I was a little late to the party… err ball in this equation when it came to the Ryan Murphy produced drama series Pose on F/X.
Not that I wasn’t interested in watching it, it just took me a little while. Over the course of two nights, I watched all eight episodes, and was completely mesmerized from start to finish. It takes a lot for me to warm up to any show that is specifically about the LGBTQ community (minus a couple of great ones like Will & Grace and Queer Eye), however Pose captivated me in a way that I felt was not only a want but a need given our current climate.
I have struggled for many years to find a show that the entire community, not L or B or G or T or Q, can really enjoy with one another. Yes, we have RuPaul’s Drag Race, but Pose is the original RPDR in that I don’t believe the show would really be what it is today if we didn’t have the real-life events based on what the scripted show is all about.
Pose takes a major page out of the highly-acclaimed documentary Paris is Burning and brings it back to light nearly 30 years later. It centers around the magnificent ball scene that resonated throughout Harlem in the late 80’s, where the glitz and glam are on display in every episode but the realities of what each character was facing throughout that time was definitely there too. The way that Ryan along with several writers including Janet Mock were able to blend both together really is awe-inspiring and made for a great first season of a show that I hope will air for quite some time.
The storylines for each are rich in all areas of who they are and the show brilliantly develops them as time goes on. You have the storyline of Blanca Rodriguez (MJ Rodriguez, who deserves all the awards for her role), who starts as one of the children of Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson) in the House of Abundance before leaving to start her own family.
She quickly develops her own house, the House of Evangelista, with three talented individuals: dancer Damon Richards (Ryan Jamaal Swain), Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) and Angel (Indya Moore). Damon gets kicked out of his home after his parents discover that he’s gay, while Papi and Angel work the streets of New York City in their own way.
A big part of the show focuses on the ball scene, which is hosted by a charismatic man named Pray Tell (played unbelievably brilliantly by theatre legend Billy Porter). The unapologetic, bold and brash way they treat each contestant who displays themselves in each category rings true to how it was done in Paris is Burning and I am so glad that they didn’t shy away from any of that.
The show dives into many aspects of their lives, including one of a Wall Street type of dude named Stan Bowes (Evan Peters), who picks up Angel off the streets one night and begins a very complicated relationship with her. Stan is married to a biological woman in real life with two kids, but finds himself falling for Angel, who is openly trans. He finds every which sort of way to see her throughout the series which includes him visiting her where she works at an adult video store, but the two can’t seem to see eye to eye on where their relationship goes. This leads to an awkward encounter by his wife Patty (Kate Mara), who discovers he’s having an affair and goes to great lengths to find Angel in the process.
Damon develops a relationship of his own with a dude named Ricky (Dyllon Burnside), where he experiences a scare with HIV early in the series after he gets a fever. HIV and AIDS play a major part in this series, as some of the characters have it (Blanca, Pray Tell) and others who have a scare but turn out to be negative. This disease was (and still is) a major part of the LGBTQ community back in the late 80’s, and I am once again thrilled that the show discussed this at length as opposed to keeping this about the drama between all the houses.
There’s so much more to dive into, like Elektra’s rough exterior being chipped away by season’s end for a myriad of reasons, Blanca’s complicated relationship with her family and Pray Tell’s partner at the end stages of his life due to AIDS, but I don’t want to give too much away. I will say this: the show is f***ing needed in our world today.
We have done shows in the past that were about gay men (Queer as Folk, Looking), lesbians (The L Word), trans individuals (Transparent), but never one that really brought us together on a dramatic circuit. Pose is that, and I am elated that it got a second season renewal and hopefully many more as it needs to be seen especially by the younger generations who could use an education on what life was like in this community 30 years ago.
This was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers when it comes to this subject.