I began watching “POSE” on Netflix. Season 1 originally aired on FX, and Season 2 is about to begin on FX next month. I fell madly in love with this extraordinary series, although not interested in seeing it first. Yes, it is a dramatic love letter to the 80’s Latino ball culture from Ryan Murphy, who crafted Nip-Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story, and The Assassination of Gianni Versace. It was nominated for Best Television Series by the Golden Globes and the storytelling deserves it. It is crafted with love, heart, exuberance, bittersweet moments and honest truth about life (gay, trans or otherwise).
Set in 1987-88, the music Murphy chose is the soundtrack to my own young life. Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Grace Jones, Sheena Easton, Chaka Khan, The Weather Girls – the soundtrack alone gives me shivers. Episode 1 takes its time setting up the main characters and lets you discover who you’ll root for and who’ll you hiss at. Most recognizable, Evan Peters and Kate Mara (both from AHS) play a yuppie couple rising to power in the age of Trumpian excess. They are posing themselves, trying to fit into a world of haves over have-nots, succeeding at any cost, all the while appearing not to fit in very well at home. Peters continues to astound, as he has done in AHS every season. He alternates between voyeur, milquetoast, and maybe a Taxi Driver-wannabe. Listening to his kingpin boss (James Van Der Beek) on how to achieve success in business and in bed, he begins a secret, forbidden love affair with Angel, a trans-street walker. Not sure how that will turn out yet, but he’s so great at making us feel his emotions, it’s hard to take your eyes off him.
Front and center is the brightly lit, majestically bedecked cast who live for the ball culture world. I was fascinated to learn that trans-people were (are) not accepted by their gay brothers (and sisters) and created the balls as a way to perform, walk the catwalk to much applause/acclaim and have a place to fit in, feel safe and at home. Don’t we all long for such a magic world? Elekatra (Dominique Jackson) is the Alexis Carrington of this world, self-proclaimed mother of House of Abundance. She has the swagger of Grace Jones and I already can’t wait to see her downfall (if that should happen). Jump back Queen Cersei! This Dragon Lady has claws.
Her rival, is Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) who founds her own house (of Evangelista, Ha!) at the same time she receives life-shattering news. Not only trans, but also HIV positive, she does not let her housemates know. She takes in a homeless, gay dancer (Ryan Jamaal Swain) who leaves us speechless after a dance scene plucked right out of Flashdance. She also plays mother to Angel (Indya Moore), who secretly hopes her love affair (with Evan Peters) will take her away from the slums. Maybe dreams really do come true… stay tuned…
Billy Porter (AHS: Apocalypse, Kinky Boots the Musical) was also nominated for a Golden Globe – as the emcee of the balls in New York. I have to say, this is perhaps the best series Ryan Murphy has written, and his best cast of actors in a long, long while. No other show has cast so many gay/trans actors in lead roles. 15 minutes in, I thought to myself, the trans characters ARE women, and suddenly forgot I was watching a make-believe kingdom for them to feel accepted in. As an audience, we simply accept them as women who have lives, loves, hopes, dreams, setbacks, challenges, just like all the rest of us on this planet. Any series that can broadcast such a message, gets my highest award! Thrilled to watch more. “You better work!” (5 stars, after only 2 episodes.)