All the reasons Pose should be your next binge watch on Netflix
I’m still raging over the Emmys snub
You’d think after all the conversations around Black and trans lives this year awards shows like the Emmys would wise up and diversify their nominees a bit. But no, once again the news was dominated by white men. This year it was the turn of Paul Mescal and, weirdly, Joe Exotic. Now obviously there is diversity in the Emmys list this year, but one show noticeably left out of many categories was Pose – Ryan Murphy’s drama about drag balls in New York.
These Balls brought disco and soul, to a community who were ostracised and vindicated into a life of silence by a toxic social order. They brought people together who had nobody else and reminded us of the importance of having a solid support network.
Pose is great primarily because it stars several black transgender women, something no other show can claim. That is absolutely mega. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Who better to play a Trans character than somebody who can resonate with the script and the lived experiences of their character? Things like this mirror such an adequate narrative into lived experiences and send such a powerful message to potentially vulnerable trans youth.
But Pose’s casting isn’t the only reason to watch it. It’s actually one of the best things on Netflix right now. This is every reason you should give this underrated gem a try:
The soundtrack is lethal
The show opens with Queer legend Billy Porter’s words: “Live… Work… Pose!” followed by a soulful and discotheque interlude which sets the importance of music not only to Pose but the wider Queer community too. In his book, Straight Jacket, former Attitude editor Matthew Todd describes how music for Queer people is escapism and takes them to a world where self expression is acceptable.
The likes of Madonna’s Vogue, which shapes much of series two as well as other works from Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and the Mary Jane Girls are important here. For these characters music is an escape – it allows them to live their full truths.
Watching Pose, the power of music to bring together a community in harmony is presented beautifully and for that in itself, Pose should deserve more recognition.
The cast is genuinely diverse and not in a tokenistic way
When Marsha P. Johnson spearheaded the global argument on gay rights, the African-American Trans woman declared “darling, I want my gay rights now’. What has happened to these voices over the years is that Queerness has been white washed by cis, white, gay men. Across the world the trans community faces incredible vilification and ostracisation. With right wing media outlets pressing an almost Trans elimination agenda, now more than ever, the mavericks of Queer liberation need to be protected.
One of the best ways we could probably educate ourselves beyond discussion with those of the community and their lived experiences, is to engage with the likes of Pose which creates such important visibility to a silenced community.
A show which has five Trans women, playing Trans women – this show deserves to go down in history. And, it is. But not for such active inclusion of Trans voices, thus showing that more work needs to be done. Of these five actresses, none of have been nominated for an Emmy this year, not even the backbone of the show Blanca, played by the incredible M. J. Rodriguez.
In so many shows, our identities as Queer people, are momentary gestures with little sustenance to keep us happy. The odd gay character here and there is to show that “hey it’s okay to have a gay kid” and to fill a diversity quota. But how many of these actors are gay and understand the struggles which come with being alienated from many things in this life, simply for one’s sexuality? Well, the same thing goes for Trans people. Who was the last Trans actor you engaged with?
The facilitation of this from Pose is a refreshing example of Trans visibility on our screens. ITV’s Coronation Street led the way with this when they introduced us to Hayley Cropper. A character who it was very hard not to love, but who should have been played by a Trans actor to fully mirror the lived experiences which a character like Hayley would have encountered.
Pose is the exact opposite of this. Trans people play Trans people. Some may argue, “well how I can defend Trans rights, when I don’t have any Trans friends?”. Well, with the visibility and exposure of Trans identities like Pose, you can do just that. Which is why it is imperative that Trans people play Trans people. Of course, Trans people should never be limited to only playing other Trans characters, but more visibility needs to be seen and it is shameful of the Emmys to not even nominate one of these fantastic actresses.
It shows that friends are your chosen family
At the beginning of the show, Murphy introduces us to Damon, who has been attacked and disowned by his subjectively fundamentalist Christian parents for having a copy of a Queer magazine. It’s a simple act many of us have experienced when we’re young. Only this week, a thread of memes exploded on Twitter on the topic. But it’s also very normal for Queer kids to be pushed on to the streets by their disapproving parents. For a while, I was one of them. But, I was lucky. For most Queer people they struggle to ever reconnect with their families.
In a report submitted by the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), it was revealed that 24 per cent of homeless people are LGBT. In Pose Blanca Evangelista takes Damon in, and shows him the beauty of life and his talents and pushes his career as a dancer. The show highlights through this relationship and others that for many of us Queer people, our friends can be our chosen family. They can fill the void where our own biological families have failed, providing the love that we need.
There’s an open dialogue on HIV
Pose is set across the 1980s when New York City lay at the epicentre of the AIDS crisis. The commonplace idea that only gay people could contract HIV was completely false and stigmatised a narrative of silence amongst Queers. Inspirational figures like Gareth Thomas show that life can still be lived so long as diagnosis is provided early. Access to medication such as PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and the right support networks amplify that a rich and fulfilling life can still be lived, regardless of status.
In Pose, we see first hand the lives of Queer people who have HIV. I could’ve said they suffered, but they lived with HIV. Of course it wasn’t rainbows and giggles, but these people set the narrative that carriers should never allow the disclosure of their status, to shape their identities or their lived truths.
Your silence is deafening:
Recently, I watched Ryan Murphy’s latest show, Hollywood. The show revolves mainly around the presentation of Black and Queer writers and leads emerging into a flourishing career. The backlash presented in these shows is shocking. But that is not something reserved for post-1945 cinema. This is happening today, and we can see it silently manifesting through the likes of Rodriguez not being nominated for an Emmy, despite carrying Pose on her shoulders. Whilst it is not a direct attack on these Trans actors, not enough is being done to tackle blatant Transphobia and being silent about such Transphobia will be the catalyst to allowing it to continue.
Trans people don’t want to be a tokenism gesture either. Pose highlights the best of the best in mirroring real Queer identities and bringing the LGBTQ+ community back to where we started. When a Black, Trans Woman resisted and said, No. For Pose to do what it has done and not be recognised shows what we must do, to protect and uphold Black and Trans lives today.
Featured Images: FX Pose Fandom
Pose season one is available on Netflix. For all the latest Netflix news, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.
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