Representation matters: ‘Pose’ gives LGBT+ people of color a voice
“Paris is Burning,” the famous 1990 documentary about New York City’s late-’80s ball culture, has been the subject of both praise and criticism over the years, the latter coming from the fact that the filmmaker was a cis white woman.
Despite Jennie Livingston’s being a part of the greater community (she’s an out lesbian), the ballroom was not her space, and critics argued she benefited off of the film’s success more than her subjects (many Black and Latinx queer and trans individuals who struggled with living below poverty level and homelessness).
Writer Steven Canals has written a television series, Pose, which is centered on the lives of the ball-goers of the 1980s similar in premise to Paris Is Burning.
The difference is that Canals is actually a member of the community that will be portrayed.
Canals, a self-described “Bronx born and raised, queer, Afro Latino,” first wrote the Pose pilot while attending UCLA’s MFA Screenwriting program in 2015.
“I’d spent years in and out of executive offices being told that this script was too niche and that there wasn't an audience for it, and ‘Where would a show like this live?’” he told critics.
The show, executive-produced by Ryan Murphy of American Horror Story fame, will be the first network show to include this amount of trans and queer people of color. Starring Ryan Jamaal Swain, Indya Moore, MJ Rodriguez, and Dominique Jackson who are all trans or queer actors of color.
Canals, who has also worked as a research assistant to Milk and When We Rise director Dustin Lance Black, said he felt lucky his script made it to Murphy’s desk.
“During that first meeting with Ryan, he just he got it,” Canals said. “He understood exactly why this story was important. And he had his own very personal reasons for wanting to tell it as well. And so it’s just been a really wonderful experience from the beginning, and to open up the door for this particular cast to be telling this story is pretty amazing.”
While Murphy might be the reason FX decided to give Pose, an atypical series compared to their otherwise non-Murphy-related line-up of shows like “Fargo,” “The Americans” or “Louie,” a shot, the end result would be disastrous, according to Huffington Post, were it not for Canals, writer Janet Mock, and other consultants familiar with their own culture having their hands in the soil of the show.
“I was constantly corrected by these wonderful people that I love,” Murphy said. ”‘We didn’t do it that way.’ And ‘You can’t do that that way. You just can’t do it that way.’ ‘We’re not going to,‘” he quoted his consultants. “So I was thrilled, you know. I don’t have a lot of people who tell me ‘no,’ and I was told no 50,000 times a day, and that’s what I wanted.”
And this time, the ones doing the labor are getting both compensated and credited for their work. Mock shared that while she engaged in very vulnerable and personal conversations in the writers’ room, she found that her stories helped to form storylines and characters that would otherwise be stereotypical or, worse, offensive.
“You see how these courageous conversations and these vulnerable conversations that we’re having with one another then show up in the scripts and on screen and really informs the way that we shape the show,” Mock says. “But then we have these incredible actors and actresses who come in and bring themselves to it, and there’s a whole new life to the way in which Indya plays Angel and Dominique plays Elektra and MJ plays Blanca. It’s a powerful process to see and to witness.”
Information was gathered from this article
The Gayly 1/13/2018 @8:13 p.m. CST