My latest binge-fest is UnREAL, an outrageous and devilishly moreish drama that spills the guts on the behind-the-scenes of a Bachelor-type reality show called ‘Everlasting’. In a cool kinda life imitating art imitating life imitating art scenario, Co-Creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro is actually a former Bachelor producer.
I have to admit, The Bachelor is a guilty pleasure of mine. Catty women hardened by heartbreak with their biological timebombs ticking, pitted against heart-on-their-sleeve softies, scratching each other’s eyes out to get their hands on that mayan. It’s not reality at all, it’s carefully cast and orchestrated drama that’s so damn awkward it’s actually comedy. It’s so bad, it’s good! Now, I am the first to acknowledge it is pretty far off the mark when it comes the Bechdel test, which asks if a work features at least two women who talk to each other …. about something other than a man. I’m sorry, but there you have it.
So of course, what first attracted me to UnREAL was my unashamed, shallow appreciation of the reality genre. But the more I became addicted, the more I began to realise there was so much more to it. This drama about reality actually turns the whole trope on its head. Here’s a show where the main characters, two female producers, unstable Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and her fierce mother-figure boss Quinn, despite being complete biatches who know no bounds when it comes to manipulating their naïve contestants in the quest for ratings and glory, are not only real and relatable, they’re aspirational. Goddamnit we want to be Quinn King (yes that is her name!) so fearlessly portrayed by Constance Zimmer – perfectly cast off the back of her impeccable characterisation of ballsy Hollywood producer Dana Gordon in Entourage.
The shocking language Quinn projectile vomits are not what we’re used to hearing from female characters: “I’m going balls deep in this b*tch!” In an industry dominated by men she is, as she so brashly declares, “Queen of the Freakin’ Fairies!” But of course, and what endears her to us all the more, even she is screwed over by the male establishment and has to claw her way back. As she so aptly puts it “If I was a man they wouldn’t be doing this to me. I’d be wearing sweatpants, scratching my nuts and boning 22 year olds.”
Which brings me back to the Bechdel test. Whilst the Bachelor fails it miserably, UnREAL absolutely smashes it out of the ballpark. Yes, there are male love interests, but they come and go. They are not the spine of this story. These two independent women are navigating their relationships and their careers on their own terms. The only thing that is truly everlasting in UnREAL is the imperfect and severely tested but unshakeable bond between these two women. Step aside bromance, this a trope unto itself known as womance. Rachel and Quinn get each other, they sustain each other, and yes they actually love each other. And as women with best friends know, that is real life.
UnREAL Series 3 which I am just about to devour, looks to be taking things to a whole new level with the series’ first bachelorette, Serena, played by Caitlin Fitzgerald who was brilliant as the scorned wife in another fav Masters of Sex.
And holy smokes, I just found out … Series 4 is coming! As Quinn says “OK, tits up everybody, let’s do this!”