the FX series changed the trans representation without reveling in the sadness


Sunday evening, Pose, the FX series that follows the lives of trans women and black gay men during the height of the AIDS epidemic in New York City, will end. The show made visible the lives of one of America’s most marginalized groups, but at best, it was the big dreams of little people struggling to get by. Whether the dream is a curvy butt, a ballroom trophy, or a global career in modeling or dancing, Pose connects to the universal human impulse to struggle, to despair of failures and to work to overcome them. The show is also imbued with the certainty that in the end we all inevitably lose everything we achieve, but it never revels in sadness or loss.

There is a mirror quality to the way Pose lands with cisgender and transgender audiences. For mainstream viewers, the show humanizes the type of people who have been deprived of their humanity, allowing cisgender people the epiphany that, oh yeah, they are recognizable human beings with weaknesses, failures, sorrows and failures. human efforts. For trans viewers who already knew we were human, it uplifts our lives, showing us that our struggles and triumphs deserve to be on screen as well.

The series as a whole is an incredible accomplishment.

That sense of assertiveness is strongest with the most flawed and flawed characters, which is why the second season is the highlight of the series, and the final season is kind of a decrease from those heights. , although it is satisfying to see the characters we have grown to love finding happiness, wealth and / or love. At Pose, an irresponsible, crack-smoker stripper (Hailie Sahar’s Lulu) may aspire to go back to school and become an accountant, instead of being just a warning or a punchline. This rings true in the lives of trans people, which are full of weird juxtapositions, apparent contradictions, and fatal (or nearly fatal) flaws in our plans.

The absurd and the hilarious are another inescapable aspect of trans life which in Pose is given its due, especially in the scenes and subplots that revolve around ballroom culture. The series opens with my favorite of them: A daring museum heist, designed by Dominique Jackson’s iconic Elektra Abundance, wins at the House of Abundance a particularly extravagant royalty-themed costume set, but their triumph in the ball ends in handcuffs after the police stalk them. There is a lot of Pose sets that bring that same feeling of fantastic, over-the-top fun, which is why it always feels like it does a disservice to the show to tell people that these are queer people of color during the AIDS epidemic. While the presence of AIDS is felt everywhere, the times and places where characters flee and hide most effectively are those where they are most vibrant and alive.

HIV is no longer the death sentence it was in the 1980s, but trans life continues to be lived on the fringes. Stigma against trans people continues to lead to high rates of family rejection, homelessness, unemployment, violence, poor health and premature death. Perhaps this is why, in the season finale, the understandable impulse from the show’s creators to show off the positive and happy sides of trans life is abused. Several characters who have struggled with addiction have sudden redemptive arcs that felt a bit unwarranted, and at times the dialogue goes beyond serious and becomes an 80s movie-of-the-week style preacher. While it felt good to leave characters behind beloveds on a high note, it felt less good to feel them rushing towards happy endings at breakneck speed.

If the show had had a little more time, it arguably would have avoided this, but the unfortunate result is that the final season of Pose was the weakest of the three, with too much wish fulfillment and not enough mess. But the series as a whole is an incredible accomplishment. It is very specific while remaining accessible to the general public. It’s uplifting and ambitious while allowing its characters to struggle and fail. It’s fun and over the top and fantastic but also very human and real. It humanizes the poor people living with, and sometimes dying of AIDS, without ever being more about disease and death than about life. Its villains are trendy and fun, and given humanizing moments, its heroes are flawed, with the exception of Blanca, played by MJ Rodriguez, whose holiness is at least emphasized and mocked. While it focuses on trans women of color, there are characters from other backgrounds and experiences that have room to breathe, which makes the world the characters inhabit feel fully populated. It was wonderful to have a show that brought a diverse cast of transgender women into the limelight. I hope this is only the first of many shows to portray trans life in all of its various modes.

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