With the first season coming to a close, Pose has made a remarkable impact on viewers like myself. It’s no mystery why there is much joy surrounding the show’s second season renewal. The ratings didn’t start out well— that can attribute to many assumptions made about the LGBTQQIA community, the ballroom scene, and flat out homophobia—but the tide shifted, and quality LGBT representation will be on our screens once more. What makes this show incredible is the commitment to authenticity, character development, and the much-needed narrative it gives to the fallen of the 80’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Minutes into the first episode of this season, my eyes glued to the television. The opening scene pulled no punches as spectators met the House of Abundance and its fearless leader and mother, Elektra, played by Dominique Jackson. The next shot portrayed how many participants in the ballroom scene acquired their clothing for ballroom showings. Shoplifting, known as “mopping” in the community, was a common mean for wearing designer labels, achieving the right look to potentially yield high scores, and be awarded for the night. This particular scenario involved stealing clothes from a museum exhibit which made it comical and far more entertaining. Upon being chased by police, instead of hiding, the group headed straight for the ball to walk their category. The idea that they didn’t care about being arrested, providing they were seen and given trophies, further exalting the house’s legendary status, was hilarious. This fanfare was the opening segment of the show before the title credits appeared. The strength of these leading scenes foreshadowed content with a brute force, and it hasn’t disappointed or lacked yet.
Like many other Ryan Murphy productions, the commitment to a 1980’s New York setting is remarkable. I was impressed with the direct connections to Paris is Burning, the 1991 ballroom documentary directed by Jennie Livingston. What stands out for me most is the music, fashion, and transportation used during filming. Very few details missed, down to the dated parking decals on the vehicle driven by Stan Bowes, played by Evan Peters. With no expense spared in recreating this decade, the soundtrack has countless hits by The Mary Jane Girls, Whitney Houston, and Jody Watley among others. I also enjoyed the cultural references written into the script, especially the criticism and praise of Janet Jackson during her “Control” era. The perception of Donald Trump in the 80’s was also a smart write-in compared to where we are now with him in America.
The cast is pure perfection. Billy Porter delivers an awe-inspiring, award-deserving portrayal of his character Pray Tell. His timing and tone lead the viewer to believe this role was created for him because anyone else is unfathomable. MJ Rodriguez as Blanca conveys excellent emotional depth and desire to help others as a new house mother. Indya Moore and Evan Peters have great romantic on-screen chemistry while Ryan Jamaal Swain and Dyllon Burnside are the perfect shoe-ins for gay youth portrayals.
On a deeper level of analysis, the in-depth storyline met with incredible on-screen talent is what ultimately drives the success of this show. Not only written by creators Steve Canals, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy but there are show contributions by Janet Mock and Our Lady J making the script nothing less than brilliant and heartfelt. The character development is thorough, and each member of the cast has a storyline that explores themes like racism and transphobia in the gay community, the ignorance and misinformation provided by medical staff during the AIDS crises, the fetishization of trans women, and so much more. Until now, a show hasn’t penetrated beneath the surface of gay issues, and for once it isn’t about pure sex and negative stereotypes. This series instigates critical thinking, triggers meaningful conversation, and produces a voice for those LGBT men and women who struggled to live in a world that didn’t care about them. In just eight episodes, many powerful moments have occurred. With a second season on the horizon, one can only imagine what's to come.