“Blood does not family make. Those are relatives. Family are those with whom you share your good, bad, and ugly, and still love one another in the end. Those are the ones you select”. This quote from the late Hector Xtravaganza, icon of voguing and LGBTQ+ activist, perfectly sums up everything the series ‘Pose‘ (2018-2021) aims and, in its three seasons, has managed to show: a deserved recognition of the underground ballroom culture, a family drama where a group of people marginalized by society come together to form their own home and a celebration of life from diversity and difference.
In parts, voguing is a form of expression that combines fashion shows and dance-offs emerging in the United States within the Afro-descendant and Latino queer communities as a response to exclusion. These glamorous pageants offered their contestants, mostly transgender or gay, the chance to make their dreams come true. If you don’t believe me, the fantastic categories in which they compete: best female body for a copycat, natural beauty, French Revolution, businessman, military parade or just show off.
Although its origins date back to the 1920s, the true explosion occurred in the New York of the 1980s, the time when the first season of ‘Pose‘ is set. The prolific Ryan Murphy, creator of series such as ‘American Horror Story’ and ‘American Crime Story’, immerses viewers in this fascinating world through a family drama where the protagonists are a young gay man disowned by his parents who dreams of becoming a dance star, a transsexual woman who has just received a devastating HIV diagnosis and another trans woman who works as a prostitute. That is, a trio of people disowned by the system who create their own family in one of the Houses where they sheltered and where these ball culture scene played out.
From there, the series addresses the AIDS crisis, a plague governments denied, and which forces the group to organize and fight for their rights. As becomes clear in season two, this activism gives voguing a new layer of political vindication without ever renouncing its playful spirit. Because each and every episode of ‘Pose‘ recreates these amazing parties and their many references: from the poses, hence the title of the series, fashion magazines, imaginary elitist world of modeling and haute couture, to Egyptian hieroglyphs, Asian martial arts, Afrofuturism, ballet and break dancing.
As any melodrama worth its salt, the series holds no bars when it comes to playing on the emotions of audiences to make them empathize with the future of its characters, whose lives navigate between the choppy waters of these inspiring (and often fiercely fought) competitions and the scores of funerals of friends who have fallen victim to AIDS. Along the way, they try to empower themselves, carving a niche in the professional world as dancers, models or manicurists. They find love and acknowledge they have the right to enjoy it. But they also suffer rejection, hatred and violence.
Although it can sometimes err on the side of the tear-jerker, ‘Pose‘ provides a respectful and integral reflection on a minority culture that became mainstream thanks, in large part, to Madonna’s appropriation. One of the FX show’s strong points and worth mentioning is that the writers room, production and direction teams feature several trans talents, and that’s just behind the cameras, as well as some voguing icons. But on screen, we have the largest trans cast in the history of American television with actors MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Hailie Sahar and Angelica Ross as protagonists.
On May 3, HBO Spain premieres the third and final season of ‘Pose’, a final touch that promises to bring the curtains down on this tale of love, family and resilience, in style. “It’s us finally allowing our characters to explore what it means to have all of the things that they very clearly stated in the first season that they wanted.” Steven Canals, co-creator of the fiction with Murphy, told Variety magazine. The farewell, like the entire series, seems as bittersweet as it is optimistic in this ode to everyone’s right, regardless of race, class, gender, identity or sexual orientation, to live free and equal.