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‘Pose’: Subculture representation done right (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

How to properly involve people from the community you’re portraying

Theodore Heim, Staff Reporter Originally published June 11, 2021



“Pose” is a captivating FX drama series about the ballroom scene; a beacon for the LGBTQ+ community of 1980s New York City. The show puts a face to a mostly-untold story of the LGBTQ+ people of color living through the HIV outbreak, the popularization of “vogue” (dance originated in the ballroom scene), and the increasing violence rates towards their community.

In the ballroom scene, competitions with many categories like voguing, runway and beauty are held. Gay and transgender (trans) people of color found a haven at balls, where they could express their creativity freely. 

Many LGBTQ+ kids were kicked out and left homeless, but within the ballroom community could find their chosen family, called a “House.” 

The show follows Blanca (MJ Rodriguez), a trans woman starting her own ballroom house after she finds out that she is positive for HIV. She recruits three new house members, founding the House of Evangelista.

While the characters of the show are spending their nights preparing and attending spectacular balls, the HIV outbreak is quietly taking the lives of many and instilling fear into the whole community. Blanca decides to keep her status from her house, and lives the rest of the show without knowing how long she has left.

Even though “Pose” is a drama, a lot of these scenarios are very much real. It’s what makes the series so powerful, most of these storylines aren’t heavily embellished.

The writers for “Pose” also showed a dedication to the story when casting personalities of the ballroom community, especially trans women of color. It’s no surprise that producers Janet Mock and Our Lady J helped to write and direct some of the most impactful episodes.

Elektra Abundance is one of the most significant characters of the show, because of her sharp wit and glamorous presence. She is played by ballroom legend, Dominique Jackson. 

Mock and Our Lady J write one of her most satisfying scenes, where Elektra and her friends are asked to leave a restaurant by an entitled white woman. 

Elektra decides to verbally tear her apart; “We fought for our place at this table, and that has made us stronger than you will ever be. Now pick your jaw up off the floor, go back to your clam chowder and shallow conversations.” 

It’s definitely worth searching up this scene even without watching the show. Watching Elektra tear a fragile Karen apart is extremely satisfying.

Lead director Ryan Murphy and writer Mock co-wrote the episode where a primary character is murdered, Candy (Angelica Ross). Candy is an outspoken character that wants to change things for her community. 

She is killed in a motel, and forgotten about for a few days. Her friends realize something is wrong, and they go to the motel to find her themselves.

Possibly the saddest episode of “Pose”, the show forces the viewer to deal with her death very abruptly. What might seem like just a surprise murder story, is actually a very sad reality carefully retold by Murphy and Mock.

“Pose” is written by and for trans people. In an interview with lead actresses MJ Rodriguez and Indya Moore, Rodriguez breaks down the problem with cisgender actors playing trans roles. 

“If [playing a trans role] is a way of challenging yourself as an actor, then I think you should let us challenge and play some cis roles,” Rodrigeuz said.

 When a community is underrepresented, it is easily ignored. “Pose” is so important as a show because it can make people empathize with a demographic that needs to be heard, while also being very entertaining.

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‘Pose’: Subculture representation done right (CONTAINS SPOILERS)