of puppies and a Sarah McLachlan song.
Halfway through watching the series, I went on the Internet to see how other people were reacting to the show. Much of the expectation surrounding “Sense8” is owed to the Wachowskis’ involvement and their fan base’s cautious hopes for more groundbreaking special effects. People are still crazy about “The Matrix” and that whole red pill/blue pill thing. These superfans call themselves “Freeminds” and/or “Coppertops,” which certainly has a better ring to it than Yuccies.
Lana Wachowski came out as transgender several years ago, and “Sense8” seizes the opportunity to school everyone about the fluidity of sexual identity. It’s a noble lesson but I would guess that if you’re watching this show, you probably already got the memo. Personally I’m quite aware of how sex works (gay or straight, thank you very much) but “Sense8” is eager to provide erotic examples, lest we have any lingering questions. Is this just the new normal now, everybody naked and doing it on teevee? It was brushed aside in the PR for “Sense8” which is too bad as it couldn’t have hurt.
What the series never really got was that binge-worthy buzz that pushed other Netflix series like “Orange Is The New Black” and “House of Cards” onto magazine covers. There are no breakout parts here and certainly no Laverne Cox. There aren’t any huge stars except Darryl Hannah, who makes a brief appearance, apparently reviving her role from “Blade Runner.” Her cameo is one of the dog whistles for sci-fi fans, like when they use the emo version of “Mad World” in “Donnie Darko.” Here, “Sense8” insists, is where you can satisfy your maudlin Coppertop feelings.
And that manipulation, that inability to let the viewer breathe and discover the subtlety of emotion, is where the show disappoints. “Sense8” desperately tries to cajole us into feeling connected. It wants to “indoctrinate us with the transcendent power of education,” an education grounded in remnants of the ’60s and ’70s revolutions that were roiling when the Wachowskis were growing up. It wants to hammer home those ideals of free love and transformational connection over and over, at the expense of logic and plot.
In an interview about the series, Darryl Hannah said, “The thing about ‘Sense8′ is that it’s paradigm-breaking on multiple levels.” [bit.ly/hannahquote].
Nice try, but no. It’s a TED talk given by supermodels, a group hug for the cool kids. But then again, for most Yuccies that probably sounds like heaven on Earth.
— Hugh Elliott
Hugh Elliott is a writer and artist living in California who rarely uses his Twitter handle @wehogayman.