“Paris Is Burning” is a documentary from 1990 that gave the world its first glimpse into the world of Balls, house mothers, and vogueing. Most people’s knowledge of drag, vogueing, and lip syncing comes from “Rupaul’s Drag Race”, but many are unaware of where all of our signature finger-wagging and “Yass Queen” catch phrases originated. If documentaries aren't your thing, now you have the opportunity to see where it all began with Ryan Murphy’s new FX show “Pose”.
“Pose” is set in New York City in 1987, the pinnacle time period of the AIDS outbreak, Madonna, and the infamous Ball scene. A “Ball” is a gathering of people coming together to compete in different categories for trophies and praise beyond compare. People of the streets are given the opportunity to live their best fantasy at the ball. Whether it’s executive realness, military realness, or royalty eleganza. It gives anyone the chance to present yourself as the CEO of a company, a military officer, or a queen, then each category is judged and winners are announced and crowned.
A lot of the acting in the opening scene can come off as “overacting”, but a lot of legendary housemothers from the ball scene, such as Crystal Labeija, always spoke in an outlandish, over exaggerated way to appear entitled and regal. So if you can get past the opening scene, you start to get into the real meat and heart of the show.
All the topics “Pose” touches on are important aspects of the LGBT community’s history. The AIDS epidemic, homeless gay youth, transphobia, and racism. “Pose” shows the real-life heartbreak that comes from a teenager being kicked out of their home by their parents simply for being gay, the fear that comes with an HIV diagnosis in a time with so little information about the disease, and the struggle of being a black trans woman in modern day America. It opens conversations about topics and issues that many are unaware of that go on around us and hopefully helps educate people about being more kind to one another. The way the show displays these issues makes it easy to digest but still gives you a serious look into the real-life struggles that so many had to face in that time period.
I love how much of the Balls you get to see. The costumes, presentations, and music really show the pure fantasy the ball scene was for everyone. It was an escape from the struggles on the street, and the realities that everyone had to face in their daily lives. I will say that I wish some of the “dancers” were stronger performers, but there weren't many trained dancers in the ball scene, so I understand it wouldn't be authentic to cast ballet dancers and have them vogue. As a dancer myself, I cried during the final scene. The way it feels to dance and just escape reality, forget everything, and just move your body is truly captured in this scene. I had goosebumps.
Overall, “Pose” is a colorful, exciting, and informative show about inner New York City’s Ball and vogue culture that inspired the likes of Madonna, RuPaul, and modern pop culture. The show follows multiple storylines so it always stays interesting, and gives you a look into each character's backstory and what brought them all together in the infamous ball scene. I can’t wait to see how Ryan Murphy unpacks the real-life struggles that faced these characters that so many can relate to, and of course, all the twirling, voguing and serving face at the balls.
Pose was co-created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals, with Murphy directing the first two episodes. The series is executive produced by Murphy, Falchuk, Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson, Alexis Martin Woodall and Sherry Marsh. Canals and Silas Howard serve as co-executive producers, and Janet Mock, Our Lady J and Erica Kay also serve as producers. The eight-episode first season is produced by Fox 21 Television Studios and FX Productions.