Premiering in June 2018- Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals’ ‘Pose’ became a monumental piece of media for LGBTQ+ representation both on and off the screen. Its historic impact on so many communities deserves more than just this piece- but this piece will delve into the outstanding legacy left by the series.
Firstly, the show broke records by featuring the largest number of trans actors in regular roles in TV history and centring the narrative around Black, Afro-Latino and Latino trans and queer people- groups who birthed and grew ballroom culture of the 80s and 90s. Moreover, the show explores very real, devastating issues such as the AIDS crisis- doubling the number of HIV- positive characters seen on TV in 2018- 2019.
GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis praised the show for its portrayal and important representation of these communities in an interview with Variety, stating that it’s “one of those pieces of content that takes the people that the stories are being told about and puts them in the storytelling position as well”. This is key for the trans community, which historically has a “much higher rate of unemployment”. Furthermore, the creative and storytelling team had many artists from within the ballroom community involved- helping give light on ballroom to a wider audience and show how ballroom (such an important part of queer history) isn’t just for entertainment, but “it’s actually the epicentre for healing folks and a place for folks discovering themselves.
It’s this space to cultivate resilience within the community” says the show’s ballroom coordinator Jonovia Chase. Evidently, the series shines a spotlight on the experiences of being a trans/queer person of colour- not being afraid to tackle difficult issues like bigotry, discrimination and violence whilst also providing a celebration of identity, culture and queer history.
The show’s success grew further and broke records for trans and queer people of colour in awards nominations and wins. Michaela Jaé Rodriguez became the first transgender woman in history to win a golden globe award for her role of
Blanca (a trans woman with HIV/AIDS who is the mother of the house of Evangelista).
Moreover, actor Billy porter became the first openly gay black man to be nominated for and win a Primetime Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. With Rodrigues also becoming the first trans lead to be nominated for outstanding lead actor at the Emmy awards- it is clear that Pose was so important in creating a celebration and showcase of LGBTQ+ talent.
Whilst maybe not directly related, it is important to acknowledge the recent increase in trans representation in media after Pose began. Just one notable example is “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 14- in which there were 5 trans contestants competing. In one episode, the show aired contestant Jasmine Kennedie coming out as a trans woman and in an interview with NBC, she says “I get messages daily from a parent, a mother, anybody that is dealing under the trans umbrella, whether it be someone who is trans or related to them.”. It's clear now that, with shows like Pose having such a significant impact on the media world, there is more of an understanding and acceptance that different stories need to be told and celebrated.
Although the series reached its conclusion in June of 2021, its ground-breaking legacy will remain for years to come. After laying many foundations in terms of historic wins and nominations in awards season and amplifying representation of Trans and Queer people of colour on mainstream television- I hope will inspire future LGBTQ+ creatives to continue creating/telling important stories for generations.
With events in the USA like the Club Q shooting in November 2022 and the vile rhetoric of hate and aggression from the GOP and the far right (including the ever- increasing numbers of anti-trans bills being introduced in state houses each year), it is imperative that we need shows like Pose continue making history - celebrating, and most importantly educating audiences about the LGBTQ+ community.
Published Online: 26/02/2023