TV

‘Pose’ Is One Of 2018’s Most Important TV Shows, So Why Can’t We Watch It?

We asked Foxtel when we'll be able to see the show.

Pose, Ryan Murphy’s latest television show, is historic.

Centering on New York’s late 1980s ballroom scene — a community which provided support, love and a platform of expression for queer and trans people of colour — Pose is perhaps the definition of ‘for us, by us’ with its record-breaking abundance of transgender actors in series regular roles.

Behind-the-scenes, Pose is equally diverse. Transparent writer Our Lady J and best-selling author Janet Mock helm the show’s writing and production team, for starters. The show also boasts 100 trans employees across cast and crew, including choreographers and advisors from the ballroom community.

This would all be worth celebrating on its own, but thankfully we don’t have to, because the show is apparently excellent. Vulture is calling it the “the culmination of Ryan Murphy’s entire career”; The New York Times says it “demands attention”; and Them raves about the show’s three-dimensional approach to queer and trans stories.

Which is great — unless you’re in Australia. Despite the hype and ground swell, there are no legal avenues to watch Pose on Australian shores. In an age where anything other than same-day streaming feels anachronistic, there’s not even a premiere date on the horizon.

Why Is It So Important?

From the moment it was announced last year, Pose had a lot of hype. New York’s ballroom scene has never had a bigger cultural influence than right now, though most wouldn’t know it.

For starters, our cultural catchphrases and obsessions of the moment — ‘shade’, ‘reading’, ‘fierce’, ‘work’, ‘yassss’, voguing — are severed from their ballroom beginnings. These are largely misattributed to the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race (if not the Kardashians), rather than the trans and queer community of colour who pioneered the art-form, and who now watch as outsiders continually profit from their culture.

The ballroom scene first gained mainstream attention through Madonna’s hit ‘Vogue’, then Jenny Livingstone’s excellent 1991 documentary Paris Is Burning (which is on Netflix and YouTube, if you haven’t seen it).

For the uninitiated, balls are loosely akin to a beauty pageant. New York’s scene was (and still is) composed largely of economically insecure queer people of colour. Rather than pure beauty, contestants compete for their ‘houses’ across categories, many of which relate to the concept of ‘realness’ — presenting as a ‘genuine’ woman, as town and country, as a soldier, as a businessman, as a college student. As vulnerable people, the categories were both entertainment and practice — to pass is to survive in a world not made for you.

Paris Is Burning centres on harsh realities, as ballroom glamour is framed as an escape of everyday realities of homo- and transphobia, homelessness, violence and lack-of-access to HIV health care. Community is valorised, but characters remain defined by their tragedies — as an outsider, Livingstone has been criticised for centring the flicker above the resilience of the flame.

With this in mind, Pose‘s announcement garnered tentative excitement. As the team behind the show was revealed, it felt like it could be an authentic insight into a culture continually misrepresented and appropriated. And by all accounts, it is.

“We create ourselves”

At its crux, Pose is a show of rivalries, focusing on two ball houses: Abundance and Evangelista. Evangelista is newly formed by Blanca (MJ Rodriguez), who defected from Abundance due to her overbearing house matriarch, Elektra Abundance (Dominique Jackson).

In the background looms the venture hedonism of 1987 New York — one love interest works at the Trump Organisation, and the show explores the tensions and cracks of each world. Talking to The New Yorker, Murphy said he wanted the show to focus on optimism and vibrancy of the ball room community — non-ball related scenes are beige and dulled, as if the rest of the world is losing out.

This isn’t to say issues of HIV, violence and transphobia aren’t glossed over. But Pose lets its trans and gender non-conforming characters live and breathe in ways we have not seen on mainstream television. The very real threats that Pose‘s characters face are intertwined with the banal and basic life experiences.

“When girls like us flitted onto my screen, we were seen through the narrowest lens — either as points of trauma, treated as freaks, or mere punchlines,” Janet Mock recently wrote in an essay for Variety.

“Rarely were we given a chance to be the centre of the story, to be the protagonists, the antagonists and the damn villains. And I knew with Pose, I would hold the pen, writing narratives that would show the totality of what it meant to be brown and black, to be trans and poor and femme in an era in New York City dictated by a series of ills, from HIV and gentrification to crack and greed.”

It’s that authenticity that critics have latched onto, celebrating it as a show without compromise or constraint. As one character says, “How lucky are we? We create ourselves.”

Sounds Amazing, But Where Is It?

Pose premiered June 3 in the US. The show is in the tail-end of its ten-episode first season, and a second was green-lit last week.

And yet, no date in sight for Australia. Of course, not every show reaches our shores — nor every great show. But Pose is a safe bet — Murphy is behind some of the past decade’s biggest shows, from Glee to Nip/Tuck and American Horror Story. What gives?

In March, Foxtel announced it has the Australian rights to the show, as part of a larger deal with FX, with plans to stream it on-demand and air it on Foxtel channel Showcase. Mysteriously, Foxtel briefly announced a June 24 premiere date, but it was quietly scrapped for unknown reasons.

Speaking to Junkee, Foxtel has confirmed Pose is “coming soon”, but could not give more details. It’s frustrating, to say the least — it sounds a little melodramatic, but when Australia gains access to a tv show or film months-to-years later, the whole country falls behind on a global conversation.

At least a late entry is better than none at all.

Update 7/08: Foxtel has confirmed that Pose will air on Showcase and be available on demand from Tuesday September 11.

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