The kick-ass women of ‘Sense8’ make it best new show on TV

Last night, after my husband and I finished watching the last episode of ‘Sense 8,’ I rushed to the computer, Googling the show to see when to expect season 2. Maybe never! Wait, what? According to Think Progress and other sources, the diverse show featuring eight characters from different countries around the world may not be appealing enough to white males. Main characters also include a trans woman and a gay man.

“Sense 8” is visually stunning. Scenes represent places all over the world including Nairobi, Seoul, Mumbai, Reykjavik, and San Francisco. I live in San Francisco and the location scout nailed it. I’ve seen favorite places around town including Dolores Park, Twin Peaks, and Atlas Cafe. The opening sequence featuring cityscapes and landscapes is so gorgeous, my husband and I never get bored of watching, never fast forward the montage the way we usually do when we watch a series. The series is created by the Wachowski siblings of Matrix fame if that helps to explain the film quality.

The actors glow as vibrantly as the scenery. Whoever did the casting must’ve been looking for luminous. But what I love most about the show is watching the women in action. First there is Nomi who is transgender and like no other trans character I’ve seen on TV in that she happens to be trans. Unlike Sophia, played by Laverne Cox, on “Orange is the New Black,” Nomi isn’t passionate about hair or make-up. Her character doesn’t show concern with her appearance or her body, she just is. Nomi is a computer hacker and political blogger, totally in love with her girlfriend, Amanita.

nomi-tiene-el-apoyo-de-su-novia-amanita-640x347

I got into the show early on because of the relationship between Amanita and Nomi. Crazy shit was happening to Nomi. She was seeing things, talking to invisible people, and thinking she was crazy but at the same time, knowing she wasn’t. Surprising me, Amanita doesn’t flinch. She believes and supports Nomi 100%, bravely risking everything to support her lover’s truth and safety.

My favorite character in Sun. She is from Seoul, the daughter of a powerful man, practically invisible because she is female. Her loser brother gets all the coddling and adoration.

Rothman-Sense8-690-460-13131815

If you read Reel Girl, you know I’m not much interested in seeing sexist fantasy worlds. Been there, done that, live it every day. I’m much more interested in witnessing artists use their imaginations to create new ways of being. “Sense8” delivers this scenario with all of its characters, but especially with Sun. In action scene after scene, she kicks-ass.Her facial expression often shows the submission expected by her culture and her fiery refusal to accept it.

tumblr_nplpqcEjix1scx9bko2_250

Riley is a DJ from Iceland. I enjoy traveling all over the world while I watch the show, but Iceland is my favorite place to see. It’s different than anywhere I’ve ever been, and now I’m dying to go.

latest

Kala is a pharmacist who can mix all kinds of chemical concoctions. She prays to Ganesha, is a Bollywood fan, and also struggles between being the woman her family expects her to be and taking the risks of being who she wants to become.

The male characters are also compelling. Capheus is from Nairobi, totally dedicated to his brave mom who is sick with HIV. His talent is driving, he can hotwire any car and make it go like a madman. Wolfgang is from Berlin, he’s a scrappy fighter with a big heart. He’s got a crush on Kala. Lito lives in Mexico City, he’s a sexy leading man who is also gay, in a loving relationship that’s tested by his fear of coming out. Will is a police officer from Chicago, haunted by an unsolved mystery from his past.

So what’s the show about? From the New Yorker:

The premise of “Sense8” is that Nomi, Lito, Wolfgang, and Will—along with four other “sensates” in Nairobi, Seoul, Mumbai, and Reykjavik—are telepathically linked. They are able to feel each other’s emotions, appear in each other’s minds, and even control each other’s bodies…

In sci-fi speak, “Sense8” is about transhumanism—the idea that in the future, as a species, we might become more than we are right now. Julian Huxley, the brother of Aldous, coined the term in a 1927 book called “Religion Without Revelation,” in which he wrote that transhumanism was “man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.”…

Really, though, the point of “Sense8” is to revel in the broadening of empathy—to fantasize about how in-tune with each other we could be. In its own, low-key way, therefore, “Sense8” is a critique of sci-fi. It asks whether, in tying our dreams about human transformation to fantasies of technological development, we might be making an error. The show suggests another path to transcendence: each other.

“Sense8” has gotten some bad reviews for being cheesey and meandering. Maybe part of my love for the show is that I happen to be watching it at the perfect time in my life. I have a strong sense of how we are all connected, that humans are not objects/ subjects but verbs, constantly changing and transforming, affecting each other, magical. “Sense8” depicts the highs, lows, and intensity of this feeling perfectly.  It’s funny because when I was a kid, I didn’t even read much fantasy. I was into Laura Ingalls because that was “real.” The older I get, the more I lose my cynicism and skepticism and believe in magic. “Sense8” inspires me. I hope you watch it, and love it as much as I do.

