Portrait of The Pride Revolution
I have always cursed my birthday which falls in my hated season, in sweaty June. What used to cheer me up was the Hebrew Book Week, until over the years I realized that this literary week has long since become a whole month of cynical industry of tycoons and chain Stores owners, who earn on the backs of writers who are pushed to the bottom of the food chain lacking the rights and lacking of money.
Alongside the dubious book month, Pride Month has also been consolidated in recent years. Apparently, here too, there are quite a few businesses that are taking advantage of the momentum for a lucrative campaign. But alongside them is the solid foundation of the fight for rights for a large population, which has been excluded over many generations in various severe ways. They had to hide, to be ashamed, to live underground, to keep secret, to be afraid, and to escape. Many were arrested, executed, beaten, raped and murdered for their secret. Great shame led the way to the birth of the concept of pride. Pride parades were designed to turn what and who was outcast and rejected into the center of celebration, the cause of the party. Turn the bowl over. Celebrate the congenital or nascent body and signal to young people in the closet that there is hope out there. Do not give up a lifetime and live in peace with what and who they are against the traditions and codes of an old world.
Pride marches came after many years of bloody wars, and their decisive peak was in the 1980s, when the AIDS virus broke out. When the plague erupted, it was associated with the gay community as the mother of all sins. The institution of sin, as is well known, is one of the magnificence of the Catholic Church institutions. Homosexuality as a sin is also at the root of the Nazi doctrine. A conservative public for religious or nationalist reasons made sure to associate the dreadful disease with the rejected community and therefore the authorities did not see any real need to find immediate cure for the disease. From then on, the proud community struggled to find the cure, realizing that it was no longer possible to live in the closet, because silence and hiding meant death, because conservatives wanted our deaths, the others.
The 1980s thus became a marker of queer aesthetics, based on the colorful performances seen in these protest marches. Subsequent to this, Netflix has been rolling out the Pose masterpiece for the past year. The Pose series that begins its story in the 1980s brings the world as documented in the film Paris is Burning, about the gay community's ball culture and competitions. This community is struggling within fringe life between underground and normativity. The materials in these two pieces were partly new to me and opened up my eyes to a colorful, rich and wonderful world I did not know existed. Alongside the magic, very tough stories of specific characters are told. Movies about Marsha P. Johnson and the Stonewall riots and even phrases and messages from the RuPaul show provided me with a background for understanding the content in the Pose series.
The Pose scene is filled with a wide range of genders that fall into the proud community category. It does not imply that there is harmony between the different groups and presents many and varying groups, each with their own struggles and also conflicts with one another. From the beginning of the series, the theme of the AIDS war drips, and becomes more and more important, just as the community consciousness grew in the 1980s. From early stages of the series it is not clear what the nature of the community is, since there are more fights than collaborators.
The difficulties presented more closely are that of several queer characters at different stages of becoming male to female, some of them are old-fashioned gay men. Since many of them were thrown out of their homes in their youth and find it difficult to live, a practice of establishing artificial family homes developed by "mothers", who themselves survive tough personal struggles. They take care of their home children needs alongside to determining the laws of the house that require the occupants.
The series, with high sensitivity to me, presents real distresses and with participation of real queer actors. The main heroine Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) is the "mother" in the house named Evangelista she established for herself and her “children” from the community. She no longer belongs to any gender, rejected in the strait world as well as in the gay one. Gentle Blanca represents the sensitive and anxious heart of the community, along with the many battlefronts in which trans people struggle; with the family, with AIDS, with the veteran gay community, in the field of career and personal life. One of the girls in her house is the beautiful Angel (Indya Moore), also a trans actress, who is considered "passing" as a woman and really hard to believe she ever was or maybe she is still something else. Her beauty, body language and style transmit a delicate and congenital feminine style.
Another strong character is Pray (Billy Porter) who directs the ball at the club. His style is so unique in both series and life, that he seems to be in fact a completely different breed. His performances on the red carpets are as provocative as his charismatic character in the series. His voice, nerve and appearance in the series become co-promoters of a community and political agenda in the service of the fight for LGBT rights alongside the fighting AIDS. Another strong figure is Electra (Dominique Jackson) who is, as her name suggests, an electrifying goddess. A colorful figure who cleverly utilizes her exceptional height for great extravagant performances and never ridiculous, her noble and “passing” beauty helps her to earn a living on much larger variety of opportunities compared to other trans people. Beyond the theme of trance, all of the characters above are also not white-skinned and therefore suffer from dual and triple discrimination: homophobic, transphobic, and racist.
This series is almost educational in the sense of organized content written for laymen according to defined topics such as: the trans and the question of his/her place in the gay community; The question of the surgeries - yes or no, which ones, and how many; Injection of plastic materials, how much, where, what are costs, compromises and entanglements; The way the changes are accepted inside and outside the scene; The question of livelihood of characters that are not always comfortable on the heterosexual eye; The economic urge that often leads to prostitution and its annexes; The shame; the loneliness; the alienation of the biological family; the fear; the AIDS; and the glamor; the humor; the victories; and the creativity; The desperate desire to assimilate into normative society and be accepted as a legitimate woman, to succeed in the real world and to break out of the closed scene into life outside.
Beyond the list of defined content, the series does grace with its power to create deep empathy with the characters. The vast majority of figures are portrayed sensitively and humanly, away from the familiar one-dimensional caricatures of old-world culture products. Their stories are usually tragic and they are exposed to a multitude of injustices, cruelties and abuses by almost anyone outside the scene and much inside of it. Alongside this, they are full of personal charm, creativity and style and fascinating because of it.
The visual style of the series, of course, brings the wonders of the 1980s with all its variety, its glitzy and exaggerated fashions, loud music and Madonna, Vogue and Anna Wintour as the Goddesses of the scene. All the details and the moves are most gracefully and professionally tailored to the characters, and usually flattering. In the professional way typical of Netflix series, no production-level reductions were made about an issue that seems to be marginalized and probably intended for a niche audience.
In the end, the series is recommended for laymen like me, submitting content that until recently was exclusive to a closed community, in a sensitive and aesthetic way. Beyond that, the series creates empathy for characters who are still struggling for their legitimacy in the mainstream world of 2020. I was moved. Big Like!
This year it’s a little easier to grow old in June.