I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ on TV! Each week, I take on television’s biggest stories through the rainbow lenses, and up this week are Ryan Murphy’s latest show, “Pose,” and a slow but steady uptick in “Star Trek: Discovery’s” queer appreciation.
Murphy and co-creators Steven Canals and Brad Falchuck broke the internet over the weekend with casting announcements for “Pose,” an FX series about the 1980s ball scene in New York City. The “American Horror Story” producer and casting director Alexa Fogel (“Atlanta”) spent six months searching for the best up and coming trans talent, eventually casting five fresh faces–MJ Rodriguez (“Luke Cage”), Indya Moore (“Saturday Church”), Dominique Jackson, Hailie Sahar (“Transparent”) and Angelica Ross (“Claws”)– to play series regulars. Every trans character in “Pose” will be played by a trans actor, in the most progressive and refreshing support of trans talent in scripted TV.
But that’s not all; Murphy recruited trans writers Our Lady J (“Transparent”) and activist Janet Mock to pen the series alongside Canals, with the true experts of 1980s ball culture, Michael Roberson, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, Hector Xtravaganza, Skylar King and Sol Williams brought on as show consultants. Additionally, trans activist director Silas Howard will be co-executive producing and Murphy’s Half Initiative will be employing trans directors mentored through the program to direct “POSE” episodes. Oh, and the ball scenes? Choreographed by the “Wonder Woman of Vogue,” Leiomy Maldonado and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s choreographer Danielle Polanco.
This is the kind of trans representation Hollywood has previously failed to deliver, choosing to cast big name cis actors to portray trans people, with often unfortunate results. Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”), Hillary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry”), Elle Fanning (“3 Generations”) and even Matt Bomer (“Anything”) have raked in critical acclaim for playing trans folks while real-life trans actors are turned away.
Murphy, conversely, spent months carefully packing trans talent in front of and behind the camera, ensuring that trans stories are not lost for the sake of awards or critical acclaim. “Pose” notably announced their series regulars, writers and show consultants first, giving them a full news cycle before announcing the supporting cast, which features Evan Peters (“American Horror Story”), Kate Mara (“House of Cards”), James Van Der Beek (“Dawson’s Creek”) and Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”). If this show’s lineup is as good as its plot, “Pose” will be Murphy’s greatest triumph.
Over in the final frontier, “Star Trek: Discovery” may be finding its footing in the sci-fi franchise. Before you say it, I’ll acknowledge how generally polarizing the new series have been for fans, but keep in mind how slow “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was its first season. Even those 80s tracksuits (jumpsuits? spandex spanx masquerading as uniforms?) couldn’t completely redeem Season 1 of the golden boy of the “Star Trek” franchise. So, comparatively? “Star Trek: Discovery” is still going through the normal growing pains of a “Star Trek” vehicle.
But Sunday’s episode, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” holds up against its vintage predecessors, turning out a plot that delivered on action, brought back a classic villain, and featured the kind of cheesy sci-fi mumbo jumbo tech that makes “Star Trek” great. Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp, “Rent”), Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green, “The Walking Dead”) and Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif, “Penny Dreadful”) found themselves in a race against time to stop burglar Harvey Mudd (Rainn Wilson, “The Office”) from seizing the ship and killing the crew for good. For the first time since it premiered, the show felt like the classic sci-fi story it should be, instead of the more dramatic, antihero angle they’ve been playing up with Burnham.
Like Spock or Data, Burnham found herself in new social territory, struggling to romantically connect with Tyler between timeline restarts. But unlike the rest its previous iterations, “Star Trek: Discovery” gave LGBTQIA+ love a chance in the spotlight, with Stamets and hubbie Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz, “My So-Called Life”) exemplified as the sole stable romantic couple on the emotionally constipated Discovery crew. Stamets teaches Burnham how to dance and gives her advice, explaining that honesty and trust are the cornerstones upon which relationships are built.
These exchanges may seem trivial against the reappearing threat of Harvey Mudd, but the otherwise progressive franchise has never 1) had a canonically queer couple and 2) featured a gay couple as an example of romantic love. For a universe that still pretends Spock, Jim Kirk and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy aren’t romantically attracted to each other, this is huge, ginormous, just generally A Lot. This is the holy grail of LGBTQIA+ representation for canon “Star Trek,” and has me hooked for the remainder of the season. What say you, Trekkies? What did you think of the episode?