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What Do Emmy Voters Have Against Pose?

After Billy Porter's historic 2019 win, this was supposed to be the year FX's ballroom drama broke into the Emmy mainstream.
  • Hailie Sahar, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Angelica Ross, and Mj Rodriguez in Pose.(FX)
    Hailie Sahar, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Angelica Ross, and Mj Rodriguez in Pose.(FX)

    Joe Reid isn't just Primetimer's managing editor. He's also an awards expert and one half of the popular podcast, This Had Oscar Buzz. Leading up to the 72nd Emmy Awards, he'll be taking a hard look at the shows that were nominated (and those that were not) searching for insight into how Emmy voters are likely to cast their ballots ahead of this year's award ceremony.

    What exactly is the disconnect between Emmy voters and FX's Pose, the Ryan Murphy-produced series about the queer/house/ballroom/voguing scene of uptown New York City in the early '90s? Last year it felt like the Emmys were just getting warmed up, with six nominations for the freshman series, including an Outstanding Drama Series nomination, and an eventual win for Billy Porter in Lead Actor in a Drama Series. The exuberance that met Porter's victory seemed to suggest Pose was making its way into the mainstream of Emmy attention.

    Cut to this year's nominations, and Emmy voters' love for Pose, which was expected to grow, has actually regressed. Only five nominations this year, and while Porter is back in the Lead Actor field, Pose is no longer a Drama Series nominee. It joins This Is Us as one of the only two eligible nominees from 2019 not to return with a nomination, and while This Is Us is coming off of its fourth season and on the down side of its buzz curve, Pose's second season saw the show coming more confidently into its own. Also, while the love for Porter is both welcome and correct, the fact that for the second straight year none of the transgender writers or performers on Pose were recognized by the Academy was both noticed and criticized.

    Part of it is that Pose stands at the center of quite a few incredibly underrepresented groups when it comes to not only industry awards but jobs, respect, and the way their work is valued. Pose represents for trans people of color in a way that very few TV shows do, and certainly no other narrative shows on major networks do what Pose does, both in front of and behind the camera. From performers like Mj Rodriguez and Indya Moore to Season 2 writers Janet Mock and Our Lady J and many others, the groundbreaking nature of nominations of any of the major trans talent behind Pose would have been incredibly important.

    It's especially baffling that Pose missed out on a Drama Series nomination this year, because the show had so clearly leveled up from its first season. It shed the dead-weight characters played by Evan Peters, Kate Mara, and James Van Der Beek; it focused more sharply on its themes of building a family of like-minded survivors in a predatory and untrustworthy world; it got ever more daring in blending wrenching pathos, absurd comedy, dishy dramatics, and of course, showstopping ballroom sequences. It's a bummer that Emmy voters would rather recognize disappointing third seasons of Killing Eve and The Handmaid's Tale instead.

    With all that in mind, let's take a look at Pose's nomination haul and break down where it stands the best chance of winning:

    Nominations

    • Outstanding Lead Actor: Billy Porter
    • Outstanding Costumes
    • Outstanding Hairstyling
    • Outstanding Makeup (Non-Prosthetic)
    • Outstanding Makeup (Prosthetic)

    Snubs

    Among the many talented professionals working on Pose who were worthy of a nomination, the one many people thought might be a possibility was Anjelica Ross in Outstanding Supporting Actress. The show bumped Ross up to supporting status this season and gave her character, Candy Ferocity, a more central — and ultimately tragic — storyline. While that tragedy was a bitter pill for many fans to swallow, the show kept Candy central to the show and a presence in the lives of the main characters. All in all, it gave Ross a fantastic spotlight, and she ran with it.

    Best Chances at Winning

    It's going to take a lot for Billy Porter to repeat last year's win, especially with Pose seemingly losing momentum. That said, Porter is a fantastically charming personality, and the triumphant, wise, emotional acceptance speech he delivered at last year's Emmys is advertisement enough to give him another award. But the waters are treacherous out there this year. The support for both Succession and Ozark is strong, which means Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, and Jason Bateman are all major contenders. Still, if the votes for the Succession boys split, Porter could make it happen.

    Dark Horse Vibes

    With only five nominations, it's tough to find another major category where Pose could triumph. But can we just take this moment to say that the costumes, makeup, and hairstyling on this show are utterly out of this world, and it would be a wild injustice if Pose went home from the Creative Arts Emmys without winning any of them?

    The 72nd Emmy Awards are set to air September 20th on ABC.

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    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, Pose, Angelica Ross, Billy Porter