Nº 283


Text: Anton Rahlwes

Translation: Emily J. McGuffin

The extravagantly produced Netflix Originals series “Pose” is set in 1980s New York. White suburbanites pour into the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

Their gold and marble lobbies are the deployment zone for businessmen in their double-breasted suits as they unscrupulously scramble their way to the top of the social ladder. They are living the American Dream. Meanwhile their wives, with their flawlessly coiffed hair, languish in their lavishly furnished homes, visibly becoming more and more lonely.


As the story unfolds, it becomes clear how rigorous the visual parameters are in the value cosmos of the ballrooms. Symbols of true femininity are held to be a voluptuous bust, a narrow waist and a large behind. If you don’t have these features, you can forget about even trying to compete in the “Femme Queen Realness” category. From today’s point of view, this creates a vicious circle, since the unambiguous assignment of female and male physical appearance attributes has long been recognised as a factor in the dynamics of discrimination. Nevertheless, “Pose” splendidly manages to address this theme with elegance and yet with poignancy. Blanca, the main character and leading figure of the series, sits herself unabashed down in a gay bar in one episode and is initially asked by the purely male-looking community to leave, and later, when she refuses, is forcibly removed from the premises.

How much society evaluates someone exclusively on the basis of their exterior and how much individuals suffer from this is magnificently depicted in. The series offers insight into a community of outcasts with whom most people will never come in contact in their everyday lives. Access to this world is only sought and found by the people who depend on it. “Pose” raises many important issues. In addition to trans- and homosexuality as well as discrimination, it also engages with other social circumstances and influences of the recent past. For example, the AIDS epidemic, which emerged in the 1980s, is repeatedly touched on – and the victims of this are often vilified as being “justifiably punished by God” by mainstream society even to this day.

“Pose” is emphatic and intelligent, a series that inspires the viewers to broaden their horizon, to question their habits of seeing and thinking, and then to clearly recognise just how privileged their own life may be. Still, “Pose” does not simply raise a moral finger. Artistic expression becomes the catalyst of joie de vivre and the expression of mutual (self-)love, a love that unites all of us, beyond all superficiality. The series has also been rightly praised for consistently casting predominantly transsexual people with mainly African American or Latin American roots.

The message is clear: in the long run, it is not appearance itself that should be changed, but the habits of thinking and seeing that evaluate it. Design can be the mediating discipline in this process, redefining relationships, restructuring thinking and thus emancipating it from pure superficiality. Of course, “Pose” also lives from its staging and is only an idealised representation of the relationships and people whose real fate certainly did not unfold as if in a TV series. Nevertheless, “Pose” opens up spaces and, as with its protagonists, one has to look beneath the shiny surface when judging the series to recognise its intelligence and remarkable topicality.


Creators: Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy

Cast inter alia: Mj Rodriguez as Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista, Dominique Jackson as Elektra Abundance, Billy Porter as Pray Tell, Ryan Jamaal Swain as Damon Richards-Evangelista

First season consisting of eight episodes was released on Netflix at 3 June 2018 (US), 31 January 2019 (DE). The second season was released at 11 June 2019 (US).


Nº 283
The Power of Design

form Design Magazine

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