Why You Should Watch Pose
As a disclaimer, I am fully aware of my standing as a privileged cishet Asian American woman with no connection to ball culture writing this, but I will stan any good show when I see one and am not afraid to tell people to watch it! I’m a big advocate for more representation of marginalized communities on any mainstream (and independent) platform and medium (as evidenced by the fact that I will shit on anything with majority white characters #dontcare). And for a show like Pose, which comes from the very popular and acclaimed Ryan Murphy, to absolutely knock it out of the park, with only five episodes aired so far from its eight-episode first season, is truly one of the best things to come out of this hella tumultuous political time.
Pose follows the lives of several queer folks of color, including correctly casted trans women, as they live it up in the ball culture world of 1987 New York. We see the newly formed House of Evangelista, led by Blanca (MJ Rodriguez), take on several challenges over the course of the episodes we’ve seen so far; from battling it out against the legendary House of Abundance to dealing with the Reagan-facilitated HIV crisis, from cute gay boys finding romantic love to the clashing of the underground ball world with the Tr*mp mogul world. The wide and diverse cast of Pose is truly one of the most dynamic ones I’ve ever seen, especially with Pose consisting of the largest recurring transgender regular cast ever for a scripted series! Every single one of the characters is absolutely captivating, and I especially have to give props to MJ Rodriguez (as Blanca), Indya Moore (as Angel), Dominique Jackson (as Elektra), Angelica Ross (as Candy), Hailie Sahar (as Lulu), and the acclaimed Billy Porter (as Pray Tell).
From episode to episode, the stories of these characters are so raw and real - I’m fairly certain I cried at least once per episode! There are several interlocking storylines that occur over the course of the show (as shows tend to do lmao) but the mix of stories that Pose presents are all so much more interesting than any other TV show I’ve seen in recent years, if I’m being honest. These are stories about queer and trans people of color that are living on the margins during a big time of political and health-related crises in the early 80’s. But what I especially like, in addition to that, is the prevalence of stories around these characters that don’t pertain to suffering. So often in mainstream media (or in any viewable media), stories about queer or trans folks are always ones of pain and suffering around their gender and sexual identity, which is real but also tired. I love seeing Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) enjoying his love of dance in his dance class and having fun with his boyfriend Ricky (Dyllon Burnside). I love seeing Angel at least have some fun with her boytoy Stan (played by Ryan Murphy’s muse Evan Peters) and I love seeing the Houses of Evangelista and Abundance still cherish each other despite being in rival groups.
And on the flip side of this storyline about QTPOC is the exact world that Angel’s boytoy, Stan, lives in as an employee of Tr*mp Tower. We can’t forget that while the 80’s was all about Madonna-esque rebellious and glitzy fashion and the HIV crisis and all the classic pop bops of MTV, the 80’s was also a time of notorious conservatism with Ronald Reagan as its driving force. If anyone has seen my favorite CNN series The Sixties, The Seventies, and The Eighties, you’ll know that the first two decades was a time of extreme and tumultuous political shift, making way for a plethora of different living styles and politically ideological sharing, but as the 80’s came around, the Baby Boomers came into their own and made their first steps into fucking the country over. The 80’s saw the massive popularity of shows like Dynasty and it’s no coincidence that the storyline of Stan is set in the world of Donald Tr*mp and Tr*mp-esque characters. And because of this, I have the unpopular opinion of actually kind of enjoying the juxtapositional narrative of the two lifestyles presented in the show. Someone made a comment once (I forget where, sorry!) that in Pose, it’s interesting to see the idea of Realness and how the QTPOC characters are donning a particular kind of Realness in the balls (one that will allow them to pass, and therefore, survive) while the white characters (at least Stan) is also trying to assume a certain kind of Wealthy™ Realness to fit into his own crowd. Obviously, this is a false dichotomy because in no way are these two stories equal at all, but it’s definitely an interesting perspective.
Pose follows the tradition of era-specific, glitzy and dazzling shows that Ryan Murphy has produced over the past decade following Glee, American Horror Story, Scream Queens, Feud. Murphy is a cishet white man who is producing this show about QTPOC and ball culture, and therefore the question of authenticity and authorship must come to the forefront (see: Paris is Burning). It’s not enough to cast actual trans actors (although it’s definitely a step in the right direction). Shows like Orange is the New Black came under fire for the fact that despite having a plenty QTPOC cast, its main characters AND its writing staff consisted primarily of white women. But Pose is doing something drastically different by not only actually centering the stories of its characters of color but also incorporating a heavy POC writing staff! Like, Janet Mock is producing and writing this! For that I give Pose even more major props and I hope to see it fucking conquer the entire world.
Pose is currently airing on FX on Sundays at 9 p.m.