‘POSE’ is a TV drama series on FX Channel starring LGBTQ characters played by real transgenders from the prolific writer-director-producer Ryan Murphy who has since moved to Netflix. Set in 1987-88, it features several characters, mostly black plus some Latinos, with intertwining stories. It’s an entertaining, riveting show about people who are pushed into the edges of society and how they make things more lively and meaningful to celebrate life in their own vogue subculture.
They all meet each other in the weekly ball in New York where they dress up in fabulous outfits to compete with each other in energetic fashion shows that display colorful LGBTQ culture. First is Blanca (MJ Rodriguez), whose regular job is doing nails but whose real passion is joining the fashion shows at the balls where various fashion houses compete in drag.
She belongs to the House of Abundance, led by the intimidating, domineering diva, Elektra (Dominique Johnson), but they are always in conflict, so she leaves and puts up her own house, the House of Evangelista. The love-hate relationship between Bianca and Elektra is the core of the show. They often deliver monologues that insult each other, but deep within them, they know they still truly care for each other even if they’ve become fierce rivals in the balls.
As Blanca describes: “The balls are a gathering of people who are not welcome to gather anywhere else; a celebration of a life the rest of the world does not dream worthy of celebrating.” The host of the balls is named Pray Tell (played by Billy Porter, who became the first openly gay black actor to win the Emmy best actor award for his role in “Pose”).
At first, he just appears in the ball scenes but his role grows when he is diagnosed to be HIV positive and his lover named Costas dies of AIDS. Then there’s Angel (Indya Moore), who really looks like a woman but is actually a trans streetwalker who funds her gowns with what she earns from prostitution.
She wants a man to love her and she gets a white client one day, Stan (Evan Peters), who falls in love with her. Stan is married to Patty (Kate Mara) and is doing well in his job in Trumph Tower in Manhattan, with his douche bag boss, Matt (James Van Der Beek). Stan has his own personal demons. He has a good family life with his wife and kids, but he is still strangely and unexplainably attracted to a trans woman.
Then there’s Damon (Ryan Jamaal), a talented dancer who is driven away from their home by his very conservative parents after confirming that he is gay. He’s adopted by Blanca who helps him get a scholarship in a school for dance. He falls in love with Ricky (Dyllon Burnside) who he later helps to become a professional dancer.
In each episode, you will share the pains, the struggles, victories and defeats that these various characters, all flawed human beings, go through. This makes the show a balance of dark soapy nights and loud fabulous days where patience and perseverance always pay off. It’s obvious that Murphy really spent a grand budget for the lavish clothes and the distinctive period props used even in the street scenes to portray New York 32 years ago, where the camera glides and swoops to capture it all. After all the pains the characters go through in the 8-episode series, it ends on an upbeat note with most of them passing their tribulations with flying colors, making this a truly feel good show. If you enjoy all the "kabaklaan" in Ru Paul's show, "Drag Race", nou doubt you'll also like this scripted non-reality show.
The ensemble acting is uniformly fine, with Dominique as Elektra, MJ as Blanca and Billy as Pray Tell standing out with their fully fleshed out roles. Dominique desperately wants to be a full woman and undergoes sex change surgery, leading to some disastrous results in her love and financial lives. MJ registers well in the scenes where she goes to the wake of her mother and is shunned by her own brother and sister.
She and Billy have a great musical scene together singing “Home” to HIV patients in a hospital where Billy’s boyfriend is confined. What we reviewed is just the show’s first season. It had a successful second season and they’re now making the third season.