Lunar Popcorn

Lunar Popcorn: POSE, Ball Culture And The Fight Against AIDS

When we thought about the content calendar of December, we noticed there are many important dates that we could use for the themes.

In December starts a super important fight – today, December 1st, it’s celebrated the fight against AIDS day and, apart from being just another day for conciousness and prevention of DSTs, today is also for fighting the prejudice against HIV positive people.

Poster about the World AIDS Day (image source: healthy newborn network)

The prejudice with anything is harmful to the comunity of people to which the attack is destined – and, in the case of AIDS, it affects all society. Because of that, more and more people are afraid of how they’ll be treated from then on, they lack courage and support and don’t make the tests to check if they are positive, making the virus spread. Other people, already diagnosed, don’t do the treatments needed, that could extend their lives and guarantee a better quality of life.

Therefore, December 1st is the day for prevention, information on treatment and ending prejudice.

For today’s post, I, Hekate, bring to the lunar lands a series that is on my top five favourite series for life, and that shows how support, information, prevention and treatments are important to all society – and specially their carriers. Make yourself comfortable on your seat: the train to POSE is about to start its journey.

The Developers

The script is signed by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals – and, of course, all the experience of the society, specially the LGBTQIA+ community on the 80’s – POSE was released in June 3, 2018 by the channel FX and in September 28, 2019 on Netflix.

Ryan Murphy (image source: wikipedia)

Just by reading Ryan Murphy’s name singing as one of the writers, we can already imagine how good the plot is. The North American screenwriter, writer, producer and director, brings on his lugagge productions like Nip/Tuck 2003-2010, Glee 2009-2015, American Horror Story 2011-Currently, and the most recent Netflix success, Ratched, which is still under production.

He is known for his scripts that five space and talk about themes that put minorities and their fights, their pains and their causes in the spotlight. Winner of five golden globes and seven Emmys, he is openly gay and one of the most successful producers and creators on the United States – and with POSE, it wasn’t different.

Brad Falchuk (image source: wikipedia)

Partners at work since 2003when they worked together on the production and direction of Nip/TuckRyan Murphy and Brad Falchuk produced and wrote together other projects as well – many of them listed on Murphy’s career.

Of course, having Murphy’s and Falchuk’s name on the script already makes anyone who knows their work excited – and yes, we cannot leave aside how their participation was important for the series. But the most important credit has to be given to Steven Canals.

North American screenwriter and producer, he wrote POSE when he was still in college and, at first, only for himself. He had been enchanted for a long time with ball culture and, then, with the help of Murphy and Falchuk, he managed to get his narrative more fluid, accesible and in an universal tone – on which all people, not only those on the LGBTQIA+ community or, more specifically, those who were part of the balls, could understand and identify with the series proposal.

Steven Canals (image source: wikipedia)

But After All, What is POSE About?

Synopsis: “In 1987, in New York, Blanca, an attendant of LGBTQIA+ balls, takes in as children a talented dancer and a sex worker in love with a yuppie client”.

(The meaning of Yuppies is short for Young Urban Professional)

Series Trailer

The series synopsis already makes us curious of what we can find throughout the chapters; but, apart from that, while we get to know, connect and fall in love with each character and story, everything becomes more visceral – and, at the same time we want to watch and know more, we want to digest every fragment slowly, not wanting the end to come.

The series follows Blanca’s life, who is a transgender woman and always had the dream of having her own house and take in “children” to compete and be part of the LGBTQIA+ balls – which, back in the 80’s, were the places and one of the few moments the community found refuge and welcoming.

A safe place and moment, on which those people who lived apart from society managed, at least for a night, to feel better with themselves: to show with no inhibitions their true selves.

From left to right: Angel, Damon and Blanca (image source: netflix)

Blanca finds out she is HIV positiveand, amidst a society that didn’t care about the AIDS epidemics, she decides to make things differently with her life and the lives of other young people that, as her, one day were expelled from their homes, only because they were who they were.

The series talks about many important subjects from the 80’s to all LGBTQIA+ community, and one of those subjects is the AIDS outbreakthat, of course, didn’t only affect the community as well as the society in general – but how being LGBTQIA+ was to suffer apart from society, the virus affected them more drastically and fiercelly.

Waht made me more surprised on this plot is that the approach of the disease isn’t something that brings more prejudice and stigma to all community.

The series approaches the theme as the 1st of December keeps trying to all those years. It shows in a delicate and human manner the most difficult phase, which was the boom between the middle of the 80’s and start of the 90’s. And the weight, even painful, isn’t of a drama and delusion – au contraire: it shows in a positive way the fights for prevention, the power of support and courage of the diagnosis.