Reel Girl rates “Sense8” ***HHH***

 

Long live Furiosa!

Just saw “Mad Max Fury Road” with my husband. LOVE IT. Visually stunning, non-stop action, and a feminist masterpeice. Now, this, is a movie poster!

unnamed

This image is not something I found on the internet, but a picture I took of the giant poster I saw when I entered the theater. Instead of reviewing the movie, I’m going to direct you to an excellent post by Laurie Penny on Buzzfeed which describes everything wonderful about it. here’s one quote but click on the link above and read the whole thing!

Fury Road — whose director called in feminist playwright and activist Eve Ensler as a consultant — offers a solution. We have elderly women on motorbikes counting their bullets in the bodies of men. We have the movie’s young heroines, the Five Wives, who resemble what would happen if someone decided to heavily arm a Burberry ad, kicking their awful chastity belts across the desert. And we have Furiosa, a protagonist who takes the worn stereotype of the strong female action hero in shiny latex and shatters it to flaming shards in the sand. The film does not judge its heroines on age and beauty: Together, all of these women give the lie to the notion that there is any proper way to be female on film. Supermodels and white-haired warriors with faces like withered fruit fight side-by-side under a leader whose beauty is in no way sexualized.

 

This movie is way too violent for young kids, but take some grown-up time and go!

Reel Girl rates “Mad Max Fury Road” ***HHH***

‘Tomorrowland’ inspiring and feminist, take your kids to this movie!

“Tomorrowland” stars not one, but two, brilliant female characters supported by (yes, supported by) the fabulous George Clooney. Frank Walker, the innovator played by Clooney, admires, respects, and loves these girls, Athena and Casey. Casey (played by Britt Robertson) is the scientist-dreamer who saves the world, but not before Athena (played by Raffey Cassidy) recruits and saves her in multiple bad-ass scenes. Just watching Athena drive the getaway truck is awesome.

tomorrowland

“Tomorrowland” is the movie I’ve been waiting for, the narrative I’ve been dying to show to my kids. Not only is it feminist, beyond featuring only one strong female character (the typical Minority Feisty scenario) but Casey, the protagonist, is “special” not just because of her extreme intelligence but because she’s a dreamer. Casey sees the potential for the world to be different than it is. Her courage to be optimistic, to use her world view to change the future, is depicted in multiple ways that children can easily understand. In the beginning of the movie, when Casey is arguing with her father who is worried about losing his job and becoming useless, she tells him a story he always tells her: There are two wolves who are fighting. One wolf is darkness and despair, the other wolf is light and hope. “Who wins?” Casey asks her father. He answers, “The one you feed.” At which point in the movie, I elbowed my middle daughter whose go to response when I ask her to try something new is usually: “I can’t do it. ” She will then repeat that phrase about ten times as she tries (or stops trying) to throw a bean bag into a hole, or whatever the task may be. I always tell her, “Say you can, your body believes what it hears,” and she rolls her eyes. But watching “Tomorrowland” she understood what I’ve tried to teach her, and that is seriously worth the $10 I paid for her ticket. I am totally getting her the Casey action figure. (That hat Casey is wearing is RED though it looks a little pink in this photo and the emblem reads “NASA.”)

toy

I don’t want to spoil the movie, because you must see it and you must take your kids– but I will say I looked at the narrative as a metaphor for gender equality. The message of the movie is: If you can’t imagine it, you can’t create it. It’s really a story about the power of imagination to transform who you are and the world you live in. The evil in the film is not so much a villain but pessimism and cynicism, the idea that everything, if not already known, is knowable. One of the ways the skepticism is communicated is by broadcasting  narratives– images of starvation, drought, the world exploding, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is exactly what I believe happens with girls and boys in the world today– we show them stories and toys about how different genders are, re-create sexism, and call it “natural” and fixed.

Another thing I really liked about the movie is that Casey and Athena are never put down for being girls. Sexism is not something they must overcome. In this movie, sexism doesn’t exist, my kids just got to see girls be strong and brave. I’ve blogged a lot that I obviously understand why the story of seeing a girl fight against sexism– whether its dressing up as a boy i.e. “Mulan” or giving a lecture i.e. Colette in “Ratatouille”– is important, but I’d like kids to experience an imaginary world, much more often, where gender equality exists.

