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'Pose' Offers an Honest and Elegant Look Into the 1980s LGBTQ Community
June 3, 2018  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

One of the oddest side effects of our increasingly fragmented society is that almost everyone sometimes gets to feel like an outsider. 

So it’s worth reminding ourselves that some folks are way more outside than others, and the new FX drama Pose, which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, correctly notes that this group includes much of the LGBTQ community.

That was even truer in the late 1980s when Poselaunches its story about LGBTQ persons who band together in New York for survival and celebration.

Blanca Rodriguez (Mj Rodriguez) and Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson, left) run “houses,” which on the most basic level were shelters for people who had been rejected by the rest of the world. 

We see Damon Richards (Ryan Jamaal Swain) enter Rodriguez’s House of Evangelista after his declaration that he’s gay leads his father to beat him up and his mother to cast him out as a sinner. 

Members of these houses, and others, come together regularly for “balls,” artistic competitions that set high stakes and standards for music, dance, and glamour. 

Balls performances are young people being themselves, often for the first time in their lives, and you don’t have to be an LGBTQ activist to feel the visceral exhilaration. 

Extra TV credit goes here to Pray Tell (Billy Porter, below), the ball host who keeps everyone’s pedals pressed to the metal. 

As all this suggests, Pose juxtaposes some very dark facts of life with luminescent song-and-dance numbers that are given enough airtime to unfold fully. It’s a more intense and at times more graphic cousin of Glee, which makes it no surprise that it comes from the Glee team of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk – this time collaborating with young New Yorker Steven Canals, who wrote the original script on which Pose is based. 

Like previous Murphy fictional productions, Pose features a large ensemble cast whose individual stories intersect in sometimes tense and difficult ways. 

The specter of AIDS/HIV, which cast a terrible shadow over this community, creates a thread that ensnares some characters and merely terrifies others. 

Several of the characters aren’t sympathetic in any traditional TV drama sense. They’ve been hardened by lives in which even a perception of weakness could be misconstrued as surrender.

Elektra quickly establishes herself as an imperious diva, with a quick and cutting tongue. Much of what she says, including some of the cruel parts, is all or mostly true. 

Blanca, a protégé of Elektra before she breaks off onto her own, feels a little more sympathetic and nurturing. She also turns into a very complex character, and she’s a star even when she’s not in the most striking costume. 

Meanwhile, the New York in which Pose unfolds is also becoming some of the things we see today. For the rich, personified by the corrupt, decadent, and successful Matt Bromley (James Van Der Beek, left), things are just starting to get very, very good. In one of the show’s less subtle incidentals, Matt works for the Trump Organization. 

Dreams at the other end of the economic ladder come in more modest forms, personified by Angel (Indya Moore). She’s an escort who sees herself someday as more than that and she operates accordingly. 

Like GleePose gives us characters in search of a place where they should and can belong. The paths to success – hard work, a driving vision – are no different for Damon than for Matt. The satisfaction of a caring family, one you can trust, remains more valuable than hedge funds. 

The nature of the Pose story, and sure, its flamboyance, probably limits its potential audience. But outsiders have a lot more in common than they realize. So do people.

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I'm really liking this show. The first episode was okay, but after the second one, I'm hooked. Hope it stays on for a while.
Jun 12, 2018   |  Reply
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