UnREAL: Season 1

UnREAL (do I need to write it like that, lol?) is, to me anyway, an original conceit.  I haven't bathed myself excessively, or at all really, in reality television and so this satire of sorts on the creation of a Bachelor-esque show I find quite eye opening and amusing.

Sarah Gertrude Shapiro created the show, which is based on her short film Sequin Raze (which is really well cast!), which is based on her own experience of producing for The Bachelor.  Shapiro is a refreshingly honest person.  In this interview on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour she says the show explores the way a person loses her ideals in the pursuit of a successful career.  About herself, she discovered that the compensation of only $1500 week without benefits was enough for her to justify torturing another person in order to create good TV.
UnREAL's main character Rachel produces Everlasting, and she too has sold out to the crass reality of what it takes to create good reality TV.  Taking cues from the on-site psychologist who knows the background of each contestant, she pokes and prods the vying wifies, soliciting dramatic TV-worthy meltdowns.  Shapiro, in the same interview, said that her epiphany came when, after one particularly cruel exit interview, the woman called to tell her that Shapiro ruined her life.  "As a feminist, a dyed in the wool feminist...I sort of realized that I had gone beyond where I wanted to go."

I like the character Rachel.  Perhaps like Shapiro herself, Rachel is totally consumed with her job and refreshingly unconcerned about relationships, marriage, babies (making her a comical juxtaposition with the Everlasting contestants).  However she's so lackadaisical, so shoveling-junk-food-into-her mouth, so much of a financial, legal, psychological mess, who only sits with her legs at 90 degree angles (not because she's a slut--because she's too uninterested in a relationship to notice), while at the same time a "genius producer", that the carelessness seems almost like an affectation, and I can't see an actual person in her but rather an "Exaggerated Fictional Character".

The short film Sequin Raze pulled off this same character with more subtlety. For example in Sequin Raze the character wears a thread-bare shirt that tells Bush to get off her ovaries.  We see it I think in one short scene, while she's shoveling pizza into her mouth and has just tortured a contestant into humiliating herself in an exit interview, clearly demonstrating that this is a once idealistic feminist who's completely turned her back on these ideals.  In UnREAL Rachel is wearing an old shirt with the much less subtle "This is what a feminist looks like" statement across the front.  She wears this shirt for a good three episodes.  In once scene the camera moves upward, circling on Rachel and the t-shirt.  It's as though UnREAL is screaming out to the audience, "SEE?  THE POINT WE'RE TRYING TO MAKE HERE?"  I kind of want to scream back, "YES!  I GET IT.  AND YOU REALLY LOST ME WITH YOUR SCREAMING!"

I found it curious, too, that the premise of this show is a satirical absence of any morality--in the effort to produce good TV, Rachel and her boss Quinn encourage cat-fights, aggravate the abused ex-wife's PTSD, prod the foster child to an on-camera meltdown.  Yet, in the scene where the hillbilly virgin comes out as a lesbian, Rachel suddenly sheds her "I don't care about anything other than doing well in my job" and overtly advocates, congratulates the character into a homosexual union.

How curious that in any absolutely anything goes television show, where even murder is shrugged off,  the creator breaks down the third wall and preaches without irony, "THIS!  This is something that I want to tell you is important!  Learning to accept yourself if you are attracted to the same sex!"

That's not to say that this is the show's only message.  Although it starts to seems like a big orgy, with the plot thickening through infidelity and granting sexual favors, the message is kind of refreshing.
After completing Everlasting's final episode Quinn says to Rachel, "Please don't tell me that you're wasting your victory lap crying about boys.  Love is swell.  But it's not something you build a life around."  They end the scene by confessing their (platonic) love for one another.  These two women's primary relationship is her coworker!  This crazy ambition is a breath of fresh air--they are both single, (presumably) never married, aging out of fertility, yet aren't pining for the diamond ring.

Have I ever met this woman in real life?  Honestly I can't say that I have.  The women I meet are either pining for the boyfriend or the husband, or else smugly married and condescending to single women, convincing them that they really can! endure the single state (for a few more months, anyway).

So yeah, the writing is pretty cool in this respect.

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