It’s been called a “Special”, a “Finale”, a grammatically unsound “Finale Special” and most recently, a “movie” by Just Jared. Regardless of the terminology, fans around the world have shown up for the show they saved from the cutting room floors of Netflix, surprising not only its cast but the network which cancelled the genre-bending show as well. The crowds were such that midway through the production the network had to enlist additional security personnel to shield the cast and crew from the legion of fans who showed up in locations around the world including Paris and Naples, Italy.
What’s more curious about the large turnout outside the cast’s hotel, first in Paris and then in Naples is that it was self-motivated. Except for the casual mentions of cities the cast Instagrammed and tweeted in the weeks leading up to the shooting of the two-hour episode, there was no word, least of all from official Netflix sources or on any other media outlet on the exact locations in which the production was taking place. Yet after several fans tweeted pictures with the cast in their hotel in Paris, the steady influx of fans has only grown, even after the production moved from France to Italy, with some fans flying into the shooting hubs just to catch a glimpse of the cast. Representing diverse walks of life, age and ethnicities, Sense8 fans have converted the highways in front of the cast hotels into barricaded enclosures near which the stars of Sense8 graciously show up in between takes and daily outings to sign autographs and take selfies with fans. Passersby could be forgiven for believing pop stars were in residence at the Parisian and Naples hotels due to the pandemonium the fan base has created outside the venues in the past few days alone.
Videos of fans in Naples chanting the unofficial anthem of the Sense8, ” What’s Up” by The 4 Non Blonds also surfaced and seemed to amuse the cast who were perhaps bewildered as to the strange turn of events which turned an otherwise average shoot to one akin to the frenzy one expects outside a concert venue. Especially after the shooting of Season 1, the Christmas Special and Season 2 were conducted it veritable obscurity with little more than a few behind-the-scenes photos from the cast to attest to the fact that the production took place at all.
Anna Pernigo (23, Verona) flew 800km to be a part of the fan frenzy in Naples and she was not alone, as she describes ” Fans came from ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. We all woke up at dawn to be on set in time to see Lana at work. I honestly didn’t expect this many people and neither did they ,which is why it was impossible to form a decent line to get a photo. It ended up with them being escorted out of the street with at least two security guys around. Lana had 6 people around her that day”
The fans who were there to meet the cast, first in Paris, described meeting their favourite stars and heroes in heartfelt social media posts which has flooded Twitter since production began over two weeks ago. While greeting each and every cast member proved to be a once in a lifetime encounter for excited fans in Paris and Naples, meeting Lana Wachowski, the show’s creator and principal writer was an overwhelming experience for most. Anna recalls how she and other fans were aware of the filmmaker’s usual apprehension regarding being quite so “public” a figure “I truly appreciate her as a person,” Anna recalls “especially because she’s never done this before, I mean taking photographs with people, she likes to stay BEHIND the camera but for us and for sense8 she overcame her shyness. I couldn’t ask for more. It all feels like a dream”.
One French fan (@hoodoooor)captioned her photograph with the woman who is widely known as the “cluster mother” of the Sense8 fandom with the words ” un honneur, une reine, une inspiration, une mère” ( An Honour, A Queen, An Inspiration, A Mother”) capturing the filmmaker’s place in the hearts of Sense8 fans worldwide.
The “Special” Effects
This was the second of two instances in recent weeks where Sense8 and its fan base made headlines, as the first was the fireworks in Paris’s Eiffel Tower. It may have surprised and even “petrified” Parisians who were caught unawares according to a Metro.Co.Uk news report but Sense8 fans around the globe were celebrating the fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower in real time when the iconic French landmark was set alight for a scene in the upcoming episode. Pictures of the Parisian skyline and the monument were tweeted for days on end with videos from the cast also making the rounds on social media. Several French publications covered the fireworks showcase for Sense8 and the overwhelming fan reaction to Lana Wachowski and the Sense8 cast and crew’s presence in the capital although the official social media accounts for Sense8 had not made a post regarding the one of a kind event.
To comprehend the phenomenon in which a cancelled show’s following warrants a security presence for the production crew, one must understand the truly unique position, Sense8 and its fan base finds themselves in. Acting autonomously and proactively is second nature to the Sense8 fandom who have found that to not do so, is to be invalidated as they were in June when the show was cancelled.
Welcome to the Cluster
It was author Ryan Gattis who first publically remarked on the multi-faceted organism that is the Sense8 fandom or “Fanmily” as Sense8 star Paul Ogola calls it, when he tweeted “ Wow. Share an honest opinion & be blown away by the Power of the Cluster. Easy to see why @netflix were so impressed!”. He had praised the show for its binge worthiness only the day before and the fandom which secured over 500,000 signatures on a petition to bring their beloved show back had responded in kind. This was months after the show was renewed after the fan base inundated Netflix with letters, phone calls and a now famous flip-flop campaign to #BringSense8Back.