I didn’t know “Tomorrowland”  would feature two incredible female characters. I saw the preview, where Casey picks up a pin that transports her to another world, but I knew nothing of Athena. It is truly rare to see two girls dominate the screen as these characters do. So why didn’t I know “Tomorrowland” would be so special? Today, before we saw the movie, I took this pic as we entered the Metreon and Tweeted:

Thought ‘Tomorrowland’ had a female protagonist so why are my 3 daughters the only girls in this picture?

11219140_849132581808180_5019942315198701364_n

I am SO sick of this bullshit sexist advertising, but this is why I created Reel Girl, so I could tell you to take your kids to this inspiring, feminist movie.

Reel Girl rates Tomorrowland ***HHH***

 

Take your daughters (and sons) to see ‘Interstellar’

I just saw ‘Interstellar’ with my 11 year old daughter, and we both loved it. There is not one but two brilliant female scientists in this movie. Even better for kids, part of this movie shows the genius mathematician as a curious, smart 10 year old.

mackenzie-foy-5-facts-about-the-child-actress-of-interstellar-01

When Murphy is a child, and when she is an adult (played by Jessica Chastain) she is never once denigrated for being a female. In both incarnations, she wears a shirt and pants, her hair in a messy bun. Her gender is a non issue in Interstellar’s dystopia. Do you know how rare this is? Let’s just say it’s almost unheard of and unseen in Hollywood movies for both children and adults.

INTERSTELLAR

The other female scientist, played by Anne Hathaway, is also not sexualized for the most part in costume, posing, dialogue, or narrative structure.

interstellar-trailer-anne-hathaway

Yes, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain are Minority Feisty (I use ‘feisty’ as a singular or plural, like you’d use ‘fish.’) Most of the characters are male including great roles played by John Lithgow and Matt Damon. The robots have male names and voices. The protagonist of the movie is Murphy’s father played Mathew McConaughey. Murphy’s sister-in-law is so subservient to her husband, I rolled my eyes a few times. So the gender representation in ‘Interstellar’ isn’t a perfect triple H, but the movie exemplifies such spectacular storytelling, that it’s sexism is sidelined instead of the female characters. The narrative structure is so compelling, so well done, I want to see the movie again, just to study how the dialogue and scenes all build on each other, each shot leading to the next, brilliantly balanced like a house of cards.

Need more to recommend this movie? The special effects are outstanding. Visually, ‘Interstellar is not only gorgeous but depictions of a black hole, other planets, and the dimensions are fascinating to see.

Finally, the movie asks all the big questions, and will get your children to ponder them as well, such as: Why are we here? What will become of us? What is our destiny? What is the meaning of love? I’ve seen so many disaster/ end of the world movies, as I’m sure you have too, but never once have I seen the apocalypse portrayed as the human species going on to our next stage as explorers and pioneers.

I want to thank a real life genius, Lea Verou, for recommending I take my daughter to see ‘Interstellar.’ I don’t know Verou, but she follows me on Twitter, and her comments to me were so interesting, I Googled her (and now follow her along with 50,000 plus others.) I don’t even understand her bio, so I’m, pasting it here, because maybe you do.

My name is Lea Verou (Lea being short for Michailia or Μιχαήλια) and I’m a computer scientist / web standards geek / front-end developer / web designer / speaker / author,  originally from Greece. I’m currently a Research Assistant at MIT CSAIL, in David Karger’s Haystack group and an Invited Expert in the W3C CSS Working Group.

In the past, I’ve written a book on advanced CSS for O’Reilly, worked for W3C/MIT, gave over 60 invited talks around the world, released several open source projects, co-founded a Greek startup called Fresset Ltd (which I left in 2011), and many other things. I hold a BSc in Computer Science from Athens University of Economics and Business, in which I have co-organized a 4th year undergrad course about web-development in the past. While my background is technical, I have a strong passion for visual design as well.

 

verou-cover

 

It goes on for a few more paragraphs. I’m writing about Verou here because clearly she is the kind of visionary that I hope more of our daughters will grow up to be. I think movies like “Interstellar’ will inspire them. My daughter looks lit up right now.

You always ask me what age is good for the movies I recommend, and I always tell you it depends on the kid. There are no sexual situations (no sexual situations!) in ‘Interstellar.’ There is no gore (no gore!) Yet in no way does the movie feel sanitized or whitewashed or “for kids.” (The theater was packed full of adults except for two teen girls.) Death is a theme, but woven through the narrative in a way that I think is beneficial for children to ponder. Personally, I think my 8 year old would be confused by the plot, so I wouldn’t prod her to go, the way I cajoled my 11 year old this morning. But if she wanted to go, I would take her, curious to see what she gets out of it.

Reel Girl rates ‘Interstellar’ ***HH***