When the industry speaks on new voices, faces, and stories, perhaps the best example is Pose. For with it presenting trans and gay stories front and center, it reminds you of why television can be considered revolutionary.
|Creator||Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Steven Canals|
|Damon||Ryan Jamaal Swain|
|Pray Tell||Billy Porter|
|Mr. Ford||Christopher Meloni|
|Matt||James Van Der Beek|
|Lil’ Papi||Angel Bismark Curiel|
(Think 80s or 90s newscaster when reading this) It’s New York City in the late 80s. Disney has yet to take over Broadway, the AIDS epidemic is running rampant and striking immense fear in the queer community. Yet, to escape the reality of a harsh and unforgiving world, there are the balls and the houses. At the balls, whether gay, trans or just an outsider, you could find your community. Perhaps be celebrated for who you see yourself to be and win a trophy. A grand prize which means validation and acceptance. Maybe even to the point of joining a house. Which is the foundation of our story. The competitions between House of Abundance and House of Evangelista.
It all began when house mother Elektra, a legendary mother, with a sharp tongue and quick temper inspired one of her first children, Blanca, to start her own house. Something which seemed laughable at the time but with another one of Elektra’s children, Angel, joining her, as well as a young man fresh from being kicked out of his home, Damon, so began the newest house on the block. One which quickly grew in size and with the tutelage of ball emcee, and former performer, Pray Tell, the house became one of the most welcoming and inclusive. All thanks to Blanca being more focused on creating a home and a community than simply winners.
However, no story is without its troubles. HIV is diagnosed for more than one character, there are issues of being fish, realness or. if you don’t know the lingo, looking like a person born a woman. But, never fear, it isn’t a show featuring death and depression. There are sad moments but there is also love. Love in the form of being someone’s escape, the love between a mother and daughter, a chosen family, and Blanca even deals with her real family who show themselves to be a piece of work. Thus giving you vivid depictions of trans and gay life no matter the category.
Whether you know and love 80s music, or just have an appreciation, you cannot deny that Pose has one of the best TV soundtracks outside of shows on OWN. From Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” to Blanca and Pray Tell’s cover of “Home” from The Wiz
Black Queer Love & Lust
Whether it is just in flirtation, like Blanca got with Darius, Pray Tell being with his partner Costas to the end, or finding something new with Keenan, alongside Ricky and Damon, there was so much Black and queer love. Which is noteworthy since you don’t really see that much in media or with celebrities. When it comes to most queer people of color, their partners are white. Name a celebrity and you’ll see them with a white man. Whether trans or gay.
Which, of course, could just be an availability thing or their preference. Love is love is an absolute phrase without conditions. However, seeing two happy queer Black people together, or a trans person finding love in their community, is a beautiful thing. And with Pose it doesn’t just bring you diversity in its stories and the looks of characters, but love as well. Pray Tell is a man of a certain age and he gets bitten twice by the love bug. By men who don’t look like twinks at that.
Then, when it comes to Blanca, while all Darius seems to be looking for is sex, you have to love he put Lulu and Blanca on the same level. Particularly since Blanca was constantly considered bricky since Lulu and Candy didn’t deem her to be that feminine. So for her to still be hit on by a man like Darius? It seems all Lulu and Candy were was haters.
Leading us to Ricky and Damon. While they had troubles early on, once they become solid they were so cute. They kissed, supported one another, sex was alluded to, and they were happy. There wasn’t any catty drama, hints of cheating, or none of that. They were just two kids in love and it was so sweet to watch.
The Life and Times of Trans Women
When it comes to voices of the minority or oppressed, especially when LGBTQIA, they may play guest stars or supporting roles but rarely are their stories front and center. Pose is completely different. Especially since their stories aren’t made to simply be how trans and gay people are just like you, just in different clothes. There is no downplaying and simply nodding to what trans and gay people went through in the 80s! Hell nah! HIV is put on the agenda in episode 1 to remind you of how many queer people felt that there was a genocide going down and the government didn’t give a damn.
Also, it made sure to note it wasn’t just the outside world keeping them down. For yeah, as shown with Angel, even those who look rather fish could have a hard time getting a job, but sometimes your own community could be much worse. I mean, speaking of looking fish, that is such a constant issue between the ladies of the show. Either their own insecurities about not feeling feminine enough, be it because they are pre-op or don’t have a figure, or coming after each other to raise themselves up. Making you wonder if there is some sort of -ism for when you shame a trans person for not being masculine or femme enough.
Oh, and let us not forget the fetishism. Elektra is a statement to that for it seems a good part of her life she had a sugar daddy named Mr. Ford who bankrolled her solely because she was a woman with something extra. An extra piece Elektra wasn’t fond of because, when you feel and know you are a woman, having something which clearly contradicts you surpasses being inconvenient or frustrating. It is like a cross to bear and damn if when she burnt that wood (no pun intended) she lost it all. This is even with her being with him for 10 years and through multiple failed marriages! But, as shown by the man she tried to get to replace Mr. Ford, it isn’t the woman but the woman with the trans prefix they want.
