The drag ball-themed FX drama “Pose” aired its first episode last night, and the series is already getting high marks, including a 92 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Writing for NPR, Eric Deggans noted that “On one level, the show is a detailed exploration of how drag performers, some of whom are transgender, created their own percolating club scene when they weren’t welcome anywhere else. … But on another level, Pose offers a more universal story about a group of rejected, shunned people who build new families for themselves, replacing the blood relatives who so often let them down.”
Even before airing, the show became famous for featuring the most trans series regular actors of any major network television show.
As The Advocate put it, “Bucking the norm, trans women will be portrayed by trans women, with transgender producers like Janet Mock and Our Lady J also working behind the scenes to make these stories authentic.”
“Pose” is co-created by longtime TV producer Ryan Murphy (creator of “Nip/Tuck,” “Glee,” and “American Horror Story”), Brad Falchuk (a longtime Murphy collaborator) and Steven Canals, an out Afro-Latinx queer writer who drew the concept from his own life.
In an interview with Variety, Canals discussed growing up in the Bronx in the Eighties. Canals’ life was affected by the HIV/AIDs outbreak and the crack epidemic, driving the writer to tell the story of the people who went through “those two epidemics.”
“Specifically,” Canals said, “with the ballroom community, my first interaction with the ballroom community came in my early-20s, but I wasn’t out. And the thing that was so incredible and the thing that moved me so deeply was that both of my parents were raised in Harlem. And so the Harlem balls were happening right around the corner from where they grew up, and yet I never knew about this incredible LGBTQ subculture.”
The cast echoed Canals’ words, including Dominique Jackson (Elektra), Indya Moore (Angel), MJ Rodriguez (Blanca), and Ryan Jamaal Swain (Damon).
“Pose” is primarily set in 1987 New York, the dawn of the Trump Era, in the thick of the hedonistic go-go Eighties. The show focuses and diverse swathes of city life, including glimpses of the literary and social scenes.
Most of all, however, the show focuses on the world of ball culture. Ball culture, also known as the house system, is the name for a competitive underground LGBT subculture where contestants compete through dancing or drag performance.
Participating individuals usually claim allegiance to a particular performance group, or “house.” The community is largely comprised of Latinx or African-American queer youth.
“Pose” will be Murphy’s final series for the FX network. According to NBC News, the series promises to be “the best network family drama of 2018,” perhaps “even the best to hit airwaves since ‘This Is Us’ premiered at the end of 2015.”