Pose continues to feel more intimate than a series with twice as many seasons through its third and final season. In the final seven episodes, the writers of Pose have delicately balanced a story that offers more insight into the circumstances that shaped the resilience of Blanca’s (MJ Rodriguez) family members and the events that brought them together, with the effects of extreme loss through the height of the AIDS epidemic. It also balances a vision of Trans and Queer representation that finds our beloved Pose characters thriving in a world that seeks to erase their existence, all while continuing its focus on Ballroom culture in the 80s and 90s. This season is overflowing with emotion through legacy, sacrifice, triumph, and hope.
Season three of Pose cements the legacy of Blanca’s family and the legacy of Pose itself. As this groundbreaking series comes to an end, what are we left with besides wanting more? A legacy of family, resilience, and love, as creator Steven Canals shares, “I, along with my incredible collaborators, never intended on changing the television landscape, I simply wanted to tell an honest story about family, resilience, and love.” In bringing this honest story to life with unparalleled authenticity, the creators of Pose have given us much more than a transformed television landscape. They have given us hope.
SHORT RUN. ETERNAL LEGACY. ‘POSE’ IS TRULY FEARLESS.
Pose premiered May 17, 2018, with the same energy and chemistry in its first episode that most TV shows only reach in their second seasons. From that first episode, this family has made viewers feel welcome and seen, much like the show’s characters are welcomed into the families of Ballroom.
Despite its short run, the creators, writers, and cast of Pose have gifted us with authentic stories and performances that convey a wide range of experiences within the LGBTQ+ community, and more specifically, the vastly diverse experiences of transgender people, both on-screen and off.
Pose has made television history and earned groundbreaking status, most significantly in featuring the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles and the largest cast of recurring LGBTQ actors for a scripted series. Pose has featured nearly 300 Trans cast and crew throughout its three seasons and about 100 LGBTQ characters. The fearless, original FX series has also given us many other historic firsts, including Billy Porter’s win in the Emmy’s Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category, making him the first openly gay man to receive the award. Janet Mock became the first transgender woman of color hired as a writer on a television series and the first to write and direct a TV episode. And Steven Canals became the first Afro-Latino gay man to create an Emmy-nominated series.
The legacy of Pose will continue to teach us to all to challenge our assumptions of identity and the limitations of tradition, to break free from the rules of society that we inherit, and to work towards creating a world where everyone feels seen, respected, and accepted. Pose has paved a path and opened doors for radical change through its success.
A DEEPER LOVE IN SEASON THREE. LEGACY, SACRIFICE, & TRIUMPH
“Is this about your legacy?” asks Elektra (Dominique Jackson) in the trailer for season three.
“No, it’s about our legacy,” replies Blanca.
Bringing us to 1994, the height of the AIDS epidemic, season three of Pose hones in on resilience, revelation, and reinvention. We find Blanca embracing her new role as a nurse’s aide while balancing the pressures of new love and being a mother to a legendary ballroom house. Resilience shines in other leading characters as they face their own unexpected battles in relationships, health, business, and personal growth.
Scattered throughout the season are revelations of what made our favorite leading characters so resilient. We see the struggles they faced in accepting their truths and sharing those truths with their birth families. Season three also reveals how this family came together; the origins of the House of Abundance and their first walk. This season expands upon the mainstream stories of coming out, which have, until now, mostly centered cisgender white Queer characters. Through this season, society gains colorful stories about the intersectionality of culture, race, religion, gender, and sexuality through the stories of Black and Brown Trans and Queer characters with depth.
Season three of Pose is an intricate tapestry of history, love, and vision, shinning a focused light on positive Trans and Queer representation in media. While past seasons bring to light the struggles, discrimination, and erasure Trans and Nonbinary people face in the world, this season focuses that light on reinvention and triumph. We see the heroes and heroines of Pose thriving in life—we see what happens after Trans and Queer people overcome those hurdles to find success. As Canals puts it, “It’s us finally allowing our characters to explore what it means to have all of the things that they very clearly stated in the first season that they wanted.”
Bringing us back to Ballroom, where the balls have been reinvented with “cash prizes and tacky lip-syncs,” as Pray Tell says in the trailer, House Evangelista’s absence from the scene allows an emerging, vicious House of Kahn to contest their legacy. Will they be able to come together and maintain their title?
BEYOND POSE. HOPE.
It’s hard to ignore Sex and The City (SATC) allusions in several visuals throughout Pose. Especially in season three, I found myself wanting to compare the women of both shows. Before I allowed myself to think of assigning the women of Pose to a SATC type, I considered that perhaps the women of Pose set the stage for the women of SATC to thrive.
At its core, Pose is a gender-expansive story of womanhood, depicting the unique experiences of transgender women while highlighting experiences shared by all women. Pose visually and vocally exemplifies that Trans Women are Women.
When I watch Pose, I see in Blanca, Elektra, Angel, Lulu, and more Trans characters the strength, resilience, and determination of all women. What I think Pose does beautifully is, remind us that when we talk about our experiences, modifiers like transgender and cisgender help us expand upon our shared identities to describe how our unique experiences differ. As writer, director, and co-executive producer Janet Mock said, “Trans people are who they say they are, so what we’re fighting for is a world where Trans people are accepted and seen.”
Throughout the series, we see these characters fighting to be seen for who they are as the women of Pose fight presumptions of what womanhood looks and sounds like. The show does not aim to redefine womanhood but instead offers an expansive view of womanhood. And while the show does not focus much on the experiences of Trans men, it provides a path for an expansive view of manhood as well. It teaches us to look forward, not to the past, with regard to the characteristics of gender, sex, and sexuality. It prepares us to accept the differences we don’t expect in the identities we share with each other. And it teaches us not to think in absolute terms.
With this understanding, the allusions to SATC make sense to me. Although it has problematic language, depictions, and portrayals of Trans and Queer characters, SATC was groundbreaking with how it depicted women on screen through the conversations and experiences of its leading ladies. Leading to, or at least aiding in, a sexual liberation movement for women globally, which allowed them to talk about anything and everything without shame. Similarly, Pose builds upon this expansive view of womanhood while reminding us that the women of SATC gained in their liberation, in large part, through the efforts of Trans women before them. Today, Pose leads and aids in the modern gender liberation movement.
Pose has accomplished to depict a broad, multifaceted, and detailed portrayal of Trans and Queer people in three short seasons. One that endures because, while set in the 80s and 90s, it still holds true to many of the experiences of Trans and Queer people today. And sadly, one that will resonate for years to come as we continue to fight for equality, respect, and dignity.
In a word, Pose is resilience. “We rose from the bottom, and we became stars,” says Blanca. The LGBTQ community perseveres despite every obstacle; we survive despite every attack, we thrive despite daily discrimination. The ultimate lesson, for me at least, is never to give up.
WHEN DOES POSE SEASON 3 PREMIERE?
Pose returns with a two-episode debut of Season Three on May 2 at 10 pm ET, only on FX. The season continues with weekly chapters each Sunday. And the finale airs on June 6 with an extended 90-minute episode.