reality mondays

I have been getting VERY into the Bachelor/Bachelorette,¬†and I’m afraid there’s no turning back. I am so interested in what the show says about romance and gender roles, and I really feel for the people on the show–most of them, anyway. So when I saw a commercial for LIfetime’s new drama UnReal, a scripted show about the making of a reality dating show based on the Bachelor, I was hooked before the preview even finished. Lucky for me and you and everyone, UnReal airs right after the Bachelorette on Monday nights. So for three hours on Monday, I am in dramatic reality/really dramatic TV heaven.

Not only is it entertaining, it’s educational! Between the two shows I can finally piece together how real reality shows get made. Maybe. Probably.

So here’s what I learned this week:

the producers are right behind you
Both the Bachelorette and UnReal started with a breakdown. The Bachelorette picks up where it left off last week, with Kupah ranting and raving about how he doesn’t really even care about Kaitlyn but he doesn’t want to go home because they both like movie quotes??? He literally says there’s no connection between them and then gets mad that he can’t stay to continue to date her. (And this is a man on his best behavior, around people he just met and is trying to impress!)

During an interview on camera, Kaitlyn hears Kupah yelling and waving his arms around in a way I assume he thinks makes him look more manly (he is wrong). Kaitlyn, badass that she is, marches out to handle the situation. The camera follows her down the path and then comes across our loud, aggravated suitor–and a mysterious man in a purple blazer who jumps quickly out of the camera’s view.

bachelorette

I see you, producer.

I see you, and I see your work. Who knows what they said to Kupah to get him even more riled up and rant-y, but it worked. And did Kaitlyn go out there because of a little prodding, or because it was highly suggested to her?

UnReal suggests the latter. When producer Rachel comes back to work on a Bachelor-based reality show after having a breakdown on the finale of the last season, she jumps right back into the messy work of drumming up drama for TV. UnReal suggests that the cocktail meet and greets are a lot less fun than they end up looking. Most contestants stand around trying to talk to each other while waiting to get a few moments alone, but actually in front of a bunch of cameras, with the person they are all supposed to be dating. Plus, the producers are crawling around egging people on and manipulating every situation they can so that they can get the soundbites they need.

UnReal is a pretty dark look at what it takes to push people to breaking points for entertainment value. (And except for a tiny thing I have called compassion, I hate to say I think I’d be really good at this job.) The producers are watching and listening to everything, and they know what buttons to push to get the results they need. And they are probably standing just out of sight of every shot.

“It is not my fault that America is racist”
The Bachelor franchise is not exactly known for its diversity, and part of what set Kupah off was his supposed fear of being a token black person they keep around for a certain number of episodes. While it certainly looks like Kupah was sent home entirely for being an entitled jerk, UnReal makes it pretty clear that they don’t expect a person of color to make it to the final rose bracelet ceremony. A producer on UnReal blames this on America not wanting to watch it, but tell that to Empire’s audience, or Black-ish, or How to Get Away with Murder, or Scandal or…. The contestants are entirely chosen by the producers, and UnReal makes it look like they have a large part in steering at least the first few rounds of who stays and who goes. So if anyone wants to look at the real cause of its lack of diversity, they should start with the people putting on the show.

I’m already learning a lot about a (mostly not true) reality show by watching a (definitely nonfiction) behind-the-scenes drama and I can’t wait to learn more (possibly real) facts next week.

There will be a newsletter going out later today on other things I’m watching/reading/loving, so if you haven’t signed up yet, give it a shot by signing up below!

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vanessa on daredevil

vanessa from daredevil

Vanessa on Daredevil went on a date with the devil himself. When Wilson Fisk, the evil mastermind rebuilding Hell’s Kitchen in his vision, takes her to a dinner that gets interrupted by a haggard-looking criminal yelling at Fisk, Vanessa realizes this might not be your average businessman. So on their next date, Vanessa brings a gun. Later that night, they watch the city burn, together.

Vanessa on Daredevil is the baddest B on TV right now.

Vanessa is choosing to get into bed with evil–she doesn’t have to be tricked into it or lied to about it or caught by a trap. She really sees Fisk, and she can tell he isn’t on the level. She chooses to be with him not in spite of this, but because of it. This is a huge contrast with other superhero shows where men hide their misdeeds with tiny bandanas over their eyes, or where everyone is making decisions on women’s behalf while they have no say in the matter.

Another superhero show, Arrow, spent a verrrrrry long time with whip smart Thea not realizing her brother was missing all the same nights the Arrow was crime fighting. And that they kind of looked alike under that hood. And that a vigilante’s team was operating *in the basement of a business she owned*.

Oliver claimed he was hiding his identity as the Arrow to protect Thea, but Thea has faced plenty of tragedy and has fought back, learning how to fight and be a warrior herself. She is self-sufficient, and she runs her own business and she’s good at it. She is the opposite of an incapable person who can’t be in charge of her own life.

What Oliver is really protecting is himself, so he won’t have to have an awkward conversation where he shows his real self to someone he loves. It’s true that it’s hard to be vulnerable, but it’s also true that watching a man lie to a woman so he can stay comfortable doing whatever he wants is a snooze and a half.

The Flash is another show that has been tons of fun, except when a certain woman is involved. It seems like everyone in Central City–and Starling City!–knows that Barry Allen is the Flash, but Iris, who has grown up with Barry and is a professional reporter covering the Flash, can’t figure it out? I mean, the Flash is the exact size and shape of the guy you are secretly in love with and you never once daydreamed that ~maybe~ they were the same person?

It doesn’t make sense! And worse than that, every man in Iris’ life has an opinion on what Iris should know and when, and none of them have included Iris in the conversation. Keeping women out of the loop comes from a misguided, sexist sense of protection (from what, exactly?), but all it does is keep women on the fringe of the story, outside and powerless. And on the Flash, it’s keeping Iris stuck in one place while everyone else speeds ahead and leaves her behind.

But Iris won’t be in the dark forever, just like Oliver couldn’t keep lying to Thea. And hopefully these weak plots to maintain the status quo and hold off the inevitable will give way to richer stories for all of the characters.

Vanessa is exciting because she makes her own choices, and she creates her own power. Sure, Fisk runs Hell’s Kitchen, but Vanessa runs Fisk. When Fisk wants to protect Vanessa and send her out of the country, she says no thank you. She has power and agency in their relationship, and it comes from being on the inside, seeing Fisk when he’s vulnerable, and then using that information to make her own decisions.

vanessa and fisk

It’s so much more interesting to watch a woman choose to stay when things get hard, and know she’s getting involved with a man who does bad things, rather than yet again see a woman who happens to fall into a situation based on everyone else’s choices but her own.

And if it’s all the good guys who are lying? I’d rather be a bad bitch, too.