Angel & Blanca
When it comes down to it, Angel and Blanca are the stars of the show. Roles which Rodriguez and Moore deserve in ways I don’t have the vocabulary to lay out. Yet, it all begins with this sense of hope despite their pasts. Similar to what we saw in Kiki, there is a stronger focus on their joy, in spite of, than their misery, because of this or that.
With Blanca, she basically got disowned by her blood relatives by being true to herself. There was even a time she was homeless and I believe doing sex work to survive. That is, until she met Elektra and her faith was renewed. Not just in having a sense of family but also understanding that the balls were a community. One in which, yeah, you may get called brick and talked to like a dog, but their toughness builds you up for a world which will say and do much worse. Making it where you can handle catcalls or insults flung your way. Yet, also have a place to recover and be herald for your beauty, grace, maybe even your wits.
Switching to Angel, what you have to love about Angel, and her story, is that she brings a romance movie lead vibe. She is but a spunky girl looking for her prince charming as she traverses through life. And while, for a time, she saw Stan as her possible prince, there is a relatable factor in their relationship. There is this consistent vibe of it being too good to be true and with discovering he is married, he doesn’t fit into her world, and she is really but an escape for him, you understand a bit of her devastation. Yet, you also get why, when he comes back to her once more, she sends him off back to his wife. As Elektra did for Blanca, Blanca gave Angel a sense of family and community which provided her strength. Making it where, as
Elektra & Pray Tell
As noted, Pose brings diversity in a multitude of ways and it’s not all with young queer and trans people living in 80s New York. There are also the veterans, in the form of Elektra and Pray Tell. Elektra is a trans woman who, through sheer luck, glory, and looking femme, found a way to go from the gutters to being a high-class lady. One who we don’t know the full background of, like where she came from and things of that nature, but with the show renewed for a second season, there is more than enough time for that.
What matters here is, Elektra’s influence. Whether you are talking about her interactions with Lulu and Candy, or Blanca, you can see how she sets the tone for the show and how everyone acts on it really. For even if there are some degrees of separation, like between her and Damon, you can see her reach is long. But, also, one of the things you have to love about Elektra are her reads. When she goes after someone, it is some of the funniest things that you have ever heard. Take, for example, the season finale when she went after Lulu and Candy! She was just vicious in ways which helps you understand that while she may say Blanca forever will be her child, as for the rest? HA!
And speaking of reading Candy, let’s speak on Pray Tell. He goes in on that poor girl in ways that help you understand, as much as he plays the dad to Elektra’s mom, when it comes to Blanca, he isn’t a saint. In fact, while dealing with his demons, which means drinking, he goes in on all of Blanca’s kids. Kids that, often, he is dressing for balls and probably giving a bit of an edge to when hyping them up.
But, while that might be cheating, it is all in love. For he is the one which helps people know if that look works for them, and thus could make it in the real world, or it doesn’t. And when it comes to Blanca, it seems he picked up where Elektra left off and while he plays a dad, or older brother role, he is also a friend. One which gives her strength when her mother dies and also has his own life. Like Elektra, he has a world outside of the youngins and, sadly, it also is a bit tragic. Yet, for both, thanks to Blanca, they find new things and people to invest their time and efforts into. Showing a beautiful relationship not just between them and Blanca but the new generation and those who mentored and loved them into self-actualization and autonomy.
Though, getting to the real nitty-gritty of these two, separating them from their relationship from Blanca completely, they help you understand how things got better for them, and those who are gay or trans. Elektra’s struggle to where she is by the end of the season came from learning how to do makeup, wear women’s clothes which flatter her, and finding men, like Mr. Ford, who would be her sugar daddies. Thus allowing her a certain freedom and paving the way for future girls to perhaps not have to go through what she did. As for Pray Tell, being a former walker, and a man who knows his fashion, as seen by the House of Evangelista and his outfits, you see a man who found the love of his life in a multitude of ways. Who, at whatever age he is, still is some kind of ho but a happy one. He has purpose, love, a chosen family, and is an integral part of his community.
Together, these two really make a statement as to why shows can’t just be about the youth. You have to see the generation before, integrate them, give them their own lives and histories, to represent the full story. Otherwise, you’re doing things half-ass.
On The Fence
Stan, Patty, and Matt
At best, these three were Trojan Horses. Similar to Orange is the New Black, they were the safe, usually seen characters that helped open the doors to what the show was really about. What made this stand out and not be about whatever was going on in their lives. Which was done quite masterfully but, the problem is with the way Stan, Patty, and Matt were handled, unless Stan was interacting with Angel, it was hard to give a damn about him. Then, in extension, Patty didn’t strongly present herself in a way where you’d root for her and Stan’s marriage. She was just there to create conflict and create the complication of: if a cis man is with a trans girl, is he straight? That whole narrative.
