Orgy of Genres

I’m halfway through Sense8, the new Netflix series by The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), and against every possible prediction (based on my previous experiences with the creators of… Speed Racer and Jupiter Ascending) and despite the reviews out there, I must admit that it’s actually a fascinating and awe-inspiring tale within its own grandiloquence. 8 stories, 8 characters, 8 cities around the world… and 8 genres?

Not unlike many other contemporary TV shows belonging to the so-called ‘Complex Television’ that choose to mix different features from different genres to enrich its story-world, Sense8 jumps from a martial arts fight to a latin soap opera within minutes. Nonetheless, this brand new series may have found a new formula when approaching the ‘hypergenring’ phenomenon by awarding each independent plotline a clear major genre. For instance, let’s focus on three geographical genres: Kala, the Indian sensate, is indirectly forced to marry a man she doesn’t love in order to no disappoint her family. If we spice things up  with some Indian food and spontaneous choreographies, this melodrama contains the perfect Bollywoodian ethos. Secondly, Sun, the Korean businesswoman, adopts the silent stoic figure of the archetypical hero from the Wuxia films and, of course, its kickass moves in the boxing ring. Lastly, Lito, the Spanish gay-closeted actor, incarnates the sexual and love frenzy Latin soap operas featuring threesomes and evil ex-lovers –this plot features fake action sequences contained within the soap opera contained into this vast ocean of genres. Besides this obvious referents, the other 5 sensates also lean toward other more diluted genres such as cop films, social dramas, crime thrillers, and so on.

FotorCreated

The success of this scheme lies on the fact that the Wachowskis not only bring this genres to life by thematic motifs but also changing their directing style –with many close-ups in, for example, Nomi’s dramatic plot– and other extradiegetic features such as the soundtrack  –more chipper to a parodical point in Lito’s soap opera– or the photography –Nairobi’s orangeness, Sun’s blueness, or Riley’s black & whites.

Wait, there’s more to it. In what would be otherwise a simple sum of genres, Sense8  main hyperplot that connects (and which is in itself the connection) the eight stories bringing opposite genres together in unexpected places being the kung-fu fighting in center Nairobi in episode 3 one of its most notorious exponents and the climatic orgy scene of episode 6 that crosses four of the eight characters bringing the crazy sex card to the table in otherwise traditionally sexless places. What these two moments, and many others, highlight is the mechanism behind Sense8. It feels like watching the gears of a fascinating clock spinning, narrative complexity working at its best.

I say goodbye with what is going to be one of greatest feel-good moments of this year’s television with Kala appearing in the karaoke bar to sign “What’s Up” together with Wolfgang. Strangers in strange lands, Bollywood in Berlin and classic rock in India. Can you see the connection?

J.

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