Why I’m Obsessed With Pose
I watch A LOT of television and binge pretty hard if I’m really into a show. Not sure if it’s a quality to be proud of but I appreciate long form storytelling and really getting to know characters and their worlds 💅🏾. My taste typically leans towards darker material set in real world situations (i.e. Mad Men, Homeland, Veep, House of Cards, Killing Eve, Succession, Fleabag to name a few) that involve destructive behaviors, manipulative relationships / mind games, and generally shitty people getting away with being shitty 🤷🏾♀️.
Pose, is not that. Pose is one of the most love-filled, uplifting and hopeful shows I’ve ever seen and I am so grateful it exists. Sure there is drama because it’s a TV show but the overall tone of the show is about connection, community and growing confident in who you’re meant to be (and not settling for bullshit). Ryan Murphy is such a chameleon of a creator and he obviously knows how to surround himself with greatness to turn out a show as special as this one. Let me break down some categories for y’all to get the full picture.
STORY OVER STRUGGLE
I believe there is a place for stories within the LGBTQ community that is about the struggle over one’s identity and their personal coming out. However beyond the struggle of being a marginalized group are the unique and universal sides of being a human being: maneuvering relationships, feeling accepted and loved, making career decisions, seeking self improvement and taking ownership over one’s life and what it stands for.
Pose does a beautiful job of putting a spotlight on the trans and queer community by featuring characters who are fully formed people the audience can admire, question and relate to. Everyone on the show is making their personal choice on how best to survive in their community. And not all of it is focused on sexual identity. Yes, it’s a large theme, but it goes much deeper and beyond that.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The show portrays “house” culture within the ballroom scene. “Mothers” take in people who have no immediate family support and let them join their house as long as they perform in the balls and keep to the house rules. It’s essentially choosing your own family. This is crucial for the ball community since many young gay and trans people are kicked out of their homes and rejected by their birth parents to end up homeless on the benches of NYC.
One of the main characters, Blanca Evangelista, played by the incredible MJ Rodriguez, literally makes me cry in every episode because she is one of the most loving and sincere characters I’ve ever seen on TV. She is the person who tells her “children”: I see you. I love you for who you are and I want what is best for you to thrive and be happy in this life.
I’m a cisgender, mostly straight woman who came from a two-parent middle-class household and even I feel like Blanca is speaking directly to me. She is empowering in her desire for good and for focusing on the light rather than the darkness. I don’t care who you are, but we all need a dose of that in today’s psycho climate. So thank you, writer’s team and MJ for creating such a positive woman on screen who genuinely exudes light and love.
LOTS OF ATTITUDE
With a show that features a primarily brown and black cast, you would expect nothing less than a lot of strength and attitude. The actors blissfully portray sass, fabulosity, and Queendom like they were born to be on a stage. From the outfits, to walking the dance floor, to the verbal reading and throwing of shade, the show serves up so much education about ball culture. I wanted to know more about this lifestyle so I recently watched Paris is Burning which served as Ryan Murphy’s inspiration for the show. In the 1990 documentary, director Jennie Livingston takes you into the scene where the people break down the terms and framework of the community. My favorite quote is from someone who said “We have our status in the ballroom”. This is a place for people to put on and embody all kinds of personas that they are not allowed in the real world.
Pose showcases how its characters work for that status within their community and also how they function in 1980s New York City. It’s interesting to see what each character uses to earn status and respect; it’s a mixed bag of tactics that are so layered and complicated it’s fun to watch. And on a superficial level, each episode makes me feel an extra type o’ way in terms of needing to upgrade my makeup skills and get my ass in check when it comes to dressing up as if I’m looking to win a trophy.
The category of “Realness” in ball culture is essentially a competition of who is serving up the most convincing look of passing as a straight cisgender woman or straight cisgender man. In a way, it’s trying to fit the box of what society deems as beautiful or sexy. Whether you are trans or not, we have all been impacted by standardized beauty and what “attractive” looks like and most of us go to some lengths to achieve a certain image to get approval from others.
But beyond “Realness” in ball culture, I love that Pose is serving up the Ultimate Realness when it comes to offering so many rich character arcs and performances. This is obviously a product of a show whose creators and actors/actresses reflect the community they are writing about and representing. One of the writers, Janet Mock, is the first trans woman of color to be hired as a writer for a TV series in history. The other writers alongside the brilliant team of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are co-creator Steven Canals (Out has an excellence feature on him) and Our Lady J, who was the first out trans writer to be hired for a TV series when she wrote and produced on Transparent. Talk about a dope ass writer’s room.
The casting, bless you Alexa Fogel, is absolutely perfect. The show has hired more than 50 trans actors and actresses, the biggest of any scripted television series in history. I could write for days about the acting but it’s way better for you to watch it for yourself to see magic happen when vulnerability and generosity flow between scene partners. I am truly inspired by the work of the main cast and cannot wait to see how they grow in seasons to come!
Pose is currently streaming on Netflix so I highly encourage checking it out while you can. Looking forward to the new season due to premiere on FX soon!