Then, when it comes to Matt, I think he acts as the ultimate trojan horse through James Van Der Beek being cast as him and how his antics were promoted. Yet, he drops off after a fight he and Stan have and that’s it. We don’t see them dance around each other at work or any of that. Why? Because these three characters don’t truly matter and, hopefully, with the first season being such a success, they’ll be dropped.
Damon and Ricky
The main issue with Damon and Ricky is lack of development and the believability of Damon’s story – school wise. For as many will say, Damon getting into a dance school and, on top of that, getting a scholarship which pays for the entire year? Unbelievable. Pure fantasy. Especially in New York? Are you kidding me!? Damon’s dance moves weren’t all that and it really leads you to believe that Ms. Helena St. Rogers, after losing a student, assumingly, to AIDS, took pity on this boy and gave him this gift out of some kind of guilt.
Then, when it comes to Ricky, after the dust is settled and he is officially with Damon, not much else is done with him. He is relegated to Damon’s boyfriend and outside of snitching on Lil’ Papi, he offers nothing else to the show. And these two together, while cute, maybe more than just the young gay couple but they certainly aren’t presented on the level of Angel, Blanca, Elektra, or Pray Tell. But, everyone can’t get the spotlight right?
While Lil’ Papi got one episode where he wasn’t comic relief, the question is: Was that enough? It is established he has been on his own for a long time and he doesn’t have a high school education. Also, it is established he is bi. Yet, more often than not, all we get is jokes and facts. Things to know but not necessarily felt. Making it where, like Damon and Ricky, it isn’t so much the actor, nor really the writing, as it is just not enough time to spread around to fully utilize the character.
Lulu and Candy
Similar to Lil’ Papi, Candy got one episode to peel away whatever superficial vibe you had about her and for things to get real. It all dealt with her trying to look more feminine by having a more curvaceous body. In that episode, which included Pray Tell going in on Candy like Elektra does the whole season, you get a very emotional moment. One beyond Lil’ Papi’s because he at least had people outside of Blanca’s family to fall back on. Granted, they were drug dealers, selling more than weed, but not all backup plans are anywhere near your first choice.
However, with Candy, assuming her life is like the assumption we are led to have about every trans person on here, she had no one. Outside of the house she was in, there was no family and she didn’t really have friends. No one was coddling her and for that, you want to feel bad for her. Especially as you connect her story to Elektra’s in the form of, her strength only exists when she is validated. Yet, take away her validation and she becomes a desperate and wild animal. One willing to burn the house just so no one has a roof over their head.
As for Lulu? Like most of the cast mentioned in the “On The Fence” section, there is a lack of development issue here. But, with Lulu, it probably hit the worse since she doesn’t get her moment. Unlike Damon, there aren’t notable triumphs where you can say she has a life. Unlike Lil’ Papi and Candy, there isn’t an episode where you see there is more to her than sass and attitude. Hell, even Ricky got on up on her since Ricky at least brought something to the show through being Damon’s man, causing issues in House of Evangelista, and getting to go on tour at the end of the season. We are left with it being clear he has something going on. As for Lulu? She may have lines on the show but outside of knowing what house she was in and one person she slept with, she is a total mystery.
Overall: Positive (Watch This)
Pose will either be an inspiration for more series or, similar to what Noah’s Arc can be considered, one of the first and last times we got immersed into an LGBT world through their own eyes. At least, on a level where you feel they are given some kind of budget and marketing. For unlike nearly all shows, LGBT characters aren’t playing just supporting roles or guest stars. Whether it is gay men, trans people, those who are veterans in life or barely legal twinks, they are the stars. Their stories, whether it deals with their orientation or identity, or maybe neither, that is the main and primary focus.
Leading to this is being labeled positive. While, yes, lesbians get little to no lines and are barely seen/heard, as well as many characters feeling underdeveloped, there is always season 2. An excuse which often is used for shows that are kind of iffy but can improve, but with Pose? Its issues are hardly about improving much but having time to do more. Which, if they cute Stan, Patty, and Matt, hopefully, a lot of the characters in the “On The Fence” section can get the spotlight they deserve.
Has Another Season Been Confirmed?: Yes
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|Pose is so wonderful that you’ll wish Ryan Murphy and co. held this for Netflix so that we could get all the episodes in one sitting.|
|Finding a way to go beyond surviving but absolutely thriving is either what is pursued or talked about. Though for some, thriving is a suburban fairytale.|
|It’s Christmas time and as Elektra gives herself a gift, House of Evangelista makes sure everyone gets one.|
|Elektra and Pray Tell take center stage as realness becomes about more than just the physical but addressing how you feel and are inside.|
|With news of Blanca’s biological mother dying, so comes a quest for reconciliation, even if some make it harder than others.|
|Pray Tell gets center focus as we come upon the final days of his boyfriend, Costas. Though, we also get to see someone try to dust Blanca’s cobwebs.|
|As the House of Abundance falls, a new house rises from the ashes. One which takes advantage of what either could be seen as a mistake or right decision by Blanca.|
|The final category is: Mother of the Year and considering all Blanca has done for her children, even her mother, will she win or will there always be next year?|