Guest Review: Pose - Season 1
Words by Vidal D'costa
'Pose' invites viewers into the world of the rich and the poor, the have and the have-nots and, of course, the cut-throat world of competitive pageants or balls as they're better known.
In the first season of this must-watch show, we meet characters like Angel, a trans person trying to eke out a living on her own as a sex worker, and the heterosexual married family man Stan Bowes who ekes out a living trying to kiss up to his peers at the Trump Tower at lavish parties. He is secretly fascinated by Angel's freedom to not have to impress everyone she meets without understanding that even her life is hardly a cakewalk. Then there's Blanca, a trans woman and the mother of House of Evangelista who wants to rise against discrimination, move out of the shadows and leave her mark at the balls where ostracised people like her stand out (and even stand off in highly competitive pageants). Facing off against her is her former house-mother of the House of Abundance, the haughty Elektra Wintour, who turns up her nose at her.
Set in the 80s, 'Pose' doesn't just bring to the table the nostalgia of that decade, as well as its foot tapping music, its camp and flair, but also addresses racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and discrimination not only from people who aren't part of the LGBTQIA+ community but also within the community itself especially in scenes such as when Blanca is thrown out of a gay bar (apparently, it's meant exclusively for cis gay men) by the macho bartender who sternly refuses to serve her, accept her, and even misgenders her. Even the customers and authorities join in on ostracising her even though she has every right to drink there. It also shines the spotlight on members of the community who live in fear of catching the dreaded virus (HIV) and being ostracised by their own families due to prevailing homophobia.
Pose is also a win in the costumes department, with some of the outfits showcased by the ball contestants being nothing short of jaw-dropping (see below - click to enlarge).
The performances are as believable as they come, with Dominique Jackson knocking it out of the park as the shade throwing, extravagant and often thieving from museums house-mother Elektra Wintour. She gets snootier with each episode and I love the commandeering attitude she brings to Elektra who rules the roost with an iron fist and who can be rather self-absorbed when it comes to winning at any cost.
Billy Porter fits the bill as Pray Tell, the shade throwing MC of the ball (and believe me, there's a lot of shade throwing). He gets some of the sassiest lines and him calling the contestants out on their cheating ways (cough, padding their derrieres) had me in splits. But he's also quite the revelation in the tearjerker moments.
But the standout for me is Mj Rodriguez as Blanca, mother of The House of Evangelista who will do anything for her 'kids' to better their lives as well as her own so they can all be independent and less oppressed. She does so with grace and class unlike her ex-mentor Elektra and this makes her even more likeable.
Kate Mara and Evan Peters hold the fort as Stan and Patty Bowes, a heterosexual couple, and despite their limited screen time their characters are essential in order to understand the negative impact of the lack of education and misinformation that was being spewed by the media, by politicians and even in the medical field about the LGBTQIA+ community and about STDs at the time (or even nowadays). I liked the diverse range of characters and the writing that went into fleshing them out as well.
'Pose' may be heartbreaking at times, but is also such a heartwarming show and watching the House of Evangelista sticking together through thick and thin, for better or worse, is absolutely empowering. Above all, this is a show that is a great, much-needed reminder for all of us in today's troubling times, to remind us that 'kindness doesn't cost a thing'.
P.S. Pappi is the sweetest drug dealer with a heart of gold and gets his share of witty one liners as well and I hope to root for him and his fam in season 2 as well.
The author of this Guest Post, Vidal D'costa, is a self-published author in sci-fi and romance on Amazon, a blogger and aspiring screenwriter. Vidal also writes content for food, lifestyle and travel blogs as well as being a movie buff and film critic for The Movie Buff and The Movie Boozer.