[Image Description: In the top picture, from left to right sit the protagonists of The Get Down including Tremaine Brown Jr, Justice Smith, Shameik Moore, Jaden Smith, and Skylan Brooks. All of them but Jaden, who stands, sit in a colorful room that is covered in graffiti. In the bottom picture is the cast of Sense8, including from left to right, Toby Onwumere, Max Riemelt, Jamie Clayton, Bae Doona, Tuppence Middleton, Brian J. Smith, Miguel Angel Sylvestre, and Tina Desai. They sit outside in the open air around Bae Doona while smiling as Tuppence Middleton has her arm around her.]
Article by Daniela Ramirez
Quite recently, Netflix released the news of two of its most diverse works being cancelled. Disappointment obviously filled audiences of both The Get Down and Sense8 as they wouldn’t be able to get the closure that they wished for, with both shows ending quite abruptly. It is especially heartbreaking to see these two shows go because they were two brilliantly written shows that were incredibly inclusive. Here were two shows that thrived on the diversity of their casts and multiculturalism. To see two of the most unique shows be taken away from us is quite disheartening when they are both rare cases of sheer creativity that stretched onto our screens. These were shows that deserved a better fate than to have their potential taken from them.
The Get Down’s almost entirely black cast put so much vibrance and heart in each and every character; Sense8 boasted a global cast that included Indian, German, Nigerian, Korean, and Mexican actors and actresses. Here were shows that had taken the time to develop characters that people would fall in love with. Here were casts so diverse that they demonstrated to us that you can have representation for people from all backgrounds. Some of these characters were queer, some fighting the obstacles of racial prejudice, and others were just fighting the obstacles that life may throw at you when you try to go about your daily routine. These were characters, despite the uncommon circumstances that they found themselves in, we can all see some part of ourselves in as well.
Both shows also portrayed issues regarding expression of sexuality by depicting prejudice against members of the LGBTQ+ community. Sense8 managed to depict the heartbreaking mistreatment that transgender people and homosexual people face today through the stories of an American hacktivist and a Mexican film actor. In fact the character of Nomi Marks, the American hacktivist, is played by a transgender actress which makes me all the more appreciative for the effort taken to cast these individuals.
As a Latina, it was especially gratifying to watch Sense8 develop a storyline that revolved around Latinx homophobia and machismo. To see one of the main characters, a Mexican man, have the internal struggle of his sense of identity and his stance in society was quite refreshing. He had to fight against the Latinx notions of hypermasculinity simply for being gay and it was inspiring to see someone overcome it and convey the idea that your sense of masculinity and femininity does not depend on anyone but yourself. Seeing the amount of queer people of color that were written into both shows was almost unbelievable, and so satisfying. It was also empowering to see so many women of color take the stage in both Sense8 and The Get Down. Characters with fierce determination like Mylene in The Get Down ignited the fire of teen rebellion within me, as cheesy as it may sound. Watching Sun Bak in Sense8 fight for her place in a business dominated by men also sparked my love for her character. It was these shows that pushed the limits when it came to confronting issues of race, sexuality, and gender. These were shows that inspired and conquered hearts. These were shows that spoke on controversial topics that some shows today are still hesitant to touch upon.
TW: mentions of suicide
While we watch these two works of art go, other Netflix originals such as 13 Reasons Why are being renewed for a second season. Despite its popularity and acclaim, it still is mind-boggling as to why it is being renewed. Based off the novel of the same title by Jay Asher, it managed to cover everything in the book in one season. Therefore, there shouldn’t even be a second season if it were still following the canon of the novel. Additionally, news of a copycat suicide in Peru has recently broke out with a 23 year-old man leaving behind tapes to those he said caused him to commit suicide. This show, in an attempt to raise awareness for teenage suicide prevention didn’t offer any healthy alternative solutions for mental health issues or any issues that an adolescent may be faced with. Though I know it had good intentions, I can’t help but still feel abrasive towards a show that depicts a graphic suicide for shock value and hinges on the concept of blame-placing for suicide.
We need more shows like The Get Down and Sense8. We need more shows that depict queer people of color and queer people who don’t meet a tragic fate. We need more shows that exemplify inclusion and diversity. All we want is representation. Those of us who belong to marginalized groups live for shows like these. To see these shows be taken away is frightening especially considering the country that we live in today. These were shows that exemplified the notion of coexistence- they showed that people can accept each other’s differences and still get along. We can’t let the loss of these shows disillusion us from the idea that inclusive shows can still prosper. We must look forward for more Sense8’s and The Get Down’s and fight for them. Hope can’t be lost as shows like Dear White People, Jane the Virgin, and others continue to display minorities in the spotlight. Though some shows may not confront issues with the same bluntness as Sense8 or The Get Down did, we can encourage future creators to strive to exceed our expectations.