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"A ball is a gathering for people who are not allowed to gather anywhere else."
Blanca
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Pose is a series created by Ryan Murphy and airing on FX.

The year is 1987. Ronald Reagan is still President, Donald Trump is one of the most influential men in New York City, and the AIDS crisis is in full swing. In the midst of this dark and troubled time, ball culture offers an outlet for NYC's marginalized gay community, allowing them to forget their troubles for a little while. And ruling over the ballroom scene is the House of Abundance, led by Elektra.

However, when one of Elektra's followers, Blanca, learns that she has HIV, she decides to leave Abundance to start her own house. She is soon followed by Angel, who was cast out of Abundance, and Damon, a young gay newcomer who aspires to be a dancer. Together, they plan to challenge the House of Abundance and take its place as the leader of the ballroom community.

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This show provides examples of:

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    A-F 
  • Adopted to the House: Most of the members of House Evangelista were homeless before Blanca took them in.
  • Ambiguously Christian: In "Mother of the Year", Angel boasts that she's been lighting candles all week to summon orishas to help the House of Evangelista win the Princess Ball, which suggests that she might have been raised in the Santería faith, which is a syncretic religion blending Catholicism and Yoruba and indigenous American belief systems.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: In "The Fever", Candy goes hunting for enhancements so that she can win the body categories. She ends up getting some very dodgy silicone injections from a very questionable doctor.
  • Bad Boss: Elektra jealously monitors her followers' movements, mocks and belittles any of them who show an independent streak, and steals any good ideas that they have and presents them as her own. This comes back to bite her in the ass in "Pink Slip"; when her money dries up, her children all abandon her.
  • Bi the Way: Lil Papi is bisexual.
  • Boomerang Bigot: It's not uncommon for trans women in the show to read each other by judging each other's ability (or lack thereof) to pass and insult each other using transphobic remarks. Lulu and Candy are particularly cruel towards Blanca in this regard after founding the House of Ferocity.
  • Break the Haughty: Elektra gets it hard in "Pink Slip." Her sugar daddy was actually dead serious that he'd dump her if she went through with her sex change, and her attempt to get back together with him is cut off when his new paramour arrives. The entire House has finally had enough when they find she spent their upcoming rent money on the operation and all quit, some to start their own houses. She tries to get back on her feet by advertising for another rich lover, who drops her the second he finds out about the sex change. At the episode's end she's reduced to working at the same peep show as Angel.
  • Butch Lesbian: One of the members of the House of Mugler is a butch lesbian.
  • Camp Gay:
    • Pray Tell, the emcee of the balls, is very, very camp.
    • Damon is a more downplayed example. He isn't nearly as flamboyant as Pray Tell but he has a passion for dancing and the arts that ostracized him from his conservative parents before they even knew he was gay.
  • Cast Full of Gay: And trans. Of the (many) major characters on the show only Stan, Patty and Matt are cisgender and heterosexual.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: All the people who work in Trump Tower. Stan's boss Matt Bromley has this to say:
    "For the first time in American history, it's considered a good thing to flaunt your success, right? Let people know how rich you are."
  • Costume Porn: This being a series about the ballroom culture, pretty clothes naturally play a large role. The pilot alone has a sequence of the House of Abundance displaying themselves in gorgeous royal finery.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • "Giving And Receiving" gives some insight into Pray Tell's private life as he goes to visit his boyfriend in the hospital. It also shows Helena dealing with her grief after one of her favorite students dies.
    • "The Fever" gives some focus to Candy, one of Elektra's lesser subjects, as she goes in search of an edge so that she can win a body category.
    • "Love Is The Message" is nearly entirely devoted to Pray Tell as he comes to grips with Costas' death.
    • "Pink Slip" follows Papi after Blanca kicks him out of the House of Evangelista for dealing drugs.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Besides the expected racism and homophobia that one would expect in a series set during the AIDS crisis, the trans women all refer to themselves as transsexuals, as this was still considered the "correct" term back then. Word of God added that there are some trans men, but were kept as just faces in the crowd as no one wanted to use the even more uncomfortable terms they were called at the time.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Ferocity might have won the Princess Ball by sheer numbers if Candy and Lulu hadn't resorted to insulting Blanca to try and get her to walk out on the competition. Not only does their behavior disgust Blanca's former siblings from Abundance and cause them to defect, it also brings down the wrath of Elektra, who decides to formally join the Evangelistas. After that, the Evangelistas easily gather the trophies.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Blanca thinks so, and kicks Papi out of the house for dealing.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • In "Mother's Day", Blanca reluctantly goes to attend her mother's funeral and later dedicates a ball performance to her mother's memory.
    • In "Love Is The Message", Pray Tell's lover Costas dies, and Pray decides to spread his ashes along Fifth Avenue so that Costas can window shop there for all eternity.
  • Easy Sex Change: Averted; Elektra's GRS drains even her considerable finances and she has to spend several days recuperating in the hospital, and she concedes to Blanca that she is in more pain than she ever imagined.
  • Elite Man Courtesan Romance:
    • Downplayed - Stan is a promising up-and-comer in the Trump Organization and Angel is a sex worker, yet they find themselves drawn to each other and troubled by their differing social positions.
    • Also Elektra and her sugar daddy.
  • Empty Shell: Stan sees himself as this - believing in nothing, standing for nothing. He says part of why he's drawn to Angel is because of how unflinchingly real she is. After Patty finds out and asks him point blank what he wants from the situation, he breaks down in tears and admits he has no idea.
  • Family of Choice: Truth in Television for the "ballroom houses" of New York's LGBT community in the '80s.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: In "Pink Slip", Lulu and Candy quit the House of Abundance and set up their own House, Ferocity. While they assure each other that they won't fall into the same traps that Elektra did, their treatment of Papi - forcing him to serve as their indentured servant - suggests that they will end up being just as mean and egotistical as Elektra was.

