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In Praise of Nomanita, the Underrated Love Story in ‘Sense8'

The love between Amanita and Nomi helps elevate the science-fiction series.

by Tai Gooden
Dec 23 2016, 5:19pm

Murray Close/Netflix

Netflix's Sense8 hooked viewers with a unique story about eight people (sensates) from all over the world who share a telepathic connection. It also tugs at heartstrings with romantic relationships—the most powerful being between sensate Nomi Marks (Jamie Clayton), a white trans woman, and Amanita (Freema Agyeman), a non-sensate cisgender black woman. Many TV pairings teeter too far toward incessant infighting or improbable ideals, but "Nomanita" represents the perfect balance as a lovable couple facing unreal external drama. A free-spirited, colorful-haired book store employee (Amanita) and her lowkey, computer hacktivist girlfriend (Nomi) seem like an odd pair, but these contrasts drive the beautiful narrative behind their relationship.

In a flashback scene, we see the couple at their first Pride together. Nomi is verbally attacked by a woman who calls her the "tranny who blogs about politics," but Amanita interjects to defend her girlfriend. When asked why the incident made Nomi cry, she responds that it was the first time someone ever stood up for her. As the scene transitioned back to the couple before a present-day Pride parade, Nomi said it was when she knew she'd love Amanita forever—and it was the first of many times that Amanita would protect Nomi.

Amanita's advocacy for Nomi fills a void left by Nomi's broken family. Later, after Nomi wakes up in the hospital and is horrified to find her homophobic mother in the room—and that Amanita isn't there because, as Mrs. Marks coldly states, the hospital only allows family into the area. Nomi asserts that Amanita is her family—that she'd fulfilled everything Nomi desired from family: love and acceptance from someone who helped her feel like she had a place in the world. In "Art Is Like Religion," Nomi says, " I saw you, the first person that made all of that go away, that made me feel I did fit it, that I belonged. "

As a supporting character, Amanita's background was not extensively explored in the first season but Sense8's small glimpse into her family structure explains her open nature. Even though she was raised by an adoptive spiritual white hippie mother, Amanita was unsurprisingly receptive to Nomi when she talked about her connections to strangers. In "I Am Also A We," Nomi told her about Dr. Metzger's suspicious diagnosis and an impending lobotomy, as well as how she's been hearing and seeing unusual things.

Nomi expected Amanita to think she was crazy, but Amanita gave her hope by believing her story. Amanita also vowed to burn the hospital down before letting anyone touch Nomi's beautiful brain, and it's Amanita's fierce love for Nomi that helps drives the series.

After being hospitalized, Nomi knew that she couldn't let her own family take charge. The power struggle between families and domestic partners can get out of control when one person has lost their agency; Nomi was at the mercy of her mother's will, but Amanita came to her defense, even if it meant pushing the boundaries between right and wrong when Nomi helped Amanita escape. Amanita knew she had a moral right to protect Nomi so she selflessly exercised it without questioning her actions.

As a cisgender lesbian raised in a supportive environment, Amanita couldn't identify with Nomi's struggles as a trans woman and she couldn't fix Nomi's life, but she could respect the validity of Nomi's feelings. What's more is Amanita is adept at deciphering when she should provide perspective vs. when she should simply listen.

In turn, Nomi's unshakeable trust and receptiveness to Amanita's opinions display a mutual respect between the couple. This is something that isn't always seen depicted within television's relationships; too often television still relies on tired gender tropes and uneven displays of power. In the sci-fi world of Sense8, we see how Nomi made sure Amanita was a priority whether it was by diverting trackers with fake flights or keeping Amanita in the loop of her "cluster."

Nomi's character development was placed in the hands of the film director/writer duo The Wachowskis, trans women siblings, and Jamie Clayton, also a trans woman—a successful example of why we need diversity not just on screen but behind the scenes as well. Clayton spoke to author Janet Mock on MSNBC about her experiences on the show, saying she exchanged life stories with Lana Wachowski. Together, they brought Nomi to life in a rich, nuanced way without her story being diluted through a cisgender viewpoint.

Portraying Amanita was new territory for actress Freema Agyeman, who had never portrayed a character in a romantic relationship, much less an American lesbian with several nude sex scenes. Agyeman talked about her initial nervousness to After Ellen, but she said Wachowski's direction was instrumental in helping her focus on the bigger message—a sex-positive, passionate, and authentic relationship. Challenges aside, Agyeman's flawlessly conveys the character's patience, passion, and loyalty.

As Sense8's 2016 Christmas special premieres today with season two's release coming in May 2017, Nomanita's relationship will continue face new trials. As the connection between the sensates gets deeper, the couple's bond may become strained as Nomi struggles to keep her sense of self. Plus, the ever-present danger of Whispers hunting them could force the couple into new territory. However, they have proved that even when the world crumbles, they are a united front, providing a powerful message to viewers.

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