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Why Ryan Murphy’s ‘Pose’ is breaking boundaries for LGBT+ representation on television

For anyone who didn’t already know, Ryan Murphy has expanded his queer repertoire one step further from his hits such as American Horror Story and Glee by creating a new show populated by entirely LGBT characters entitled Pose. The show supports a cast of over 100 transgender actresses, the largest cast of trans actresses in television history and has also broken a record with the episode ‘Love is the Message’ directed by Janet Mock, the first trans woman of colour to direct an episode of television ever! Although why it’s taken this long for television producers to hire a trans director of colour is quite unbelievable.

Pose follows a group of queer individuals in 1980s New York as they struggle to make a living, the pilot episode opens with an extravagant introduction to the history of trans ball culture through the eyes of The House of Abundance that would make any Drag Race fan scream with joy; the similarities between Pose‘s ball scenes and RuPaul’s Runway are apparent as minutes into episode one, phrases such as ‘executive realness’ and ’10s across the board’ are thrown around like wildfire. The inspiration taken from documentaries such as Paris is Burning is obvious.

But Pose goes so much deeper than highlighting a history of ball culture in terms of its representation. The first being in its depiction of the 1980s AIDs epidemic. Pose‘s lead character Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) is diagnosed with AIDs early in the first episode, but by the second episode you’d be forgiven for forgetting this happened. Blanca is a character defined by so much more than her HIV status; she becomes driven to set up her own house, The House of Evangelista, and begins to take in those who need her help and act as their adopted mother whilst her new house competes in balls in order to overthrow her own cold-hearted mother Elektra (Dominique Jackson) –  who will read you to filth at a moments notice.

Blanca is a character defined by so much more than her HIV status

Blancas first adopted child is Angel (Indya Moore) – a street prostitute who begins a relationship with ‘straight’ white businessman Stan Bowes (Evan Peters) who is beginning his career at Trump Tower. The show expertly serves to contrast their two conflicting lives as their paths gradually begin to intertwine highlighting Stans ‘white privilege’ in contrast to Angels hard knock life whilst at the same time showing that a straight white lifestyle can also be a tight suffocating cage that Stan wants to break free from, as Stan says he is a nobody and his life is just a clone of every other middle class suburban lifestyle and that the only people who have any true sense of identity are those fighting to have their identity recognised.

Similarly gay relationships aren’t presented as deviant and hyper-sexualised as many shows such as Queer as Folk have done before. The relationship between Damon and Ricky, two more of Blancas children, doesn’t involve any overt erotic spectacle in order to draw in more audience interest. They refuse sex on the first date and wait until they are comfortable before making love and, furthermore, the sexual aspect of their relationship is never shown on screen. They never betray or break up with each other and Murphy depicts a truly loving same sex relationship that’s second only to Sense8‘s Nomi and Amanita.

Gay relationships aren’t presented as deviant and hyper-sexualised as many shows such as Queer as Folk have done before

The show goes even further by creating a dialogue about body image as various characters undergo procedures in order to look better so they can win more balls and Pose also follows narratives of intolerance as various characters’ families refuse to accept their identity.

But in all honestly to really understand the unbelievable depth of this television series then you have to watch it. The show has been extremely unpublicised in the UK considering its nature and is yet to secure a UK air date, but hopefully when next years Emmy nominations come around, the show will get the popularity and recognition it deserves. Until then, I recommend being one of the first to stream this incredible show before it explodes in popularity!

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