Set a recap of the season premiere: Times have changed


Set a recap of the season premiere: Times have changed

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On the run
Season 3 Episode 1
Editor’s rating 3 stars
Photo: Eric Liebowitz / FX

If I had to distil the gist of FX’s groundbreaking drama series Attitude, I would do well to borrow the words of Blanca Rodriguez (played by the luminous Mj Rodriguez): “We are family and the ballroom is our home.”

The line, which comes at the end of the season three premiere episode, feels like a succinct summary of what made the Steven Canals-created show so welcome to the American television landscape. Attitude has long labeled itself a family drama, one that reconfigures what it means to be a family – and to be a ‘mother’, in every sense of the word – in a space that for decades has understood the impact family ties can have for all involved: ballroom. Where the nuclear family, a staple of American television, is often housed in, well, literal homes (think those living rooms and kitchens that frame your favorite sitcoms, from All in the family to Different strokes), Attitude has spent the past two seasons emphasizing the importance of a more abstract but all the more grounded vision of a ‘house’. After all, Blanca’s House of Evangelista, as this first episode reminds us, exists in scenes around a dining table as much as on the floor of a ball.

It’s no surprise, then, that it’s in those two spaces that “On the Run” really shines, at times when the chemistry between its always charming cast is palpable. Watching Blanca improvise a family gathering in her apartment (to watch OJ’s infamous White Bronco chase, of all things) and later beaming from the sidelines as Elektra (the magnetic Dominique Jackson) oversees a stunning display through the House or Evangelista, you’re reminded why Attitude, despite its well-known attributes (pun intended), it still feels quietly radical. This is a love letter to black trans women and to the mothers who have had to wear black trans women like Blanca, and, rather than just pointing out such burdens, the potential is also celebrated.

When Blanca talks about her work at the hospital that cares for AIDS patients and says that “it never occurred to me that a woman like me would have the answers would be the one with the solution,” you can almost tell Canals and co-writer. to feel. and director Janet Mock who made the kind of statement they want to normalize with this show. Our intrepid protagonist is a steel beacon of empathy, and her selflessness is exactly why she (and the actress who brings her to life) deserves her flowers. It’s a powerful moment of self-realization that seems to set in motion a final season that finds the show’s emotional anchor pursuing her professional dreams, gobbling her up for what may be a well-deserved fairytale ending now that she’s also been found. her own “Theo Huxtable” in Jeremy Pope’s Christopher.

When “On the Run” sees Blanca looking ahead with bright eyes, the same cannot be said for Pray Tell (Billy Porter). The usually fiery emcee is out of control, seeking comfort at the bottom of a liquor bottle, making his usually sharp tongues feel more cutting than usual. His bitterness over his place in the world sours any interaction he has with those who love him – and, it should be noted, gives the always-game Porter a chance to further showcase his reach. Attempts by Blanca, his beau Ricky (Dyllón Burnside), and even the beloved Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), with a ready AA pitch, are not enough to convince Pray Tell that his self-medicating method may not be the best way to deal with the immense grief he faces on any given day. As he rightly points out at one of the many funerals he now attends, “My drinking will no longer fill this room.” It’s a statement that defines his self-destruction as survival, which makes it all the more troubling. And with hints that Angel (Indya Moore) and Lulu (Hailie Sahar) are all too happy to smoke crack-laced joints, it’s clear the dangers of addiction can continue to structure and dictate the final episodes of the show.

But, like a lot of it Attitude, these nods to the dark edges of these characters’ lives are more of a gesture than anything else. The love the creators and writers have for these characters, the way they are etched on screen as a balm and as a correction tool (for erased and ignored histories, both mediated and embodied), means they always have a halo of a protective force. For example, it does not make Pray Tell and Blanca immune to the horrors of the world around us. But it means AttitudeThe storylines will always put more weight on those rays shining through the darkness than on the darkness itself – which is why that police raid that opens the show may be so fleeting, as those moments of joy (like, say, Chinese parts) eat while Shanice’s ” I Love Your Smile “plays us in the credits) are the ones that get the most attention. They’re the ones the series wants us to sit with and remember the most: “I’m showin ‘the life that I’m livin’,” Shanice sings in that 90s hit and explains the Attitude ethos at its most lucid. “This is the life I have. Yes, and it is true. “

Dozens across the board

• One thing worth noting about that latest ballroom scene is the way it feels like a snapshot of both the ballroom’s past and present moment: after all, here’s a scene scored by RuPaul’s 1993 hit, ‘Supermodel (You Better Work),’ Featuring, among the many artists, Legendary‘s emcee herself, Dashaun Wesley. Such a prismatic moment reminds us how powerful a cultural object is Attitude as it does where ballroom was in 1994 and the place it occupies in 2021 as a way to honor its roots and further celebrate its place in contemporary popular culture.

• I can’t decide if my favorite line, Elektra’s “The balls are how we sad!” or Pray Tell’s “Want some noodles before you get grilled?” Fortunately, I don’t have to choose between them and can crown them both.

• Couldn’t pass up a summary without noticing that the costume and hair and makeup departments, led by Analucia McGorty, Sherri Berman Laurence, Barry Lee Moe, and Chris Clark (all Emmy nominees for their previous work), really did an excellent job. on the show). And I’m not just talking about those ballooks (which are, yes, to die for) but quieter ensembles, like a color-blocked Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) in a black turtleneck sweater with a blue blazer and a beautifully hooded Angel Lives their ’90s model fantasy with a bright red lip and statement gold earrings. And yes, even that last Blanca outfit with those great boots.

• Can we talk for a moment about Jason A. Rodriguez, aka Lemar, father of Khan’s house? In an episode that was brimming with reassuring smiles, reassuring readings and friendly, loving heart-to-heart among the OG characters, it was quite a treat to see Lemar being his delightfully sassy self, killing his voguing in matches and beyond. Establishing him as a cutthroat one-liner delivery guy. (That said, I can’t say I cared much about the diner-food fight, which felt straight out of a more broadly drawn ’90s family movie comedy than, well, a’ 90s TV drama, which Attitude feels more in line with – but again, the scene’s messiness speaks to the knotted messiness where the show often finds its most interesting beats.)

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