Being part of the LGBTQIA+ and HIV positive, back then, was as if someone signed a death sentence and, oftenly, of solitude and abandon, because of pure prejudice.

Watching to POSE, I, on my humble opinion, understood how support and going through this moment without the weight of prejudice on the person, makes that the life quality, as well as the courage to go forward with the treatment and assuming that new condition, got even better.

And today, with so many technologies and effective treatments, keeping an open mind and prevention is of utmost importance for the virus to stop spreading.

Blanca and Pray, on a scene of the first season (image source: draglicious)

The plot talks about many things besides the virus, like prostituition, in its great quantity among transgender and transvestites, to be able to make a living – nowadays it’s already difficult for trans men and women and transvestites to be on the labour market, can you imagine at the peak of a society mostly LGBTfobic on the 80’s!

It talks about as well how the community needed – and still needs – to be united on its own survival. When many were attacked, mistreated and expelled by those who should support and love them above all – their families – from their own houses.

It also talks about the diverse sexualities and sex change surgeries, the procedures made oftenly in clandestine manners by transgender women.

Angel, during a moment with a client (image source: blogspot)

The main theme is the Ball Culturenot very known here in Brazil – but that was very famous on the USA on the 80’s, beginning of the 90’s. The balls on the community are dated since the 60’s, but it was in the 80’s it became stronger and more popular. It began on the periphery on North America, by the community, as a escape, where they could be themselves.

Inspired on the documentary Paris is Burning, from 1990, POSE had Hector Xtravaganza80’s ball culture icon – consulting with the screenwriters; who, as they didn’t live it directly, wanted to have an active voice on the movement, so that the plot was faithful and represented those they wanted to represent.

Acclaimed by the critics – and with good reason – POSE is certainly one of my favourite series and you won’t regret not even a minute for watching it.

The Voice to Whom It Belongs To

Another thing I thought it was magnificent, was the fact that not only the plot tells the experiences of minorities from the LGBTQIA+ community, but the actors and personalities that lived those incredible characters, are part of the communitytransgender women, gay men, bisexual people and the cast also is mostly black and latin: only three white actors were part of the central team.

Cast of POSE on the launch party of the second season (image source: dragliciouz)

Not only on the cast, but on the production too: among the five screenwriters, counting with the already mentioned Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steve Canals, all cis men, two of them on the LGBTQIA+ community, counted with the presence of two transgender women: Janet Mock and Our Lady J.

Another fact thatmade me even happier with all this experience, was to know that Billy Porter, who interprets Pray Tellthe costume designer and personal friend of Blanca on the series – became the first openly gay man to win the Emmy on the Best Actor in a dramatic series category, for his work on the series POSE. A mark, not only for the fans of his production, but for all the community.

Billy Porter and his Emmy (image source: cmjornal)

It’s important to give name to the actressess who lived the most important characters of the plot – all of them transgender, occupying the place they belong: which is in front of the cameras, showing all their talent and representativity.

MJ Rodriguez, who plays Blanca, the main character, from where all other stories and experiences are told.

Indya Moore, on the role of Angel, one of Blanca’s daughters, who tried at all costs to be happy and treated as the woman she was, but who socially wasn’t treated as such just for being a trans woman.

Dominique Jackson as Elektra, mother of the House of Abundance, which was the house Blanca was a part of before creating her own house: a character with an important opint, giving attention to sexual redesignation: her dream on going through the proceedure and like many men – until today, unfortunately – only see trans women as a sexual and fantasy object.

Hailie Sahar giving life to Lulu, one of Elektra’s daughters, who after some things get together with Candy, lived by Angelica Ross, and create their own house, being co-mothers and participating on the balls as well.

I higlight those women, because – just like every other actor or actress from the LGBTQIA+ community – having them on a protagonist role gives hope and incentive to other trans men and women to fight for their dreams and get to all the places they desire to occupy as human beings on the current society.

Stay In The Loop:

Want to know more about the Ballroom culture? Watch the documentary that inspired the series!

The Documentary “Paris is Burning”, which inspired POSE

And, of course, watch POSE, with its first season available on Netflix! (Updated December/2020)

The second season hasn’t got to Brazil yet, but good news to all fans: the third season was already confirmed by FX, the broadcaster who owns the series!

Hi, I’m Gabriela, known better around here as Hekate. Born and Raised in São Paulo, double Scorpio, passionate about everything regarding pop culture and, sometimes, not so pop. Romantic Comedies, books by Sidney Sheldon, underground playlists and musicians, kpop and Corinthians are my biggest passions. Aspiring Chef and writer, lover of tea and hugs.