Pose: “Pilot” – Review

Pose airs Sundays, 9pm on FX.

By Sam Davis

Ryan Murphy’s latest show ‘Pose’ just debuted, and it just might be one of the most important premieres this year. Shedding a light on the trans ballroom scene during the 80’s, producer Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) tells a story that can be described as the shaping of the modern day transgender community.

Pose follows Blanca, played by MJ Rodriguez, a trans woman who sets off to become the “mother” of her own “house,” a group of LGBTQ+ people, brought together by their hardships and collective homelessness who compete in competitions called “balls.” Her first “child” is a young African-American gay teen named Damon, played by Ryan Jamaal Swain, who was recently kicked out of his parent’s house and is now living on a park bench, dancing for change. Blanca recognizes him as one of her own people and approaches him to offer him a better alternative than living by out of a knapsack. The pair grow their house and compete against the house Blanca walked out on, House Abundance, whose mother is portrayed by Dominique Jackson. They lose, but realize what they have is worth having and growing.

FX has another masterpiece on their hands, with a diverse cast of mostly unknowns, and almost completely comprised of LGBTQ actors. He has been masterful with portraying queer characters and culture I his previous works and seems to be the right fit for such an important story as this one. The main character has HIV, but that doesn’t become her defining character trait. That balance is quintessential, one of portraying a minority without it being their only identifier. The show also has some hilarious moments and masterful dance-offs, something that is big part of the ballroom scene. The ballroom culture is essentially a competition of posing and dancing and the show has some great choreographers. The first episode was an hour and a half long and had three dance scenes.

Some have criticized the show as giving straight white people a history lesson they don’t deserve. They fear they lending themselves to the opportunity the be exploited and misunderstood. But while that fear is understandable, you can’t get mad at people for not being worthy of knowing your history and be mad at them for not knowing it at all. The possible consequences are bad, but aren’t they better than ignorance? Not that this show should be the only frame of reference, considering black and brown LGBTQ+ people have been trying to educate the world about their community and culture for ages, despite attempts at being quieted, but what if this is the one people listen to?

This show has an important premise and promising cast. Already, one fan-favorite is Billy Porter as the resident host and godfather of the ballroom competitions, Pray Tell. Breaking the record for most trans actors in a TV show, all of whom are playing trans characters, Pose seems to be exactly what we need right now. This show isn’t going away any time soon.

I give Pose’s premiere an A.