Elektra and Pray Tell take center stage as realness becomes about more than just the physical but addressing how you feel and are inside.
|Dick Ford||Christopher Meloni|
Fears and Insecurities: Damon, Candy, Ricky, Lil Papi, Blanca, Pray Tell, Elektra, Angel
When Damon gets sick with the flu, Blanca fears the worse and seemingly can’t face him much. At least, it seems that way for after discovering the fever. But, the scare which is Seroconverting, the first signs of HIV, thankfully are for naught. We learn Damon and Ricky are HIV Negative, as well as Lil Papi, after Pray Tell, with a push from Blanca, asks of them to all get tested.
Speaking of Pray Tell, he gets quite vicious this episode. While usually catty, maybe a bit shady, when it comes to being an Emcee leads to a thorough read when it comes to Candy. Someone who has been a bit of a background player since the show started, living in Elektra and Lulu’s shadow. However, she takes center stage this episode and unfortunately it is within a category she wasn’t ready for – or could win.
Category? B-O-D-Y. Of which, since Candy is a trans woman who perhaps didn’t transition and took hormones from a young age, doesn’t have a curvaceous body. As Angel puts it, to make her feel better, as she deals with her own insecurities, they are statuesque. Problem is with being statuesque is that they are right at the brink when having an ass and voluminous breasts were becoming more than accepted but wanted – the epitome of being desirable. Hips too.
So, what is a trans person to do who can’t just grow that out since their bone structure doesn’t naturally support that? Well, they get work done. Which in itself is a struggle since the price of a decent doctor is $1000. Something which, with Candy being [tooltips keyword=’clockable’ content = ‘Meaning not fish or passing for a cis woman’] is a lot of money. Hence why she goes to some back alley thing and while she, after some attempts, finally gets the body she wants, she also gets sick and an infection.
Thus giving us the troubles trans women go through for acceptance not just from the outside world, but of their own bodies.
Dropping the prefix of being trans and seeing Candy just as a woman, you have to understand the importance of feeling sexy and it not just being in your head but recognized. After all, as much as the balls are about living a fantasy, it is also about validation and thinking that, in that life or the next, it could be your reality. The ball is your community and being accepted and seen goes beyond just being able to get in. Hence the heavy push by those in talking roles for trophies. Each one, winner or not, means recognition. Getting snaps and praise? It’s like saying all that you struggle and work for, it is worth it. You have found who you are and while the outside world may not approve or get it, your people do.
So, taking note of that, imagine how it must have felt for Elektra, Candy’s motha, to degrade her. Then, following that, Pray Tell to eviscerate her in front of everyone! I’m talking, turning off the music, stepping in front of the podium, and probably embarrassing her within a few minutes publicly more than Elektra has ever done privately. That’s a stab.
Not one, I won’t pretend, Candy didn’t ask for. Her insecurities produced a nasty attitude that made it necessary for Pray Tell to put her in her place. After all, Pray Tell is a staple, an icon in his own right, and she was disrespecting the people who make the ball possible for their community. Yet, that doesn’t take away from feeling for the girl. Especially as she and Angel shopped around for silicone and in the desperation to appear more feminine, even went to this shady basement place to get pumped up.
That is but a taste of the desperation there is to be accepted. Especially in a world where to look like the ideal, you have to be able to afford it if you weren’t born into it. Hence also the beef between Candy and Angel since some are born more feminine than others.
Switching to Damon, while a lot of focus is on making sure to get tested, what also has to be noted is the stigma around those who have the virus. This idea that their life is over, that they had to be really sexually active, bottoms (those who receive), or that straight people don’t really get it. Some of which still exist today for while HIV/AIDS is a known STD, unless you are talking about Magic Johnson, it is still largely spoken of and seen as a disease affecting the LGBT community.
Heck, even in commercials for this show, and the marketing of [tooltips keyword=’PrEP’ content = ‘A medicine which is supposed to limit the ability to contract HIV’], the main aim is for homosexuals. Not to forget, outside of Dallas Buyers Club, I can’t think of too many productions which had a man, who preferred cis women, with HIV or AIDS. So, once more, the show helps to remind us how many of the issues it addresses remain things quite unsolved.
Dissatisfaction With Being a Mistress: Stan, Angel
Being that Stan sometimes seems too good to be true, there is a need to question why is he with Angel. Not my words, but what can be derived from her insecurities. For with her being a sex worker, pre-op trans, and not having a feminine figure, she questions what Stan gets out of being with her? She can’t compete with his wife and once he doesn’t get a hard-on for her? Oh, she thinks the fun is over for he got his kink and now he is going through the motions. Thus leading to a fight where he tries to convey he has feelings for her, the person, but the person comes with the body. And with him tripping on the questions dealing with whether he likes her body as is, she kicks him out.
Which, following seeing what Candy went through, and lowkey letting her be a test subject to see how she should handle things, she decides to be injected. By the professional though, not the basement doctor who messed Candy all up.
Taking note Stan said he had a curiosity after reading a “shemale” porn magazine, so comes the question if Angel is a fetish or not. If not, perhaps knowing the virus is out there, he wanted her to get off the street so he could explore without pending consequences. Sort of like how Dick Ford, Elektra’s sugar daddy, handles her. He paid to take her from a dancer to a kept woman and their relationship has lasted 10 years. All because she gives him a fix that his two ex-wives couldn’t.
And mind you, with neither Dick nor Stan are they penetrated. They don’t play the role of being a bottom. So, there comes a lot of questions. The kind which, for Elektra, survival was more important than the why me? However, with Angel, since she has the support net which is Blanca, as well as street work if she has to, she has the ability to ask questions and deal with the consequences of the answers, or lack thereof.
