some discussion of television treatment of trans peoples’ experiences with regard to the program Sense8 may be triggering.
less importantly: spoilers.
i was trying to come up with some important words on the history of television’s use value using my own experiences as a starting off point. i think i was born at the cusp of it becoming a greater “babysitter” as the saying goes, able to only watch my grandmother’s cable outside of our three boring channels. then you grow up and realize they are all the same channels in essence anyway. i think there is a lot to be said on the production of certain shows as the masters were trying to pacify working class relations within from the 70s through the 90s, particularly aimed at audiences of color and (some) women. some good examples that come to mind are the Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Jeffersons. the mid-80s put on display the model black middle class family via the Cosby Show, and while A Different World has stood out in the imagination, looking back i remember moments of the characters mourning and then accepting a montage implanted in the mind of the white audience known as the civil rights era. it has been achieved, all of this equity is quite splendid to see played out before you as wages decrease and children are executed in the streets, now get back to work.
deeply racist themes in “critically acclaimed” contemporary television seem more covert to me now, as if we have entered a new era in programming that has acknowledged its own past in more overt programming and this is what is required now. i don’t know if that is a sound judgment; varying levels have existed all along and depend on the reader’s astuteness.
a new program from Netflix entitled Sense8 is on the surface very “inclusive”. for example, what could be judged as pornographic in form has an erotic quality in context, even though a few characters’ introductions are situated within the act. physical intercourse is accompanied by either frankness about sex being the end in itself or contextually within committed relationships.
with the female couple, the profound connection with and dedication they have to each other after their breaking scene of “lesbian sex” communicates a well-worn theme of how “we”, the presumed completely hetero, cis, and “normal” audience, are allowed to accept such partnerships — you see, marriage between them is okay, look how faithful they are to each other! they deserve this as much as anyone else! a strong point that increases the attachment for what i suppose is known as the niche audience to the couple is that a trans woman is actually playing the trans woman character.
Amanita and Nomi’s interactions are both heartrending because of the insane, subhuman treatment Nomi receives from her mother and what else Nomi has endured like many trans women have and irresistibly endearing for the stories of how their relationship developed. with Amanita’s characterization, given that she is cis, she is still black and written in stereotypical fashion often. does Amanita even have needs outside of caring for her white girlfriend? i don’t know if it was a joke when she told Nomi that “someone like her” could not have easily presented herself publicly decades ago as a way of relating to trans women’s experiences and points to the piled up locs on her head, rather than being given the opportunity to more fully expand on what sexualization and expectations of black women mean in a white supremacist society. that probably wouldn’t be good television, and both presumably floaty ~identities~ can be put on or taken off as needed, right?
Sense8 is the most obvious example i can find lately of extended drug-like techniques used on the audience. we are pushed to extreme highs of what is possible in this universe of mysterious human connection. a director commands “tears! now!” and the expertly crafted crescendo materializes. as our Snow Patrol instructed us those oh so many years ago,
Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I’ll be right beside you dear
we discover the emerging “cluster’s” apparently mystical connections as they do, willing fools held in thrall, waiting to find out what teevee can tell us about our ever-expanding self infinitude that relies on some sort of collectivity with others, of “human spirit” itself in a glorious whole, but only the kind that we can already recognize…from the teevee movie stereotypes that are meant to run in our heads, infinitely. it is presented as another wiring adjustment of what can all be possible, or perhaps more appropriately what is allowed full stop, through more “organic” networking of the human experience both outside and because of what we have been “given”, that being the internet experiment.
allegorically, Orphan Black presents a more ominous tale of partitioning of the mind via the adorable avatar Tatiana Maslany. her many roles, executed uncannily well, of the different clones partially represent the alter theme i’ve touched on before:
the literal splitting of the mind required to consider this as art and not a programming tool is not mere speculation but a component of Minaj as product. the robotic presentation falls in line with the marketing of her “most famous alter ego” (how many are there?), the not so thinly veiled “Roman Zolanski”. certainly this phenomenon is not new, and it’s pushed as something admirable despite fan weirdness about it. i first remember noticing it with Garth Brooks’ “Chris Gaines” alter under which he released an entire album, and Beyonce did the same with hers known as “Sasha Fierce”. why would people who are thought to have any amount of independence in their production need to perform under different personalities? why would they want to? in Minaj’s case, it’s clear to me that those who pay her careful attention and adore her are not meant to be control of their own minds and make truly independent decisions. even if that’s possible, it’s cool to lock anything more painful or difficult away and deal with it in damaged and shattered aspects of the psyche that hopefully conform to the destructive desires of the masters. Minaj as icon radiates this decree from above in her multifaceted glory.