    G-P 
  • Graceful Loser: In "The Fever", Elektra, in a rare moment of humility, takes rival Aphrodite out for a bite to eat after the latter defeats her in one of the contests.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: When Stan made a well-received independent suggestion in a meeting, Matt's reaction was to try and sleep with Stan's wife and reveal his infidelity.
  • Hate Sink: Matt Bromley is a greedy, rude, misogynistic, casually racist kingpin boss who spends most of his screentime either scheming to undermine Stan out of pure jealousy or sexually harassing every woman he comes into contact with. He's essentially a personification of everything undesirable and loathsome about The '80s.
  • Hufflepuff House: There are several other Houses besides Abundance and Evangelista, but they don't really get much focus, aside from Elektra losing one category to an upstart from House Extravaganza. "Mother's Day" introduces another House, Mugler, who are notable for having a butch lesbian in their ranks.
  • Innocently Insensitive: In the pilot, Angel at one point talks about how creepy she finds AIDS patients, not realizing that Blanca, who is standing right there, is HIV-positive.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Costas' dying wish is that Pray Tell mourn him for one day only, and then go back to being himself. Pray reluctantly agrees, even though it breaks his heart.
  • Karma Houdini: Despite getting caught with priceless stolen clothes from a museum, the House of Abundance manages to avoid serious consequences because the museum doesn't want people to find out how easily they got robbed, for fear of losing out on future loan collections.
  • Kick the Dog: In "The Fever", Elektra forces Candy to compete in body categories, knowing that she has no chance of winning them, just to humiliate her.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: In the second episode, Blanca chooses to skip the Dynasty-themed ball, as Elektra nearly always wins it and the judges are merciless. This decision also has the side benefit of infuriating Elektra, who hates winning easily.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Ricky manages to win a trophy in a body category just by walking without a shirt.
  • Ms. Red Ink: Inverted; Stan is blowing through his family's finances making big purchases in order to impress his extravagant boss, while his wife is appalled by how much money they're spending.
  • No Antagonist: The show doesn't really have a central antagonist with most of the drama and conflict resulting from the realities of being black and gay and/or trans in Reagan-era America, though Elektra, Candy, Lulu and especially Matt all play antagonistic roles towards the main characters at various points in the series.
  • No Bisexuals: Averted; Lil Papi is explicitly bisexual, though he has a preference for women.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In "Love Is The Message", everyone can tell that Pray Tell is going through some shit when they invite him to dinner and he spends the night drinking and growing increasingly garrulous.
  • Peking Duck Christmas: The Evangelistas spend their Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant after Blanca and Angel burn the turkey.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Initially Stan and Angel have this arrangement, where he pays her just to talk with him. However, she eventually she becomes his mistress.
  • Punny Name: Pray Tell, the emcee, who also happens to be a bit of a gossip.

