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Season 2 of Pose is an Homage to Madonna’s “Vogue”

If copyright and competition weren't an issue, Pose would rightfully be called Vogue. Its in the typeface used for the seriess logo, the nail salon Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) wants to open—Vogue Nails—and, most importantly, in the opening beats to Madonnas "Vogue," which scores Season 2s premiere "Acting Up."

"Vogue" was the worlds best-selling single in 1990, an accidental hit packaged with Im Breathless, Madonnas soundtrack album for the film Dick Tracy. The black-and-white video, directed by David Fincher, has long been a touchstone for Pose co-creator Ryan Murphy: his breakout a cappella dramedy Glee devoted a whole episode to "The Power of Madonna," including a detailed, frame-by-frame homage to that video starring Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester as Madonna.

But it took eight months of back-and-forth to actually get the song into Pose, according to music supervisor and producer Alexis Martin Woodall. "The minute we were doing a Season 2, Ryan [Murphy] called me and said, We gotta start working on Madonnas camp," she recently told Variety.

Much of Murphys television arises out of a mood, a cultural touchstone, or a moment—such as Feud, which animated the drama behind the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? or the anthology series American Horror Story, which fetishistically delves into horror trope each season, be it asylums or covens Poses mood, broadly writ, is the "Vogue" video. And no wonder: Madonna borrowed the term that gave her song its title from the dancers who introduced her to voguing and ball culture; two of them, Luis Xtravaganza Camacho and Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza, appeared in the music video and her Blond Ambition tour. According to legend—on Pose, Pray Tell (Billy Porter) tells the story during a ballroom scene—the term can be traced back to Paris Dupree, the Paris of Paris Is Burning—who used the glossy magazine in her bag as inspiration for posing to the beat in a way that asserted power and defiance.

Aspiration thrums beneath the songs beat—the dancers striving to impress a global audience, the cachet of "giving good face" on the cover of Vogue, the name-checking and outright imitation of screen sirens from black-and-white film, who even in the 80s and early 90s had a stranglehold on what was considered glamorous and beautiful. Madonna tells the listener they can have the relief, escape, validation, and power they crave if they go to the dance floor and let their bodies—black or white, boy or girl—move to the music. Its an empowerment anthem, and beneath Madonnas celebration of style icons is an undermining of them: "beauty is where you find it," she repeats, adding with cavalier confidence, "strike a pose—theres nothing to it."

Season 2 of Pose jumps from the mid-80s to 1990, which puts the action squarely in the middle of the cultural moment Madonnas single created. The opening chords of the song float from the radio, prompting spontaneous voguing whenever theyre heard. The key art for the season imitates the black-and-white drama of the video; in the premiere, a ballroom entrance from Elekra (Dominique Jackson) appears to be a reference to—or foreshadowing of?—Madonnas campy Marie Antoinette-themed performance of "Vogue" at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards. Sandra Bernhard, once a close friend of the pop icon, costars in the show as a nurse and HIV/AIDS activist. And the characters talk about Madonna, too.

"Madonna is shining a bright spotlight on us," Blanca says in the premiere, suffused with optimism for this mainstreaming of ball culture. She encourages the dancers and models who make up her house—the runaways, streetwalkers, and vagrants that she took in—to pursue their dreams, no matter how pie in the sky. "Everything is changing," she tells her children at the end of the first episode, as "Vogue" plays one more time. "This is just the beginning."

But Pose, like life, complicates Madonnas anthem. The community that created voguing is in crisis—dying in droves from a disease no one cares to understand. Season 2 of Pose has centered the mortality of its characters; the pervasive danger and death they face is overwhelming. Pray Tell and Bernhards character, Nurse Judy, meet each other at so many funerals that they start a friendly competition: whoever gets to a thousand first gets a toaster.

Based on its first four episodes, the second season of Pose is not quite the revelation the first season was. Sentiment has seeped into the proceedings, and though this is warranted, certain production decisions—like heavy-handed music and characters speaking from beyond the grave—flatten what should be tragedy into the wishy-washy treacle of teachable moments. The show has so much to prove in terms of transgender representation—so its unsurprising that so much of its storytelling is devoted to queer history. That history is important; its everything. But Pose Read More – Source

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