Invisibility Theme in “Sort Of” Series (HBO Max)

Seemingly pretty much under the radar, the HBO Max series Sort Of is an engaging eight-episode series (with each episode having a breezily short length) that, among other things, has a theme of invisibility— and not just of the main character. More on this later.

What’s Sort Of mainly about? The IMDB description includes the following details: Sabi Mehboob (Bilal Baig) “is a gender fluid millennial who straddles various identities from sexy bartender at an LGBTQ bookstore/bar, to the youngest child in a large Pakistani family, to the de facto parent of a downtown hipster family. Sabi feels like they’re in transition in every aspect of their life, from gender to love to sexuality to family to career.”

Stephanie Zacharek, Time, aptly describes Sabi as a “gentle” and “self-effacing” person who misses the opportunity to leave Toronto for Berlin, where their best friend is headed. Sabi thus “must find the courage to fuse the pieces of their fragmented life without leaving home.” Sort Of  “traces this awkward yet poignant evolution. And Baig, an affable performer as well as a keen observer of human behavior, is one of the most intriguing new voices I’ve encountered on TV this year.”

Watch the trailer below, which shows key figures in Sabi’s life, starting with nonbinary friend 7ven (Amanda Cordner), Sabi’s mother (Ellora Patnaik), the two kids Sabi nannies for and their parents (Paul is a shrink, Bessy will have a health crisis), Sabi’s not-so-boyfriend-ish Lewis, and Sabi’s sister (I think in this order):

As Proma Khosla, Mashable, concludes, “‘Sort Of’ is a heartwarming binge and a major lesson in representation.”

What about the invisibility theme? The first mention of invisibility occurs early on when Sabi’s boyfriend declares himself unseen by Sabi. John Powers, NPR:

He’s just the first person to say this in a show where almost everybody feels that they’re not seen for who they really are but are forced into rigid identities that don’t really contain them. If Sort Of has a governing idea, it’s hinted at in its title, which suggests that nobody is wholly one thing. Everyone is sort of this and sort of that and on their way to becoming sort of something else.

Invisibility, a common theme in real life, can be the result of a variety of possible developmental and life factors, listed by Crystal Raypole, Psych Central, as the following:

  • Childhood emotional neglect or abuse
  • Bullying
  • Shyness
  • Mental health symptoms, e.g., social anxiety or depression
  • Disability or visible signs of illness

Click on the above link for specific details provided by Raypole, in addition to ways to become more seen, which include:

  • Set clear boundaries
  • Try assertive communication
  • Get in touch with your emotions
  • Connect with a therapist

At the end of her article she adds an important caveat: “…It’s possible your perception of invisibility is just that — a perception. You may be more seen by others than you realize.”

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