It was lovely to hear Pose‘s Dyllon Burnside singing “God Bless America” before the Rafa versus Medvedev US Open final last month … even when you were as nervous about the match as I was! He’s spoken very powerfully about the issues he faced growing up as a gay black churchgoing Christian in the Deep South; and Pose in general seems to be having quite an impact. The first episode of the second season certainly didn’t pull any punches, with scenes including a depiction of a much-discussed December 1989 protest during mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, against the Archdiocese’s attitude towards the HIV and AIDS crisis at that time. On a lighter note, we got Madonna – where is Madonna these days, incidentally? – popularising “vogue” music, in the year of the pointy bra tour. Sorry, the “Blond Ambition” tour.
Hands up, I was never particularly keen on all that dance stuff – give me “Like a Prayer” over “Vogue” any day – so I was very pleased to hear music from Roxette and Soul II Soul, much more my thing, as well! The standout characters of the first episode, though, weren’t just the dancers and models but also the doctors and nurses who showed such compassion to people living with, and dying from, HIV and AIDS at a time when political and religious leaders were handling the situation very poorly. The world badly needs more compassion, and less aggression.
I’m trying not to dwell on the fact that a lot of the cast won’t remember Vogue being number one, or the pointy bra thing. The lad who plays sweet little Damon, who disappointingly didn’t feature much in this first episode, wasn’t born until 1999. 1999! It was rather nice to see Sandra Bernhard and Trudie Styler: that stopped me feeling so old! Ask me what’s number one now and I will not have the remotest clue, but name any number one from 1990 and I’ll be able to sing it. OK, caterwaul it. It’s quite strange seeing my time portrayed on TV.
Anyway. This was a pretty hard-hitting first episode, with much of the emphasis on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. As I said, it didn’t pull any punches. As well as the “Stop The Church” protest, we saw funerals, coffins lined up, and even someone in a coffin. We heard characters discussing how many people they knew had died of AIDS, and we were also told how less well-off patients were unable to access medication and had to rely on supplies left by better-off people who’d died. It certainly got the point across.
However, there was plenty of music and dancing and ballroom competition as well – although sadly no Dynasty costumes as well! It’s much darker than the first series was, though: there was no romance in the first episode of the new series and nothing about how Damon’s getting on at his Fame-like music school, and there were some quite violent scenes after one of the characters was mistreated by a photographer and other members of the House of Evangelista took revenge. It wasn’t always easy watching, but it was absolutely gripping. I started watching the first series for the ’80s music, but I’ve got really involved with the characters and the storylines now. I’m not sure how many people in the UK are watching this, but I hope it’s a lot, because it’s something really different and it’s well worth the watching.