Did You See? The First Season of the Hit Series ‘Pose’ Is Now on Netflix
Time to play catch-up and binge-watch the critically acclaimed show before season two premieres this year
It’s been a good eight months since the world first met Pose and a little less than seven since the season one finale aired. Understandably, fans are aching for news—any news—on the highly-anticipated second season, a kind of hype that we now realize is justified and well-deserved having caught the newly added title on Netflix. Category is: Live! Work! Pose! And we are absolutely living for this gem of a television show.
A groundbreaking series by Brad Falchuk, Steven Canals, Janet Mock and Ryan Murphy (the same man behind Glee, Scream Queens and American Horror Story, who considered this a passion project of his), Pose capped off its monumental first season with thunderous applause, doing precisely what it set out to do and more.
Taking place in New York City in the ‘80s, Pose follows the lives of two rival drag mothers and the children belonging to their respective “houses.” While the storylines are the stuff of creative fiction, it isn’t lost on audiences that Pose is the latest bit of entertainment to pay proper tribute to the golden age of New York’s underground ballroom scene (not since Paris is Burning, at least, which also heavily influenced the drama series in the early aughts). From the jump, Pose and the creators behind it called all the right shots, making television history in the process for having the highest number of trans actors cast in regular roles for a TV series.
While its title clearly references ball culture as the heart of the show, the blood that runs through it is family. Pose pays tribute to that, too: the kind of family that Afro-American and Latino members of the LGBTQ+ in the Bronx didn’t get to choose, but had to choose given their plight in this era. Together, as one family, they escape into the underground world of the ball. More than a fantasy to cope with reality, it somewhat becomes “the new American dream when you aren’t given access to the [original] one.”
The Pilot begins with Blanca (played by Mj Rodriguez) who decides to leave her original drag family, the House of Abundance, led by Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson) to start her very own; she is adamant about pursuing her own dreams and vision for the drag scene. She then assembles the House of Evangelista, named aptly after the supermodel, and brings together her unlikely band of drag queens and performers: Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), Angel (Indya Moore) and Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel).
Right off the bat, it is evident that Pose speaks to the realities of rejection: how it never gets easier, rips old wounds anew, but does toughen you up. It speaks to the injustices that trans women, in particular, must deal with even within the supposed safe space that is the LGBTQ+ community. It lays bare the spirit of times, too: the overlapping, entangling spheres of prejudice, poverty and dignity. In the episode “Access,” Angel put it this way: “I’ve learned how to keep my dignity,” she tells Stanley Bowes (Evan Peters), a well-off white man from the suburbs with whom she has an encounter. “Even when I’m kneeling down for scraps…under the table.”
Yet, in the face of being put in his place, Stan responds with a refreshing new perspective: “I’m no one. I want what I’m supposed to want, I wear what I’m supposed to wear and I work where I’m supposed to work. I stand for nothing. I don’t live. I don’t believe. I accumulate,” he tells Angel. “I’m a brand: a middle-class white guy. But you are who you are even though the price you pay is being disinvited from the rest of the world. I’m the one playing dress-up.”
Through the emotional rollercoaster ride that makes its eight episodes, Pose season one lets events beautifully unravel to show that this narrative is bigger than ball culture itself. It is bigger than the categories of the ball that allude to the lifestyles of New York’s rich and famous. It’s about the enduring power of love and, through the fight for survival during the peak of the AIDS epidemic, the will to dream. “You having any symptoms [of HIV]? Then you know what to do! Keep living,” imparts Pray Tell (played by Billy Porter) in one episode, looking out as usual as the grandfather of all children who compete in the balls. “Put on your tallest pump and go on and get back out into the world. You ain’t dead yet. There is nothing more tragic than a sad queen.”
Audiences are given a look into the historic events that incontrovertibly paved the way for much of today’s mainstream understanding and appreciation for drag. They not only get to watch but experience the beautiful myriad of juxtapositions that must coexist in this world: Beyond chants coming from the stage to “Vogue! Work! Pose” there’s life and death and, in between, what it really means to live.
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