Pose and the evolution of the representation of drag culture

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

By Herschel Mackelina

We’ve certainly come a long way when it comes to LGBTQI+ representation in the media, especially with the now widely popular media commercialisation of drag culture. Nothing screams queer and gender non-conforming representation quite like the sensational new hit TV series Pose, which has bagged two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Drama series and Lead Actor in a Drama series for Billy Porter's scene stealing work on the show this past season. Created by the dynamic duo Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuck (who you’ll most probably know for shows like Glee and American Horror Stories), Pose chronicles the life stories of several queer characters of colour. The characters are modeled around the very much real stories of actual LGBTQI+ members in the 80’s at the height and splendour of the ballroom culture.

Not everything that glitters is gold. Pose gives an insight into the troubled lives of those within the LGBTQI+ drag community. Photo Credit: Pinterest

Drag culture, originally not understood by the masses at the time, was the heart and soul of Black and Latino queer communities who would compete for recognition and titles in various categories, when the outside world was not accepting of their lifestyle’s. The cult classic documentary Paris is Burning (1990), which serves as a reference for Pose, remains a timeless and invaluable remnant of an era once considered to be the Golden Age of Drag Balls where queer people of colour who were considered outcasts of society and thrown out of their homes could escape and find refuge in the underground club scenes of New York. It was in these elaborate balls where the gay and transgender community could gather in a space free from hate, violence and persecution and be their true selves in a show of fierceness and flamboyance. The drag scene also served as an escapism of sorts to flee the harsh realities of racism, poverty, homophobia and AIDS.

Television and film has certainly come a long way in terms of queer representation and inclusivity. Men who boldly and confidently embody women, expressing femininity not only in the clothes they wear or their exaggerated make-up, but in character and personality too – has been raising eyebrows for the longest time and continues to do so till this day. Gay people have always been depicted as being overtly sexual, perverted and morally corrupt in mainstream media which accounted for much of the negative stereotypes held by many. Never before has the need for telling queer stories been more important than now, especially stories about queer people of colour. The mainstream success of Pose has been trailblazing in promoting a culture of acceptance and understanding. Its obviously clear that an audience to hear queer stories exists, and an historic Emmy win for Pose at the 71st annual Prime time Emmy awards is a win for all!

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