In “Pink Slip,” the penultimate episode of Pose‘s first season (which concluded last night), Stan (Evan Peters) tells his girlfriend Angel (Indya Moore) that he wants to come to a ball and see her life.
“You know what my life is like,” Stan says. “It’s boring. It’s stupid. Every movie, TV show, ad in a magazine shows you what my life is like. Only chance I’m gonna get of understanding your world is if you show me.”
It’s a lovely moment, as the two are falling into a vague sense of normalcy after a rough beginning, and Stan expressing such genuine interest in Angel’s life causes her to visibly light up. But it also doubles as clever self-awareness when it comes to Stan and Pose as a whole. Stan is a white man who can’t go five minutes without seeing his own life reflected back in media; Angel is a trans woman of color who, in all likelihood, has never seen a positive depiction of herself in media — if she’s seen any depiction at all. Pose understands this imbalance in representation. It’s why queer and trans people of color are at the forefront of the show while the white men (including Peters, James Van Der Beek, and Christopher Meloni) are relegated to the sidelines, so rarely there that I often forgot about them for long stretches of time while watching the show.
It’s the opposite of what we’re used to — majority straight and/or white casts with tokenized characters occasionally thrown in — and it’s part of what makes Pose, as many reviews pointed out, “remarkable” or “revolutionary.” For once, those words are right on the money, not just because of the cast (which features five trans actresses, boasting “the largest number of transgender actors in series regular roles for a scripted series“) but also because of the behind-the-scenes representation. Yes, even more remarkable is that Pose bucked the typical conventions of queer and trans narratives by spending its first season committed to showcasing joy, strength, and community over trauma and tragedy.