Showing a bit how things change with generation and situation. How complicated sexuality can be, and how being a trans woman comes with built-in insecurities which complicate nearly every aspect of life. Be it finding a good job if you can be clocked, being fish enough to be accepted in something white collar or high class, not just believing you are a woman but your body matching that, and so much more. Especially in regards to relationships where you have to question who or what are they in it for? Are they having sex with you or this body which, for Elektra, maybe Angel as well, does not fully feel like it is yours?
The Doctor Will See You Now: Pray Tell, Elektra, Blanca, Aphrodite, Dick Ford, Candy
We meet Elektra’s sugar daddy, Mr. Ford, a man who seems to collect nice things of which Elektra is one of them. So, with her becoming more and more adamant about reconstruction surgery, he gets upset. After all, they have had a good thing for 10 years and her changing even a bit of it worries him. Particularly since he is in it for the sex and while he got bored with his ex-wives, who he may or may not have seen at the same time as Elektra, their sex is still good.
However, at 40, Elektra is in this place where she has experienced it all but does not have it all. Yes, she wins trophies and acclaim at balls but the woman she is at night still has this inconvenient reminder that has to be tuck, strapped, and ignored. And, you know, when you can do better and know better, you are coerced to pursue what will make you happy – no matter what it may take. So, yeah, she may lose the salary which has supported her for maybe the last 10 years, but it has to be done.
And you know what triggers her to get out of her comfort zone? A young girl named Aphrodite who beats her in competition. Someone who is open about her surgery and so Elektra asks questions. Which is important since Elektra has largely presented herself as all-knowing and unquestionable. So for her to open up to a younger woman about this insecurity is one of the many peeks behind the curtain we get.
Which, ultimately, makes it so that she finally connects with one of her daughters without any sass. For as Candy says, what Elektra has largely shown is that she wants subjects more than children. Something that can especially be seen as we compare Elektra to Blanca. However, Elektra decides to be real with Candy and not gloat, tease, or demean. Thus, finally, giving the motha Candy has long needed rather than Elektra just being a woman who gave her a place to stay.
Leading to Pray Tell. When he and the boys got tested, he learned he is positive and lied to them about it. However, he tells the truth to Blanca and presents a similar attitude to what Damon did. Putting up this idea his life is over and thankfully Blanca, despite seeing her mentor vulnerable, shock, and in despair, took all the encouragement he has given her and regurgitated it. Maybe not in a way to bring up his spirits as he did her’s but, at the very least, let him know that he wasn’t alone before the diagnosis and he won’t be after.
I think we all needed an episode which largely focused on Elektra. By deconstructing her a bit, showing her vulnerable with Mr. Ford and her having to tape up her genitals, we were given many raw moments by an actress who knew how to bring nuance and skill to them. For one of the fine lines which come from being media representation is as much as you are simply exploring a character and telling their story, you are also laying down blueprints. As Aphrodite said, people watch you not just to be entertained but seek out examples, role models and gain understanding.
With that comes a difficult responsibility. For young people who think they may be trans or are, you represent them seeing themselves. Recognizing who they are or could be. Then, for those who aren’t trans, maybe not even on the LGBT spectrum, you are an introduction to a foreign world. A community which may not exist where they are from or they simply don’t find themselves in the spaces of. So you have to give major props to Mock as the writer and Jackson as the actress for helping to push even the fiercest queens got feelings and insecurities too. Maybe not for reasons other may have but certain feelings of wishing things were one way or the other connects you in the underlying humanity of it all.
As for Pray Tell? Honestly, I hated the setup for his reveal. Each boy got good news so you knew Pray Tell was screwed. Plus, with him having the virus, so comes the question of, between him and Blanca, are they going to hit us with one of them dying before the season is over? For they make it clear that virus can hit you and you could be gone within weeks. And this show likes messing with your emotions so I’m just mentally prepping for the worse and hoping for the best.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Consider House of Extravaganza got shout out, it pushes me more and more to wonder if characters from Paris is Burning may show up. Rather than, perhaps, be some of the inspirations for characters.
Blessing be to Helena since she truly has made Damon a better dancer than he was before. Though, you know seeing him vomit must have been a terrifying moment for her. Especially since she lost a student only weeks, or months, ago. Making you wonder, with her last student, did she ever ask or notice signs he wasn’t doing well? Did she ever pursue asking Damon, maybe even Blanca, about that?
Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs
“But what is scared to us? It’s like water to a fish. There’s no point in dreaming of a life without having to be scared.”
“It’s never a bad decision to choose yourself.”
- Elektra being broken open to us in a way which allowed her to be three dimensional and not just a shady old queen holding onto her crown.
- Everyone getting tested and showing how important it is as well as noting the stigma around how HIV is contracted and who gets it.
- Angel addressing the issue of fetishism in the trans community, especially when it comes to sex and relationships.
- Candy and Angel displaying some of the insecurities young trans women have about their bodies. Followed by Elektra who makes a note she is inconvenienced, not incomplete, in terms of how she feels about her body.
On The Fence
- With Pray Tell being HIV+, so comes the question of, between him and Blanca, do we got to worry about a death coming up?
- Stan and Angel’s relationship. You have to understand where Angel is coming from, but there is no way Stan could have come up with the perfect answer. He was asked to present reassurance for issues Angel has likely been toiling over for years.
- When it comes to Stan and Mr. Ford, you can create comparisons and contrasts in terms of their relationships to trans women. Neither present themselves as gay men, nor men who desire to be penetrated. However, it brings up the complicated idea of recognizing someone as a woman mentally while physically knowing, sometimes seeing, they have male genitals. Especially in the context of being intimate or just plain sexual with them.
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