however more importantly, clones sexily represented by Maslany buttress ideas of the sexiness involved with acting out a pseudo-politics in the form of the sexy icon chosen like one would an ice cream flavor, chasing after only strands of technological advancement largely divorced from silly notions such as capital and ruling groups in order to control a possible implosion from related “flaws” in the clone design. sometimes we get hints of what the show is really trying to tell you, it’s really a divergence delivered through your screen: “Mrs S” and her rumored radical past “across the pond”, a peek at a newspaper prop declaring class war, the ever-faithful rentboy Felix dangling an anarchist “A” Christmas ornament made of popsicle sticks.
imposing foot soldiers give us a glimpse of the seriousness and shrouded nature of this large project, but that’s still pretty sexy too as some of the featured US military roles serve dual, mostly unknown interests. all of this is relatable to the Snowwald Tor drama of hacking a simulacrum of a “revolution”. the lingering and mysterious “neolution” story line looks pretty badass as well despite any supposed threat, a “fringe” element of the “scientific community” which is in reality the grinding PR effort known as transhumanism that remains smoke and mirrors. as a concept presented to us nobodies for us to accept, it is inevitable and will be made completely available to everyone as a “human right”, which is reiterated in the program, and any resistance is futile anyway.
the Scooby team wackily expresses the existing relations of compliance, conditioning, and perception while impressing upon the audience untold excitement that could await if one chosen and special enough to be part of US military defense projects. the possible and not knowing what can even be contained within the infinite self, the lie that is bourgeois individualism, implants excitement through shades of real terror using dopey caricatures the audience “naturally” relates to within the dreamworld.
the Snowwald outfit’s chill has had an effect in more ways than one. through Greenwald’s mendacious political rebrand that was painfully obvious to anyone paying attention, “tech” as some presumed whole has turned into a boogeyman among the left/ish internet sphere. Snowden the pasty patsy savior is laughable, but the ties to what all he represents behind the scenes are indeed sinister with a slapped on coat of freedom appealing to dupes unaware of how useful they are to the feds. while ideas of “hacking” past capitalism as possibility remain carelessly tossed around and unexplored, the notion of an “either/or” game of gaming “the system” itself is a false dilemma that works to prevent true understanding of the networks and their operators at work. like the inception of the “conspiracy buff” of the 60s with regard to the JFK assassination, this is some sort of vague “avenue” of investigation one can pick up if they are so inclined — but probably a bit of a crackpot to care! don’t we all know that in our knowingness of what Snowden keeps telling us that we know already.
enter the lovable lefty-liberal chap Charlie Brooker, the keen insider out to inform those who are willing to hear, who have the eyes to see. darling and generous, he is. Black Mirror gives us “bizarro” situations a la The Twilight Zone we enter into fully unsure of since “each episode has a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality. But they’re all about the way we live now — and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.” the scary future that could be realized in an instant with a black mirror always in hand seems to be typically combined with flattened ideas of causation among all parts of the population, as if the common will was to wish into existence our most carefully hidden depravities of mind.
this is particularly apparent with the “second episode of the second series”, “White Bear”. this has been the most shocking one so far in my opinion because of how it plays so well on fears that are sometimes explained using pseudo-clinical terms such as impostor syndrome and derealization, both of which i’ve mainly seen discussed as experienced at all with the advent of social networking. the title is certainly metaphorical in its own right, with all attention cast on a woman of color who we are led to believe participated in a horrific torture death of a little girl she keeps thinking may be her daughter after she wakes up from an electro-shocked stupor. her torture goes on day in, day out for a reality television show series that requires audience participation. the heavy-handed “subtext” suggests “we all” do this already, with the imprisoned “we all” cheer on in their torture presently, but the twist is how we are unsure of what experiments were done on her in the first place that may have facilitated being able to broadcast the terror as justified.
credit where it’s due, to Brooker here. however themes of a leveled, larger concept of justice drown out the veiled morality play of the true uses of torture black sites presently. the imprisoned — that we can know of, the methods used on them circulated in the popular imagination in a number of dramatized ways — are subjects of experimentation, deserving of pity or sympathy as the case may be, and have been documented as “returning to their insurgent evil ways”. they are the perfect subjects to be recast as the most reviled villains whose “real life” action scenes sacrifice the tender american for their delight, or are cloaked in scores of refugees who are “imposing” upon the rest of us tech fearing, infinitude searching prosumers of the sharing economy the real crises.