Meet the Sense8 “fanmily” and The Reality of What it Takes to Campaign Against Netflix – Together Till The End
By Margaret Hernandez & Siddy Nickhead
With the global proliferation of the Sense8 Special promo poster and Netflix announcement of the air date set for June 8th, 2018, it is easy to forget this almost didn’t happen. Sense8 is trending worldwide once more. The news is being welcomed and spread by media publications around the world in a myriad of languages. All signs indicate that this was the plan all along. But this is hardly the case.
If these writers had the power to go back in time and tell the limited number of campaigners we knew before the abrupt cancellation that everything would work out fine, it was worth it, the time, the sacrifice- we most definitely would. What you are spending nearly all your effort on will be a success albeit maybe not one that feels like it at the moment. Certainty for Sense8 fans, however, was a luxury none of us could afford. So we rode the waves like rafts lost at sea, hoping against hope that it wouldn’t all be for nought.
Less than a month after the release of Sense8 Season 2, there was little amiss about the globe-spanning show which was back after two years. Sense8 Season 1 premiered in 2015 and the late renewal of the show subsequently caused the next season to take nearly 2 years to complete. Then came the heartbreaking cancellation. It is difficult to explain how personal and invalidating it felt. Most of us campaigners remember where we were and what we were engaged in when we heard the news. Sense8 was always a unique but neglected show. It was hardly promoted and many of us who stumbled across it enjoyed the episodes by ourselves with little knowledge of any other fans either personally or online, with the exception of a few social groups where we eventually found a place to call home. This led to the belief that the cancellation was truly the end as fans scrambled to find others who felt as destroyed by the news as they were and reached out using social media platforms, which for many of them was for the first time ever.
Fan or Campaigner
Having a fan base, however large or small, is one thing but getting everyone to collectively be an active part of the protest is another. To this day there are Sense8 viewers who see little point in fighting for the show as for most, they regard the show as a piece of entertainment and want no active part in resurrecting it. It may come as a surprise that many people were banned from fan groups for campaigning, which led to a rift within the fan base separating those who gave up on the fight or simply did not believe in it and those who were determined to get the full series arc Sense8 deserved. Being a fan doesn’t make a person interested or obligated to protest alongside you and depending on how much team spirit you can garner, the size of your campaign in its entirety will be a huge factor in your success. Luckily for us, those who lived Sensate lives and believed in the message of the Wachowski creation were the majority. None of us were or are in this fight simply because we have “nothing better to do” as many non-fans see it. We were and are fighting for what Sense8 could inspire if allowed to continue. We truly believe this protest is bigger than us all.
Unlike most television series which boast a global audience and worldwide success, Sense8 is literally a global show with an equally diverse fan base- so diverse that time zones and language barriers were real obstacles. Every morning at 9 am fans across the globe joined for mass Twitter storms. Hoards of letters, calls and series-related items filled Netflix headquarters. Fans made signs, videos, sent emails and reached out to multiple organizations to promote the series as best we could. Coordinating social media campaigns, chats and video meetings with fellow fans was a tough task in itself especially considering the funds and the amount of energy these activities required.
It also seemed our emotions were pulled in different directions every day. From hearing different claims (or flat-out ignored) by Netflix and representatives to being told there was no chance for a series return by a Sense8 insider, to reading differentiating articles about our series and cast in the news, we were up one day and down the next. There was hope and then there wasn’t. Any and every new detail we were being fed was either the reason we felt we could actually achieve something or the reason we felt it was truly impossible. Emotional fluctuation could either make your fan base stronger or weaker, depending on how you individually respond to internal and external pressures.
If you ask anyone outside the fan base today they would tell you Sense8 was renewed a month after cancellation because we were active on social media and signed a petition- voila!- Netflix submitted to viewer demands and “gave” Sense8 back to us. Wrong. What they don’t know is a week after the cancellation and protest we were flat out denied any return of the series. The amount of hate and ridicule we received after the refusal was unprecedented. We received many I-told-you-so’s from people who “knew” Netflix would never listen and they constantly questioned our intelligence for going up against the world’s largest internet streaming network. But we were relentless and the now infamous flip-flop campaign can attest to our persistence and creativity- or lunacy- whichever way you want to see it.
The Breakthrough – “I could kiss every single one of you!”
Then, on June 29, 2017, someone wrote to us- Lana Wachowski herself, the creator and cluster mother of Sense8 for whose vision of the world we fought. Strangely enough her words echoed how we felt after the cancellation as she recalled falling into a “serious depression” following the announcement. However, to her surprise, in a strange twist of life imitating art, we mustered together a Sense8 style happy ending for her by coming together as our on-screen Sensates do and defeating the forces against us, reminding her of the lesson she was trying to impart to us.
“But just as the characters in our show discover that they are not alone, I too have learned that I am not just a Me. I am also a WE… here is a gift from the fans of this show that I will carry forever in my heart: while it is often true those decisions are irreversible, it is not always true.”
“Improbably, unforeseeably, your love has brought Sense8 back to life, “I could kiss every single one of you!”
Although most believe we were granted a third season and that a two hour special meant just that, we were not. It’s an important side note most people misconstrue. And we are setting the record straight as we come across other Netflix protesters who believe we were 100% successful in our campaign for Sense8’s return. The truth is, that battle wages on- and we will not be caught unaware as we were in June, 2017. Never again. Encouraged by Lana, the cast and crew nearly a year after receiving the letter, Sense8 fans are still campaigning for a third season and if past victories are anything to go by, we are not done yet. Not even close.
Who Are WE?
We are the volunteers, the bullied, the dreamers and the believers who had little conviction of our place in the world before Sense8’s empowering message that kindness, empathy and heart were super powers after all. This is one thing that sets us apart from many other fan bases. Our campaign doesn’t just exist, it thrives. Our fan base believed in the power to do better for it and each other because Sense8 made us better people within, thanks to the many teachings it instilled in us, thanks to the hope it gave us for a better world, thanks to the lessons, the cast camaraderie, and the pure love it gifted us all. Because of Sense8 some of us became brave enough to show our faces for the protest, coming out as LGBTQ or as allies in the fight.
Today, the Sense8 fanmily is a multifaceted organism operating from different corners of the world that belong to and work within national, regional and personal clusters to achieve a singular goal. From the Middle East to the USA to Europe and beyond, fans reside in every part of the world and have made lasting friendships with people who, like ourselves, have heart.
How Did Sense8 Fans Secure a Victory?
Put aside petitions. Put aside Twitter storms, flip-flops and letters. Teamwork is so much more than that. Being a Sensie- an individual, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race, status, and religion who believes in the importance of acceptance, open-mindedness, inclusive love and EMULATES the values of Sense8 they hope to see in others- is exactly how we found that victory. United. We believed so much in Sense8, in ourselves and our fellow global fans that we set out to make a difference– and we did.
If we have inspired other fandoms to follow in our footsteps we hope they find the inclusive and tolerant space we found as Sensates where empathy and compassion for one another trumped all other concerns and that not only gave us the gift of Sense8 once again but led us to strangers who we now call lifelong friends.
It is no secret that as the Netflix list of incomplete axed series grows, fan bases are unfairly and continuously made to go head to head with one another as we all push for more seasons and battle for territory on the giant streaming network. Competition or campaign companions- those of us truly in line with Sense8 values wish you well. Because at the end of the day we’re Sensates- we don’t just beat the odds, we beat the hate.
Best of luck!