UnREAL sets itself up and poises itself as a melodramatic series. We watch characters, strong-women with issues as they go head to head with the misogynistic and ridiculous “reality” of Bachelor-style TV. UnREAL places racism — muslims, blacks, southern belle’s and forces them together. All for the sake of drama. By shedding the veil, UnREAL is able to let the characters speak for their selves. Despite the producing of Rachel and Quinn the characters show that behind the scenes they are human beings.
As a political science student I have sometimes been questioned for my tastes in television. Why do you watch Gossip Girl? One Tree Hill? Devious Maids? As a frequent CW and Lifetime viewer, I see what many refuse to believe exists on dramatic TV. UnREAL has teeth. It takes the issues, spreads some drama and our insistence on the materialism and it twists it. Good TV turns the shallow-minded concepts and throws it back at you. Yes. It’s shallow — it shows the darker nature of us all. This is why Game of Thrones is so popular, why people watch reality TV and dramas. We are not just escaping our lives, we are acknowledging our darker sides.
Rachel insists over and over throughout the season that they’re going to make TV that matters. Through her rhetoric, we almost believe that having a black suitor is more than a ploy for fictitious ratings. However, through the show’s fallacy we see a world where black characters, just like their white counterparts, are playing the game and proving that even on shallow sets — humanity is what shines through.
TV shows, media, and what we watch have great opportunities to change our opinions of others. We need to realize that sometimes the plains for change aren’t just the front-lines. Some people get their advocacy from their television sets. I’m not saying that Devious Maids has changed my life, or that UnREAL has helped me view the world, but it is showing me characters of all colors, nationalities and backgrounds in the same light. That light may be dramatic, and it may be laced with horrible events, but the characters are able to engage in the show without being little more than a media ploy.
People need to be able to see characters of different backgrounds in order to empathize with them. We need to understand that all persons are dynamic and that there are different layers. The 100, another CW drama shows its potential each and every time it allows two same-sex characters to have relationships. There is no tension, no drama, it is merely accepted. These shows may seem sexy on the surface, but they’re truly making us more comfortable with what we’re seeing. The days of I Love Lucy are gone. Culture is not changed by pushing advocates into positions of protesting. Culture is changed by the persons engaging in it. The message, while important, only matters when it’s being enacted on every level. TV, whether raunchy or not, isn’t going away.
If we want people to become more open to others we need to have different cultures accessible. If we are not forced to sit down and see others’ views we will never leave our bubble. Entertainment television provides a safe buffer for those that are not politically inclined, but are human enough to have empathy for the characters they are viewing.