In a strange twist of life imitating art and vise versa, Sense8 fans are not only spread out across the globe as the 8 protagonists of their favourite show but are also part of several cluster groups which connect them to other Sense8 fans or “Sensies” as they prefer to be known, around the world. In addition to regional clusters such as the African Cluster, the Nordic Cluster, The French Cluster and The American Cluster and so forth, there are also personal clusters each Sense8 fan belongs to, much like the main cluster in the show. Born on the same date, in the same year the Sense8 Cluster Maker, another fan-initiative, has connected scores of fans with their Sense8 birth cluster in countries far and wide. Making the fandom one of the most cross-culturally linked and ‘connected’ mass of fans on the planet. And the collective is working towards not only spreading the love and acceptance of difference, the message of Sense8, but also fighting alongside one another to ensure Season 3 is a reality.
A Global Effort
Managing a global social media presence are the I Am We Campaign and the Global Cluster who, along with Sense8United and regional clusters continually find new and innovative ways of promoting the show with the hopes of securing a third season. Being a part of the Fanmily is a full time job according to Linde Van Weerd (20, Netherlands) who makes time” check twitter every day to see what’s going on with the campaign and Sense8 in general, I see what I can do to help. If it’s trending something or sharing an idea or voting for the many polls to spread the word about the Sense8″ and one that fans like Peter Aaron (66) from Melbourne had to acquire new skills for. “After Sense8 was cancelled I watched a YouTube tutorial teaching me to use Twitter and sent my first tweet joining the fans around the world campaigning for Sense8 Season 3” says Peter and his reasons are the same as most who join the cause. “Sense8 is a very special show. It radiates inclusiveness of all cultures and acceptance of the differences in others, making its audience feel that we are all part of something bigger”.
Twitter hashtag trending initiatives, global viewing campaigns and designing strategies to bring new viewers in are not the only activities the fandom is involved in. Voting in TV polls, mail-in days, appealing to recognized magazines to feature cast members in their publications and irritating the notoriously inactive official Sense8 social media accounts and Netflix pages to promote and post Sense8 related news is all part of a day’s work as a Sensie. The I Am We Campaign can attest to the relentless effort fans around the world put in every single day.” We’re continuously amazed by the love the Sense8 fanbase has to offer and the support they give to these campaigns. Clusters have worked hard to bring campaigns to the table in hopes of keeping the fans proactive… love, passion and determination is the only thing keeping the Sense8 cause alive and We firmly believe we can get Season 3; with the effort of all Sensies, it is indeed within our grasp” assures Margaret, a team leader at IAWC.
Kate Harrison, a campaigner from Wisconsin believes it is past time Netflix ” turn things around quickly by showing an interest in promoting this show that obviously means so much to us fans. They need to realize that they are disrespecting a very large, and growing, part of their customer base by devoting all of their attention to their other shows and being oblivious to all of the excitement that surrounds Sense8 .”
The campaign initiatives the fans are involved in are not limited to online activity as the American Cluster self-funded a booth for Sense8 at Orlando Pride this year. While the hope and inclusiveness of the show’s message were proudly celebrated, the booth also featured fan made Sense8 merchandise in the absence of any official Sense8 related memorabilia or merchandise in spite of the high fan demand and appeals for Funko Pop figurines and similar pop culture products based on the show.
Sense8 Conventions, dubbed Sense8Con organized by the fans are scheduled to take place in France and Italy next year with the attendance of cast members Brian J. Smith and Jamie Clayton already confirmed. Courage it appears is contagious and Sense8 fans are more than ready to be judged by the inexhaustible courage in their hearts as the last few months have clearly demonstrated. When the two-hour episode premiers sometime in the middle of next year they will still be here, campaigning and believing in improbable dreams they made possible in a matter of a month, the year before. This should come as no surprise to those who heard Lana Wachowski publically declare that she is writing Season 3 in hopes the fans can make it happen.
No matter what the future holds, one thing is clear, the Sense8 fandom is not only rewriting the book on how to renew a show after cancellation but breaking every rule and creating TV history in the process.
Amor Vincit Omnia!
Photo credits -www.sense8united.com, @LilaJhons ,@AimeeLoved_B @OurMagicClem,@HakunaMatamere,@Nawell_H @_afroqueer,@walkiandead @DehemDrawings @LazyeoI@ChesterQueens @_Jojocmwa, The American Cluster, I Am We Campaing, The French Cluster, Sense8Latinoamerica, @AnnaPernigo23.