    R-Z 
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Ricky has a reputation as a "hit 'em and quit 'em" type. Blanca reluctantly agrees to take him in so that he'll be encouraged to stay with Damon rather than seeking sex elsewhere.
    • In "Love Is The Message", Blanca is pursued by an attractive dude named Darius who seems to be genuinely interested in her. Unfortunately, she later learns from Candy and Lulu that he's a chaser who's been working his way through every trans woman in New York City.
  • Recruited from the Gutter: Damon is homeless and living in the park when Blanca recruits him to join the house because of his dancing skills.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • In the pilot, facing an upcoming ball competition with a "Royalty" theme, Elektra orders her followers to sneak into a museum and rob its collection of royal clothing. The House of Abundance easily wins that ball, even though it gets them all arrested.
    • In the closing scenes of the pilot, Blanca bullshits her way into getting Damon an audition for the New School of Dance even though he failed to send in the paperwork on time.
    • In "Mother's Day", we see a flashback to how Blanca first entered the ball scene, by walking in a ball without the benefit of a House or Mother to back her up. Elektra adopted her that very night because she figured that anyone gutsy enough to walk on her own would be an asset.
  • Rich Bitch: Elektra barely has to change her weave to give Dynasty realness, though she does have to operate on an allowance. Even so, the bitch never runs out. The third episode reveals that she does have one considerable limitation; her benefactor won't pay for her gender-reassignment surgery.
    • Subverted hard in "Pink Slip" - Dick dumps Elektra, banishes her from her penthouse, and cuts off her allowance, and Abundance collapses practically overnight, as it turns out that she raided the House's budget to pay for GRS and thus hasn't paid rent on their apartment in months.
  • Sad Clown: Beneath Pray Tell's sassy, camp exterior is an incredibly lonely man who has watched helplessly as many of his friends and lovers have died from the AIDS crisis. In "The Fever", he learns that he has HIV, and in "Love Is The Message", his lover Costas dies.
  • The Starscream: Elektra's lieutenant Lulu hates her, a fact which Blanca tries to exploit in order to recruit her to Evangelista. It doesn't work; as much as Lulu hates Elektra, she likes winning. In "Mother's Day", Lulu and Candy attempt to take advantage of Elektra's GRS to issue a challenge to the House of Mugler, hoping that a win without Elektra would demonstrate that they could lead Abundance without Elektra. When Elektra's money runs out, Lulu and Candy don't hesitate to quit the House of Abundance and form their own House, Ferocity.
  • The Talk:
    • In the second episode, Blanca tries to give Damon a rudimentary talk about gay sex out of fear that he's becoming sexually active. Damon mentions his father tried to give him The Talk as well but naturally it was only about heterosexual sex, something Damon had no use for.
    • In "The Fever", Pray Tell takes the boys out to be tested for HIV after Damon fears that he might have been exposed.
  • Team Dad: While he is officially supposed to remain neutral towards the Houses, Pray Tell spends a lot of time with the Evangelistas, and serves as a surrogate father figure to the Evangelista boys.
  • Team Mom: By definition, the Mother of a House is supposed to be this. Elektra is more of an Evil Matriarch to her children, but supportive Blanca fits to a T. Fittingly she wins Mother of the Year in the season finale.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Elektra gives Blanca one of these when she finds out Blanca wants to start her own house, calling her a "beast" and deriding her ability to pass compared to Elektra's "realness".
    • In "The Fever", after getting her ass kicked in a bunch of categories in which Elektra forced her to compete, Candy calls her out for treating her children like subjects.
    • In "Mother of the Year", Elektra calls out Candy and Lulu for being both cruel and stupid as House Mothers.
  • Tough Love: Blanca is very stern with Damon because she fears that if she isn't, he won't achieve his dreams.
  • Trans Equals Gay:
    • Harshly subverted in the second episode, where Blanca repeatedly tries and fails to get a drink at a gay bar, only to be turned away because she's trans.
    • Comes up in the relationship between Stan and Angel. Angel outright asks him if he's gay and he says he's not and he sees her as a woman. Later when Stan's wife finds out she also asks him if he's "a homosexual".
  • Transgender: Elektra, Blanca, Angel, Lulu, and Candy are all trans women. In fact the show has the largest cast of trans characters played by actual trans actors in television history.
  • Transgender Fetishization: Deconstructed with Elektra and Angel's storylines. The reality of being treated as "a porno book come to life" or even the fear of it weighs heavily on Angel's mind and impacts her relationship with Stan, while Elektra's lover Dick's insistence on her remaining "a girl with extra" rather than allowing her to transition on her own terms is what makes her break away from him.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Ricky, Damon's suitor, is a bit on the rough side, but still sweet to Damon and respects his boundaries despite a "hit it and quit it" reputation.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Subverted; most of the cast are people of color who also happen to be gay or trans or both.
  • Wanted a Gender-Conforming Child: Blanca was kicked out of her mother's home after she came out as trans. In the pilot, Damon is kicked out of his parents' home after admitting that he's gay.
  • World of Ham: Invoked in that the show is about the 1980s ballroom scene, a subculture specifically designed to be as flamboyant, camp and dramatic as possible. This is juxtaposed with the personal lives of its various participants as well as the mainstream white, straight culture Stan is a part of.
  • Yes-Man: Subverted with Lulu - in episode 1, one of her only lines is acting like a sycophant towards Elektra, saying Elektra deserves an apartment the size of a museum. Episode 2 reveals this is fully an act - Lulu hates Elektra and sticks by her only for the glory that being in the House of Abundance brings. In "Mother's Day", she and Candy force the other members of Abundance to issue a challenge to the House of Mugler, in an attempt to prove that they could lead Abundance without Elektra.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: In "Pink Slip", Helena of all people gives Blanca a pep talk after she doubts her parenting skills in the wake of Papi being expelled.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Stan is married with children, but finds himself entranced by Angel.
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