By now, it’s no secret that UnREAL season 4 has been called many things… deplorable, unwatchable, and “the most vile thing” one author has ever seen (I guess she hasn’t caught up on Game of Thrones). I’m here to say that UnREAL was pretty vile, but it definitely wasn’t the worst thing I ever saw. It certainly wasn’t season 1 level gold – but it wasn’t the hot mess that other writers would have you believe.
I find it hard to stomach that other writers and reviews are suddenly disgusted by the behavior of Rachel and Quinn (and others). In the MeToo era it seems that we can murder two people by cutting their brakes, have a woman become so devastated that she kills herself on reality TV, amongst many other sins, but god-forbid we show that human beings are shitty enough to use sex, and rape, as a weapon and a tool. Let’s not forget that the body-count on UnREAL is higher than the amount of successful suitor-suitress love matches. Those watching UnREAL for a feminist hurrah (whatever that is) are obviously disappointed by Rachel and her constant addiction with controlling others and causing pain. What those who complained seem to forget is that Quinn and Rachel have never been saviors. They are damaged and flawed, twisted by the world that worships ratings and untruths more than it ever champions an orthodox agenda.
I can’t help but think of PlaneBae. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this viral media sensation, a woman (who thinks she’s a content creator), decided to stalk those in-front of her on an airplane and detail photos, their conversation, and post photos that allowed for the woman to be doxxed, possibly jeopardizing her job. The man was fine with it, but that’s not the point.
Let’s not forget that the show isn’t called TotallyREAL. It’s called UnREAL. It has always been a blurred line between reality, fiction, and the way society as a whole has transformed into a spectacle. While Rachel and Quinn are pushing boundaries for views and ratings, playing with the feelings of others, we as a society have started to swipe left and right on potential matches, have snapchat and tinder, and live in a world where Revenge-porn can slice the image of an otherwise respectable woman. iCloud hacks are the norm. Privacy has become a shattered illusion, and we exist in a world where boundaries are confusing.
Rachel and Quinn aren’t heroines, and even as Rachel has grappled with her own variation of feminism vs. power over the past few seasons, the show hasn’t necessarily made excuses for her deplorable behavior. Rachel is a siren, playing and toying with the emotions of those around her – but, let’s not forget that these contestants are also living in a world where attention and the chance at ‘love’ are so strong that they’re willing to subject themselves to a panopticon-world, despite knowing the horrors that await.
Maya’s storyline is tragic. So was Mary’s. UnREAL has always shown that the lines between reality and Reality TV are skewed at best, and UnREAL, even at its worst, gives us a glimpse of a human world that is fueled by desire and self-interest. The real difference in UnREAL vs. the mainstream is that this show dares to show that both men and women are capable of shredding each other into pieces.
Watching UnREAL, in all its guilty-pleasure glory, was delicious. A few writing choices I doubted, but that didn’t take me out of the story. Like a train-wreck, watching UnREAL is part dark-fantasy, part emotional rollercoaster. I wonder why people are so offended by the plot of UnREAL when they seem less phased by Game of Thrones? Does UnREAL perhaps touch on so many nerves because it feels so close to the world that we may be finding ourselves in?
For me, Maya’s story was terrifying as a political science student that focuses on cyber politics. The entire narrative of Maya’s life was twisted by video, and the court of public opinion decided she was the villain based on evidence that was manipulated. As video editing gets better and better, it’s a constant worry that all our lives are not only exposed, but easy to fake. Instagram filters are just the beginning of the facade that we now find the modern world in.
Saying that UnREAL was unresolved is quite frankly, unfair. Burning down Everlasting shows real room for growth by both Quinn and Rachel, no longer pulled by their addiction, they finally made the final (fatal) step to get free. To be honest, I’m surprised they didn’t make sure Graham was in the house too. The mansion of Everlasting represented the show, and the walls that contained them and all of their mistakes. This doesn’t mean that Quinn and Rachel are going to wake up tomorrow and be good people, but it does mean that they finally burned down the house (and whatever metaphor you want to relate the house to).
I really liked watching the mansion burn. I gasped. I cheered.
If UnREAL is deplorable, it is deplorable because society itself creates the conditions that allow this story to be semi-believable. It’s unfair to expect UnREAL to solve all the issues of women, rape, and everything else that we do to each-other as human beings. UnREAL is not about fixing the world, it’s about showing a glimpse of what happens to humanity when it’s pushed off the rails and when we are all framed by glass. What goes on behind the curtains of Big Brother or The Bachelor will always be shrouded by whatever the network execs want you to see – but in the world of Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook posts, aren’t we all just the producers of our own fact-fantasy?