For a lot of people, it’s almost a prerequisite to write a Hollywood film or television series with an LGBTQ character in it. That is their own definition of diversity and giving the ‘outliers’ a seat at the table. There have been various think pieces about the representation of the community in film and television and reiterating what the million of brilliant writers have said from time to time will just be a diversion in what this article is supposed to be about. However, more recently, more creators are giving LGTBQ characters a chance to be more represented in popular culture. With shows like Orange is the New Black and Queer Eye, to mention but a few, the unheard stories and challenges of these people are brought to the big screen, most times leading to interesting conversations between members of the community and other people as well.
Set in the 1980s, “Pose” is a dance musical that explores the juxtaposition of several segments of life and society in New York: the ball culture world, the rise of the luxury Trump-era universe, and the downtown social and literary scene. Created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, the show has eight episodes with each episode having a running time of 45-78 minutes. It’s definitely not Murphy’s first time creating a show that gives you a peek into the life of queer people, but it’s the first time it is done on such scale both for Murphy and in American television.
From the pilot episode aptly titled ‘Pilot’, you’re introduced to the characters who set the ball rolling on the show. There’s Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) who is fed up with Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson) and goes ahead to start her own house becoming the Mother of the Evangelistas. She starts off recruiting a reluctant dancer, Damon (Ryan Jamaal) who was thrown out of his home for being queer and eventually, the house increases including Angel (Indya Moore) from her former Abundance house as well as other new children. This Elektra-Blanca rivalry becomes one of the major subplots of the movie, stemming almost throughout all eight episodes of the show. Asides that, there’s also Angel’s relationship with Stan Bowes (Evan Peters) as well as Damon creating his own space to thrive and grow.
Pose is uniquely diverse and that alone, is one of the major reasons, it should be on your must-watch list. A show which tells the story of transgender people played by transgender actors? You’d be damned. There’s also an active representation of people of color, who make up for a large number of the cast. It’s not surprising that the cast is diverse, seeing as show creator, Ryan Murphy is a voice for diversity as seen in his previous shows and his HALF initiative launched in 2016 which aims to hire women, people of color and members of the LGBT community for half of the directing jobs on his shows. In total, the cast is made up of over 50 transgender characters making it the largest transgender cast ever for a scripted show. Janet Mock who produces the show also stamps her name on the sands of time as the first transgender woman of colour to write and direct an episode of television, after directing the sixth episode ‘Love is the Message’.
Asides the diversity of the cast, ‘Pose’ tackles the problems faced by the LGBT community in various ways and attempts. There’s the recurring theme of HIV/AIDs and unprotected sex, tackled throughout the show. There’s also the problem of acceptance of members of the community by families as seen in the case of Damon and Blanca, in their respective families. Asides that, it opens you to the world of transgender people – living with evidence of their previous sexes, the stigma they face from people around them and a host of others. All of this is tackled with the pomp and glamour associated with the gay community. Talk about bright colors, lights and all the slang associated with the community. WORK IT, GWORL!
Pose is a huge risk, consisting of mostly fresh actors, with a great story, an even better message and a final look that will leave laughter and tears on anyone who decides to watch. I would have loved to see Laverne Cox at some point of the show, as she has walked this journey in the past and would have just been appropriate as Elektra, but asides that personal reservation, everyone on the show came clutch with their performances. I look forward with the next season being even more glamorous, and a lot better than what we saw the first time.
~ Steve Potter