Pose Stands Tall Competing Against The Likes Of Looking, Queer As Folk, & The L Word
If you’ve been missing out on FX Network’s Pose, you need to sit your behind inside this weekend and binge on best eighteen hours of LGBTQ entertainment. The series, which surrounds 1980s New York City’s African-American and Latino LGBTQ ballroom culture scene, was yet another creation from the mostly brilliant Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, who have brought us game changers in television such as Glee, American Horror Story, and Scream Queens. Pioneers in the transgender community, Janet Mock and Our Lady J have molded with Murphy and Falchuk (among others) to deliver us incredible entertainment and a glimpse behind the curtain, so to speak. With each passing episode, when singing isn’t involved, I continue to be blown away by the amount of interest I still have in this series. I’ve been a critic of Murphy’s previous work being a great idea only to become sabotaged by too many storylines and uncomfortable plot twists, but there is life behind Pose that convinces me it’s not only quality television, but perhaps the best LGBTQ series I’ve ever seen.
Hear me out before you throw stones! I get that we’re all programed to fawn over Will and Grace, but as funny as Megan Mullally’s Karen Walker is/was, I never really bonded with the 30somethings seeking love and purpose while being wealthy in New York. The L Word should be watched by everyone simply for Mia Kirshner’s portrayal of the polarizing Jenny Schecter, but I never vibed as much with a show of lesbians (being a gay man). Looking was so hard for me to get involved with that I stopped watching halfway through. Tales of the City and Queer As Folk are nothing but iconic and groundbreaking, but I still have some struggles trying to find a character who matches my personality, background, or even my social circle within the writing. This is where my emotional attachment to Pose comes in.
I’m born and raised in the southside of Chicago. Yes, like, the city-city of it all, with our gayborhood of Boystown being a short subway ride away. I was one of those fifteen-year-old kids sitting at the LGBTQ center who was getting tested for his first time, in a waiting room full of other nervous kids and some who were obviously homeless trying to get financial help. In my youth, my gay friends were, more or less, not welcomed in their homes and slowly my life became a whirlwind of trying to survive with my newfound friends (who today remain irreplaceable and close in my life). We were the group of teenagers who didn’t have much minds on our futures because we were focused on getting through just another day of the week. Many of us have arguably made regretful decisions in our struggle for survival, including stripping, slinging drugs, manipulation, and selling what was necessary to lay your head down at night with a roof above you; even if you weren’t familiar who you were sleeping next too. I always felt the cast of characters and backgrounds who existed in my life weren’t ever portrayed in film or television without being either a punchline or a “oh my god here she comes” stereotype. Pose not only includes characters all too familiar to me, yet humanizes them.
It’s no secret that Pose is led by mostly a transgender and gender non-conforming cast. The stellar standouts, and newcomers, come in the form of our leads, including MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Angelica Ross, and my two favorites: Dominique Jackson and Hailie Sahar. Cisgendered actors include Emmy nominated Billy Porter, Sandra Bernhard, Charlayne Woodard, and the most adorable Lil’ Papi in the world, Angel Bismark Curiel (who is heavily rumored to be dating the aforementioned Mock [I’m curious what behind the scene antics happened there]). The acting from these rising stars is so fantastic that I don’t think anyone complained about – or even noticed – the absence of Kate Mara, Evan Peters, Christopher Meloni, or James Van Der Beek in the series sophomore run. These performances bring out a plethora of emotions from me. One moment I’m loving-to-hate them, the next I’m empathizing with them, and I find myself actually laughing aloud with them. I haven’t been this hypnotized by a series since Six Feet Under. I anticipate every new episode and am so upset tonight is the season finale.
Pose brings LGBTQ stories that we were told to ignore to the forefront. I see everyone screaming for equality, but I’ve witnessed many ignorant comments and actions towards sex workers, femme boys, creatives, free-spirits, and especially our own transgender brothers and sisters. The series touches on complicated, adult, LGBTQ relationships… but most importantly friendships. At times I feel like I’m watching a documentary about people who I actually know. It’s engaging to watch characters who have nothing to lose feed off their desire of success with a glimmer of hope, only to self-sabotage “days” later. My youth is showing, but I don’t believe we’ve ever seen stories focused on HIV positive persons in such a way that makes you rethink the virus. Rodriguez’s Blanca is seemingly promised a death sentence with no way out: But she strives to have her own business, take care of her friends she calls children, and slowly believes it isn’t too late for her to fall in love.
The series treats sex workers as not disease ridden and vile, but dives into their lives to see how they got into such a position. It’s a survival of the fittest in the universe of Pose, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for love, connections, and life. These characters are not well-to-do’s who have luxurious jobs or even air conditioning in their homes. They are raw, they are real, and they are the people you walk pass on the street without even glancing or wanting to know. The characters on this show virtually have nothing to give, to themselves or anyone, but unapologetically tell their stories and asks of nothing from us in return. The series has genuinely touched my heart and I cannot wait have season three take us on a whole new journey.
The season finale of Pose’s second season airs tonight, August 20th, on the FX Network.
Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.