Media Analysis

Introduction to Sense8 and Transparent

We have chosen Sense8 and Transparent as our primary objects of analysis.

(Link)                                                   (Link)

Sense8 is a Netflix Original created by the Wachowskis (The Matrix (1999-2003)) and  J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5 (1993-1998). It is a sci-fi/mystery, multi protagonist drama series that tells the story of eight different people living in eight different cities (and cultures) around the world: Nomi (San Francisco), Capheus (Nairobi), Lito (Mexico), Sun (Seoul), Kala (Mumbai), Wolfgang (Berlin), Riley (London/Reykjavik) og Will (Chicago).

The eight characters quickly find out they are ‘sensates’, which means they share a form of cognitive (telepathic) and emotional connection. This gives them the power to communicate and sense each other within their cluster. On top of that, they are also able to share their knowledge, skills, and language and therefore often help each other out – despite physical distances. In short, the extraordinary connection between the eight proves vital to their survival since people and organisations are hunting them down because they view the 8 sensates as a threat to society and humanity as we know it.

This threat is not just due to their special sensate-powers but also because some of the sensate characters break with social norms when it comes to gender, sexuality, and understanding of relationship constellations.

We have chosen two characters from the series that will be our main focus of analysis: Nomi and Lito:

Nomi og Lito mad world 1

(30:47 i Death Doesn’t Let You Say Goodbye)

Both characters challenge heteronormative discourses as well as the patriarchy.

Amazon-original Transparent follows the Pfeffermans: Sarah, Ali, Josh, mother Shelly and ‘father’ ‘Mort’. ‘Mort’s’ transition to becoming the woman she was born as is a central issue as well as the turning point that sets the rest of the family members off on a journey to finding their own identity in a new reality outside existing norms. They are all, each in their own way, extremely self-centred focusing mainly on their own lives and identity search.

We have chosen Maura, Sarah (picture 1), and Ali (picture 2) as our main objects of analysis since they represent a marginalised (queer) culture not usually seen positively portrayed in the media:

badeværelses scene this is my father and he is a woman and he has every right to be here

(18:37 i Moppa)

Ali 01,15 i pilot

(01:13  i Pilot)

Why both series?

The plot of Sense8 is pushed forward by an outer storyline, namely the fight against a common enemy: patriarchy and heteronormative discourses embodied by  ‘Whispers’ and BPO . Transparent, on the other hand, is pushed forward by an inner storyline – the fight to find oneself in a ‘new’ world where it is normal to question dominating discourses on gender, sexuality, and relationships.

Both series are character-driven and deal with many of the same themes, but they have very different takes on their storylines. One significant difference is genre. Transparent is characterised by its realism whereas Sense8 isn’t limited by ideas on reality. Transparent focuses on the individual, which is contrasted in Sense8 with its strong focus on human connections. Transparent’s messages are very explicit and directly articulated whereas the messages in Sense8 are wrapped in action, drama and aesthetic pictures.

The characters in Sense8 have already come to terms with their sexuality and gender identity (even though society is trying to have them stay within the frameworks of normative understandings of sex and gender). Transparent represents a space that allows for the investigation of sexuality and gender. ‘Queer gaze’ is used as a tool to create the feeling of being on an inner journey with the characters (a quest after an understanding of identity not limited by the ‘heterosexual matrix’). This means that instead of us, the viewers, just looking at them, their feelings are being prioritized – we see them. This is exemplified through Maura and Ali. Besides this, Transparent reflects a break with the heterosexual relationship/marriage as the definition of happiness.

Both series represent an activistic agenda that tries to represent and create more tolerance and understanding towards minority groups in a, until now, unseen (but yet needed) way.