Season 1 of the FX series Pose just made its way to Netflix on Friday in preparation for the second season, coming back June 10. If the trailblazing drama hasn't been on your radar, or maybe you've seen photos of series star Billy Porter lighting up red carpets and wondered where you can see more, now's the time to get acquainted. The show, created by Glee mastermind Ryan Murphy, dives into the fabulous, dramatic, emotional world of New York's vogue ballroom scene in the '80s, where the most fabulous of the LGBTQ community, particularly men and women of color, danced and modeled in competitions. Vogueing, which went mainstream in 1990 with Madonna's "Vogue" video and the documentary Paris is Burning, influences fashion and culture to this day, and many of the competing "houses" that formed back in the '80s still exist. But even within the world of entertainment that was created about ballroom, Pose stands out for a number of reasons.
An Unprecedented Number of Trans People Lead the Show
Though Ryan Murphy may have come up with the idea, he was quick to call on leading voices from the trans community and New York's ballroom scene to take the reigns. Pulling Janet Mock in as a writer and producer at first, the author and advocate quickly made the leap to directing an episode, making her the first trans woman of color to direct for television ever. The cast itself boasts a groundbreaking number of trans actors in major roles, including breakout stars MJ Rodriguez (who plays protagonist Blanca Evangelista), Dominique Jackson (anti-hero Elektra Abundance), and Indya Moore (sex worker Angel).
Ballroom Icons Helped Make Sure They Got It Right
Behind the scenes, they called on people who were actually vogueing and starting houses in the 80s to bring the necessary authenticity to the series. That included people like Hector Xtravaganza, grandfather of the House of Xtravaganza, and community staple Jack Mizrahi. Porter's fabulous performance as a larger-than-life ballroom MC also came from personal experience growing up around the scene in the 80s.
It Has Nuanced Sex Scenes and Romantic Relationships
Many trans people of color were forced to turn to sex work during this era (and still are to this day), as few other establishments would employ them. Many of their clients were white business men who were living a completely different experience of segregated New York. The show explores the depth of those relationships behind closed doors. Their romances and negotiations lead to some complex dialogue where trans women explain their relationship to their bodies and their sexuality. Moore, especially, has spoken openly about her personal history with sex work, adding greater resonance to her performance.
It's the Best Kind of History Lesson
By authentically capturing an influential movement in New York City history, Pose becomes an ever-expanding history lesson. It covers the HIV/AIDS epidemic and issues of homelessness, joblessness, and crime that deeply affected the community. But it also gives a picture of what New York was like during that period. Characters struggle with discrimination in their workplaces, families, and even within the LGBTQ party scene where cis gay men were especially exclusive. But coming back to the ballroom is a safe space from all that, and in itself a history lesson on how ballroom was such an important scene during that time.
The Cast Is Becoming An Important Voice For Trans Activism
The stars of Pose have been using their platforms to speak about the need for more trans visibility in entertainment and elsewhere, and voicing their outrage over the Trump administration's attacks on the community. Moore, for one, gave a speech at an emergency trans rights rally in New York back in October, and uses social media to advocate for trans rights. When Moore was chosen as one of Time's 100 most influential people of the year, Janet Mock wrote that she seems poised to take on the helm of advocates before her. Jackson is also a lifelong activist who self-published her memoir, The Transexual From Tobago. The cast's work both on- and off-screen has garnered them much celebration, including Moore becoming the first trans person on the cover of Elle US, Rihanna sending Rodriguez a huge package of Fenty, or LeBron James including them in a roundup of Black women he admires.
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