Top 10 Things Pose Got Factually Right & Wrong



Top 10 Things Pose Got Factually Right & Wrong

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Shaina Higgins
It's time to find out what "Pose" got right and wrong. Our countdown includes house names, ball culture, the museum heist, and more!

Top 10 Facts That Pose Got Right and Wrong

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Facts That Pose Got Right and Wrong.

For this list, we’ll be looking at where this groundbreaking series stuck to the facts and where they told the truth to sashay away.

What’s your favorite fact about “Pose?” Share it with us in the comments.

#10: House Names

“Pose” introduces us to a lot of aspects of New York’s LGBTQ+ subculture in the 1980s and ‘90s. This includes, of course, the Houses at the center of the show’s narrative. Sadly, neither House of Abundance, nor House of Evangelista were real houses on the scene. That said, they’re pretty close to some of the ones that were. In fact, there’s a lot of inspiration from House of Xtravaganza, which makes sense considering that Hector Xtravaganza, that house grandfather, was a consultant on the series. “Pose” is also accurate about the nature of these Houses. Not just performance organizations, they function as found family units for their members. This is an aspect particularly well represented on screen.

#9: Ball Culture

The various houses were part of the wider culture of the Drag Ball. “Pose” has gotten a lot of praise for its spot-on depiction of these events. The show was heavily influenced by the documentary “Paris is Burning,” which was an up close view of the Balls and the performers. Watching “Pose” it’s easy to see how committed they were to translating the true world of the film into the fictional small screen story. Right from the beginning we see the hallmarks of the ball in the competitive categories, the extravagant costumes, and the ferociously fabulous walks. Voguing, the signature dance style of the Balls, shows up frequently as well. The series does well in depicting the Ballroom as an arena for freedom of self expression.

#8: The Art of the Read

There’s something indescribably satisfying about watching someone unleash verbal savagery. It’s the reason that the act of Reading for Filth has broken into the mainstream. Its roots, however, run deep in the Ball scene. According to Vulture’s David Goldberg, “Drag queens and trans members of the community have long used the read as a means of expressing authenticity, asserting their place in the ranks, and proving that they won’t suffer fools.” “Pose” gives us a few epic examples of the read. These overwhelmingly come from Elektra at her most iconic. Watching her deliver utter verbal devastation is a master class in game. Which we can appreciate while we’re safely watching from our couches and not in the line of fire ourselves.

#7: Elektra’s Marie Antoinette Moment

“Pose” has produced some costuming worthy of its two Emmy nominations in the category. In season two, Elektra appeared in one especially jaw-dropping ensemble. This regal look wasn’t purely an invention of the show’s costume designers though. It’s actually based on a real life look rocked by House Xtravaganza in 1991. Given the house’s strong ties to the production of the series it’s not surprising that they would become style inspiration as well. Of course, the TV show would kick things up a few notches with the addition of the carousel feature. And of course, with the skit to accompany the outfit. Hey, what’s the point of a big platform if you can’t put on a big show, right?

#6: Hart Island

For all the fabulous extravagance of the ballrooms, “Pose” is also shaped around the confrontation of tough topics. In the second season the AIDS crisis gains more prominence in the plot. The first episode opens with Pray Tell and Blanca making a difficult trip to Hart Island. Located in the Long Island Sound just off the Bronx, the island was once a quarantine colony for tuberculosis patients before it became a burial site for unclaimed bodies in the 1980s. As the AIDS epidemic ramped up, New York sent the bodies of the victims there in droves. The show’s depiction of the site, including the numbered caskets marked only with UNK for Unknown, and the mass burial plot is a very realistic, and very sad one.

#5: AZT Accessibility

In an early scene of cold reality, the viewer goes with Blanca to receive a very important set of test results during the pilot episode. When she receives her answers they are crushing. The first season is set during 1987, when the AIDS epidemic was raging in the United States. However, the Reagan administration had never taken the crisis seriously, and resources were limited. It’s true that there were drugs that existed. The FDA approved the antiretroviral, AZT for usage in March of 1987. Unfortunately, access to that medication was a luxury and out of reach for most of the people who needed it. Somebody like Blanca probably would have fallen into that category.

#4: The Museum Heist

“Pose” initially brought us into the world of the characters with gleeful renegade energy. The first episode sees the House of Abundance descending on a museum in force. Their goal? To lift the historical fashion on display from the mannequins and bring it straight to the ballroom. It’s the kind of thing that seems too theatrical to be real, yet series creator Ryan Murphy insists it’s a true story. There’s no evidence beyond word of mouth to backup the assertion though. It could be true that museum officials squashed the story of the heist to avoid bad publicity. Or it could simply be a piece of cultural mythology. Either way, it makes for a memorable sequence.

#3: The Importance of Madonna’s “Vogue”

When the second season of “Pose” opens in 1990, it takes the opportunity to pay homage to Madonna’s classic “Vogue,” which had been released the same year. Beyond simply borrowing its title from the Ballroom dance staple, the video featured Voguing as well as some members of the Drag Ball community among the backup dancers. This was a huge moment for the LGBTQ+ community of the era. It was one of the first instances of queer culture breaking through into the mainstream and being celebrated. It was unfortunate, though not surprising, that the origins of “Vogue” would experience a lot of erasure. However, it was a big first step, and these days the song’s true legacy gets the acknowledgement it deserves.

#2: Large Scale Protection

One stand out moment from the second season comes as the our heroes go up against a bigoted landlord in the form of Patti Lupone’s Frederica Norman. They turn her home into the site of an Act Up protest when they wrap the house in giant...let’s just say protective layer. This moment is borrowed directly from real life. In 1991 Act Up targeted the Virginia residence of North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms in the exact same manner. Helms was a Conservative who fought against government assistance in the AIDS epidemic, and actively worked to create policy to further stigmatize the LGBTQ+ community. Frederica’s reach may have been on a more personal level than Helms’, but both were in need of a good sheathing.

#1: Act Up’s Die In
Right and Wrong

“Pose’s” association with Act Up took a prominent position from the beginning of Season 2 with their protest at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Called a Die In, the event is a real one, though the show fuzzes some of the details. For one thing, the real protest occurred in December of 1989, rather than in 1990. Both did take place during Cardinal John O’Connor’s Sunday morning mass. O’Connor had been an outspoken opponent of sex education, and the separation of Church and State was a central theme of the protest. It was much larger than Pose depicts, with hundreds of activists inside the cathedral and thousands outside. Like we see on screen, police removed protestors on stretchers, but their voices were much harder to silence.