Strike a Pose

The month of June is known as Pride Month and provides a perfect opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the diversity and acceptance we see in front of us daily and not just on the streets of every city around the world, but displayed nightly on our television sets. The past decade has seen a wave of culturally groundbreaking TV moments. For example, we're actually seeing flesh and blood gay or trans characters, with uttering dialogue of substance! Who would have seen that coming 20 years ago? However, things are still far away from ideal, a sentiment echoed by TV mastermind Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee, American Horror Story, and American Crime Story. Ryan has built an empire tackling topics that spark controversy and public discourse, and his latest show Pose does the same thing and has critics raving.

Set in the 1980s, Pose is a dance musical that explores the juxtaposition of several segments of life and society in New York: the ball culture world, the rise of the luxury Trump-era universe and the downtown social and literary scene.

The first episode starts with a bang by showing us the hard reality of 80's through its transgender protagonist Blanca, effortlessly depicted by the luminous transgender actress Mj Rodriguez. A veteran competitor in legendary New York balls, she is jolted by the news that she's HIV positive, which is equivalent to a death sentence in the 80's. But her spirit cannot be broken, and so she decides to use her life for something bigger.

Through the one hour episode, we meet random characters who help to shape multi-layered plot. There's Stan, an ambitious, young, married executive (played by American Horror Story alum Evan Peters) who works for Donald Trump during the day and visits a transgender sex worker Angel at night. Angel, who is played by Indya Moore, also happens to be a member of Blanca's house.

Making television history, Pose features the most extensive cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, as well as the largest, recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever for a scripted series. Despite the fact that Pose is making a difference when it comes to opportunities for the community that was, and probably still is marginalized in a way, this show is delivering powerful performances teaching us about characters and a subculture that was oftentimes ignored, oppressed or censured on television.

Despite a tense political climate in America, Ryan Murphy works from the heart, capitalizing on the open hearts of a new generation of viewers who embraced the culture of drag thanks to efforts of RuPaul, and yet at the same time doesn't shy away from showing us about history from which this culture was forged. In many ways, he pays tribute to Jennie Livingston's 1990 masterpiece Paris Is Burning, while showing us how far we've come since then.

Writer | Josip Majer

Photos | FX

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