Donald Trump's presence looms large over Ryan Murphy's 'Pose'
Donald Trump looms large over the transgender drama because the future president played an integral role in 1980s New York City
Ryan Murphy's 'Pose' has already become a sensational hit with over 94 percent Google users rating it all stars. The show narrates the life, joys and struggles of trans women and the gay community in the backdrop of 1980s New York City.
At the time, underground drag ballroom culture was blooming amidst the rising AIDS epidemic while the city was thriving economically. The era portrayed on the show not only focuses on the LGBTQ+ community but it also sheds light on the corporate culture of Park Avenue and the Wall Street. This is why Donald Trump's presence looms large on the show.
These two different faces of the city come together on the show and this intersection is personified when a trans sex worker of color named Angel (Indya Moore) falls in love with Stan (Evan Peters), a white man who is a junior executive at the Trump Organization.
Stan is an average white American man caught up between the race to excel and climb higher in the Trump Organization and taking care of his wife (Kate Mara) and children. When Angel learns that Stan works for Trump, she’s so impressed. “I can’t believe you work for Trump,” says Angel. “I hear even his toilet is made of gold. Can you imagine? Now, that’s living in style.”
We don't see Donald Trump himself, but he is represented on the show by Matt Bromley (James Van Der Beek) who is Stan's boss. Matt so far has monologued about flaunting wealth, showing off his watch, snorting cocaine, and punctuates with remarks such as “God bless Ronald Reagan.”
In May 2018, Murphy told The New York Times about Trump's presence in the show, “It was in the Reagan era, the Trump era in New York City, when you could pretend to be moneyed and be seen as wealthy. You could pretend to be anything and be accepted whereas, before that, you really had to have the background and education and breeding. It was the beginning of surface passing. Before that, you wouldn’t be allowed in the room.”
Trump's presence in the show came much later. When Steven Canals, the co-creator of the series wrote his original script, Trump was not a major presence. In a version of the script after Murphy got involved, however, Trump himself became an actual character before being replaced by Van Der Beek’s cokehead executive. “Nobody wanted to see that fuckhead,” Murphy told The New Yorker about why he made the change.
In episode one itself, the glamour of the Trump city juxtaposing the tragic reality of trans community have been interwoven through the storyline of Stan and Angel. As they get more involved with each other, the luxuries of the Trump world, his tower and organization becomes much more desirable and Stan aspires to be Donald Trump himself, in place of Van Der Beek.
Given that the rise of the Trump era was in the late '80s and he beholds the world's most powerful seat today, it can only be understood why his presence is so important at the time Pose is released. The show is what we need in a world where the struggle for equality seems futile.
In 1987, Donald Trump was the man of the hour. It was the year The Art Of The Deal became a bestseller, and ghostwriter Tony Schwartz “euphemized” the “relentlessly” difficult relationship the future president had with his late father Fred Trump.
This was also the same year the business tycoon posed for a Newsweek cover story titled 'Citizen Trump' that featured an awkward photo shoot of Trump and first wife Ivana Trump in their former Connecticut mansion. The same year, he showed the first sign of his interest in politics with his first big campaign speech during which he riffed about how America was “being kicked around” by foreign governments as they were “laughing at us.”
As of today, Trump's decisions from the Oval Office haven't appealed to many in general and LGBTQ+ community in particular. Trump's call to ban transgender people from serving in the military has come up twice in less than a year. “Transgender” is one of the words the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is forbidden from using in official documents.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced a policy requiring transgender inmates to be held in facilities according to the sex assigned at birth. And, very recently, the case of a Colorado baker winning the case filed against him after her refused to bake a cake for a gay couple caused heated debates and social media outrage.
To sum up, the present scenario under the Trump administration, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Labor have all won protections to discriminate against transgender people. Politicians in Trump's administration including Mike Pompeo, Betsy DeVos, and Mike Pence have championed anti-trans policies.
The historic show to have the largest LGBTQ+ cast and crew till date is the need of the hour. The story is about human connections, no matter how different they are.
However, there are those who believe that Trump should not be in the picture at all.
When the show has stong storylines of a black 17-year-old kid becoming homeless after coming out as gay to his parents and an HIV-diagnosed trans woman, Blanca, setting out to create her own house, some say the show did not need Donald Trump to find relevance.
Trump's looming presence in the show wasn't widely appreciated by all those who want to escape the harsh realities of today.
Fans have pointed out that Angel talking highly of Trump has an underlying sense of irony since her community is the most threatened community under Donald Trump's presidency.
For better or worse, Trump's presence on the show is relevant and necessary because, if that is the way to capture his attention and be empathetic towards the LGBTQ+ community, then so be it. It is their story and they will tell it their way.