By Priya Elan
From Cheer to Christopher John Rogers, the term has come to define survival in the face of white privilege
In the first episode of Pose – the hit drama about the 80s ballroom drag scene that gave birth to vogueing – a group from the House of Abundance break into a museum exhibition of Elizabethan-era clothes. They strip the mannequins, stuff the corsets and ruffs into shiny black bin bags, then escape through a smashed window to the ball competition. “The category is Bring it like Royalty,” says the MC, Billy Porter as the gang walk and pose in their Renaissance era garments. They win the competition, but their victory is about not only looking great whatever the cost, but also about breaking with convention, law and history.
In Cheer, Netflix’s docudrama about a competitive cheerleading squad, the breakout stars are Jerry Harris and La’Darius Marshall. Unapologetically exuberant, the black, gay teenagers in Republican-supporting, gun-toting Navarro, Texas, should stick out like sore, if deeply fabulous, thumbs. Yet Cheer becomes a story of how they survived grief (the premature death of Jerry’s mum and La’Darius’s suicide attempt) and accepted themselves. In both shows, as black and Latino members of the LGBTQI community, these characters are outside mainstream society and so have created their own. In this world “being fabulous” is not just the defining quality, but acts as a challenge to the status quo and (white, entitled, birthright) privilege.