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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pose is a drama set in a 1980s queer/trans subculture where people gather to dance and create a community. Sexual content, drugs, violence, and language are on the mature side, with romantic scenes between people on a wider-than-typical spectrum of gender and sexuality. Expect flirting, dating, kissing, references to sex, and boundary-pushing scenes. Violence is rare but has an emotional impact, like when a furious father whips his teen son with a belt after the son admits he's gay, then bodily flings him out of the house and onto the street. A man snorts large lines of cocaine through rolled-up money. Language is frequent: "s--t," "f--k," "bitch," "ass," "hell." Language includes words for body parts and terms relating to gender and sexuality, sometimes used as an insult, at other times, as a term of affection: "sissy," "queen," "d--ks," "hard-on."
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What's the story?
In the underground New York drag ball scene of the 1980s, striking a glamorous POSE is crucial. Helmed by producer-writer-director Ryan Murphy, Pose centers on the Machiavellian machinations of two rival "houses": the House of Abundance, led by its wily mother Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson), and scrappy young upstart House of Evangelista, under the direction of Blanca Rodriguez (Mj Rodriguez). Each is fighting for the glory that comes with winning drag ball walk battles, "Something better than money," as Blanca puts it, a place where the despised and the downtrodden can be feted for their fabulous style and cutting wit, make a name for themselves, and find friends and family to love. Meanwhile, in the corporate temple known as Trump Tower, Stan (Evan Peters) seems poised for success under his new boss, the coke-snorting Reagan-loving businessman Matt Bromley (James Van Der Beek) -- but Stan's tender connection with trans sex worker Angel (Indya Moore) threatens both his job and his marriage to wife Patty (Kate Mara).
Is it any good?
By turns sensational and emotional, uber-creator Ryan Murphy's series about 1980s NYC drag ball culture has spectacle, sizzling dialogue, an astonishing sense of place, and characters you want to root for. Most viewers will be all in for the show's very first scene, when Elektra Abundance and her cabal of "children" tiptoe through a museum at night, stealing royal clothing out of an exhibition for their next walk-off. When they're stymied by a locked door, Elektra demands her children hurl a bench through the glass to escape: "I look too good not to be seen!" Moments later, moving like a ruler across a club floor for a howling crowd of fans, Elektra spots the cops, come to take her and her housemates away. She elegantly brandishes her wrists, ready for the cuffs -- and sweeps out the door to the Black Maria, secure that no one in the place has ever seen a walk finish like this before.
Those who lived through the 1980s will be in heaven spotting little pieces of bygone pop culture, all set to a blissfully apt period soundtrack: Mary Jane Girls, 10cc, and Chaka Khan are highlights. Even those not familiar with vintage drag ball (or its two most prominent related touchstones, 1990 docu Paris Is Burning and RuPaul's Drag Race) can get behind a story in which despised outsiders find a way not just to survive, but to live deliciously. "Balls are a gathering of people who are not welcome to gather anywhere else; a celebration of a life the rest of the world does not dream worthy of celebrating," Blanca explains to wide-eyed newcomer Damon. True, that. They were also a place where like-minded souls could find each other, build something glamorous and enviable, and most powerfully of all, choose each other as allies and family members. More than anything else, that last part is what Pose gets exactly right -- and why it will grab viewers' emotions while it dazzles the eye.
Talk to your kids about ...
Many of the actors on Pose are transgender people of color. Is this unusual for a TV show? Does it matter that the people on this show are playing parts that mirror their own life experiences? Is this more important or authentic than actors playing roles that are very different from their own experiences?
This period show is set in the 1980s. How do shows set in a different time period communicate their setting? Can you point out some things that say "'80s" to you in this show? What's different about the world now?
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