We are far removed from the days of Good Times, The Cosby Show, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air being the go-to shows to experience the Black family dynamic. And although Black-ish has provided some great TV moments, many feel it isn’t enough the fill the void of multi-dimensional Black characters we need on television.
However, that’s only true for the narrow-minded that haven’t accepted the Black excellence that is POSE, a show that celebrates a Black family dynamic that has forever existed, but has been largely ignored.
POSE is a show highlighting the ballroom scene during the late 80’s at the rise of the HIV epidemic—a nod to the amazing 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. The show has a record-breaking number of trans and queer lead characters, including multiple Black and brown trans women such as MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson and Angelica Ross, just to name a few. The show also showcases Black and brown queer men like Billy Porter, Ryan Jamaal Swain, and Dylan Burnside, giving you full insight of the Black queer experience — or rather, the BLACK experience.
Homophobia and Transphobia are often the by-product of misogyny and all three have played a role in why folks are not watching POSE. The initial ratings were “modest” (fewer than one million viewers), and there was fear that the show would be canceled. While it has survived into a second season, POSE has unfortunately been typed casted as a “queer” show, constricting its resonance with the Black audience that has lifted Empire, Scandal, Insecure and countless other series to the tops of the ratings charts. Although the show is very queer, it is also a Black show, with Black characters who are relatable and exist in our everyday lives as well.
Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before POSE gains acceptance or even more so just acknowledgement from our community. The NAACP Image Awards decided to snub POSE in all acting and television categories. Not a single nomination for the PEABODY-winning, Golden Globe-nominated show that continues to literally snatch the wigs of everyone watching. It was a reminder that as far as Black community has come in understanding the LGBTQ existence, there are times where we are hesitant to have them in the room. That must change.
We have an issue in the Black community where we often times view those that live at marginalized intersections as less Black or a part of Blackness we can’t understand. So rather than see us and include us as part of the Black experience, folx will often reject us as something they must fight against out of fear of emasculation. In short, we don’t look like the image Black folks were taught to uphold, so we are ignored, or persecuted.
Colonization and assimilation into whiteness are where these images came from, and POSE is unapologetic about dismantling them. The notion of being a respectable negro is rejected with each dip and twirl on the ballroom floor. As many of us know, how we dress, act, or identify should not be determined by whiteness, nor should we be allowing ourselves to hate against queer culture — which is most definitely a part of Black culture.
Rather than reject Black folks who live outside of the norms of being heterosexual, we should be embracing them. Learning from those who are here as well as restoring the erased pasts of many of our queer ancestors who never had the opportunity to live as they are. POSE isn’t just one of the best shows on television, it is a change agent. This show, a Black show is doing like many other Black shows of its past and breaking every barrier, showcasing a brilliance about how deep Black culture truly runs. About how all families are just blood related, but that some are simply chosen for those who have been rejected by their own community. POSE shows another side of the Black experience. One that can help many learn and grow out the conditioning society has created that taught us to hate our own.
Blanca Evangelista is well on her way to being the iconic mother figure much like Florida Evan, Aunt Viv, and Claire Huxtables of our past. We would know that if we bothered to watch.
The second season of POSE FX debuts June 11th on FX.
George M. Johnson has joined BET Digital as guest editor for Pride Month. Look out for his weekly column and curation of editorials from queer Black writers this June. George is a writer, activist and columnist for Afropunk. His debut YA memoir, “All Boys Aren't Blue,” is set to be released April 28, 2020.
Photo: FX Networks