Ladies: are you stuck in neutral on the highway to love? Terrified your days of being young and hot are about to vanish in a puff of wrinkles and granny panties? Are you so desperate you’ve actually contemplated going on a TV dating show to try and find Mr Right?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, may I offer you some advice: watch UnREAL, the bitingly satirical series set behind the scenes of Everlasting, a Bachelor-like TV dating show.
Firstly, it’ll convince you that looking for love on camera is a truly dumb idea and that, for all its faults, Tinder is cheaper and significantly less soul-destroying.
Secondly - and most importantly - it’ll hit you with such a sucker-punch of Girl Power you’ll wonder why you ever thought you needed a bloke in the first place. In fact, UnREAL may just be the most feminist show on TV. Here’s why...
1. Who run the world? Girls
If you met them in real life, Quinn King, showrunner extraordinaire, and her 2IC, Rachel, would likely flat-out terrify you. Fabulously fringed Quinn is the type of boss lady who would make Miranda Priestly shiver in her Prada boots. For her part, Rachel makes an entrance wearing a T-shirt that says, “This is what a feminist looks like” and has an almost superhuman ability to get people to do anything she wants.
They’re ruthless, calculating and frighteningly good at their jobs, stopping at nothing - literally nothing - to make Everlasting a tweetable ratings bonanza.
2. It has the gall to show women as they truly are: flawed
UnREAL doesn’t just accept that females have flaws - it straight-out celebrates them. Quinn is a nasty bitch - but she owns it. She’s a foul-mouthed ball-buster who doesn’t care who she pisses off on her march to the top.
And Rachel? She’s a total mess. She barely bothers with makeup, sleeps in a trailer, jerks off constantly with a vibrator, and lives in a uniform of greasy hair and even greasier trainers. Fresh off a mental breakdown, she’s probably suffering from borderline personality disorder and capable of pretty spectacular levels of deception, manipulation and narcissism. And it’s incredible to watch.
3. The “contestants” aren’t your typical carbon-copy bimbos
Nope. These girls know they’re on a dumb TV show but they’re here to win. From the hot MILF to the feisty Latina and the "innocent virgin", they know what role they’ve been cast in and how they can use that stereotype to their advantage. Sad ladies get sympathy from their suitor? Bring on the crocodile tears. Bitches get more screen time? No problem. One major bitch-slapping coming right up.
4. It dashes the idea that a Prince Charming is going to save you
I mean, he might, but it’s probably because a lady producer thought it might boost ratings… If you want saving, you’re gonna have to do it yourself.
5. It’s a celebration of the female approach to getting things done
Sure, Quinn and Rachel have to bluster and break a few balls from time to time but the beauty of UnREAL is how it shows the myriad ways you can make people do what you want. In the show-within-a-show, the network boss is a dude. So is the executive producer, not to mention Adam, the Bachelor himself. These guys may technically have some sway, but they all come across as basically clueless boneheads and spineless sleazeballs. Rachel constantly uses her charm against Adam to get him to perform on camera and Quinn knows exactly what weapons work on Chet, her boss/lover.
“You’re the best producer in the industry”, she's told. “You could make a perfectly happy person jump off a bridge. Produce Chet. Get him to jump off a bridge.”
Which is exactly what she does.
6. It’s a fairly accurate portrayal of female friendship
Girls and their besties, amirite? UnREAL isn’t interested in a Sex and the City idea of gal pals as shopping dates and brunching companions - it’s more realistic than that. Girlfriends can be mean and bitchy and jealous of each other, but when the shit hits the fan, it’s hoes before bros every time. Quinn and Rachel don’t always see eye to eye - and Quinn will definitely pull the boss card when it suits her - but there’s no doubt that this is the central relationship we’re meant to be rooting for. They’re married to their jobs but devoted to each other, mentor and protégé like Denny Crane and Alan Shore from Boston Legal.
“I love you, you know that, right?” Rachel says to Quinn at one point - to which Quinn answers, “I love you too, weirdo.”
UnREAL airs Mondays at 8:30pm (AEDT) on SBS 2. Missed an episode? Catch up with SBS On Demand.
Watch episode 1 right here and now: