Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 67

character of UnREAL by distinguishing the first order analysis focusing on the drama produced among the contestants and the suitor on Everlasting from the second order analysis focusing on the show’s depiction of the production of Everlasting. The principal female leads on the show are Quinn King (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby), both of whom work behind the camera of Everlasting. At the opening of Season 2, the focus of this article, Quinn and Rachel have acquired matching wrist tattoos reading “Money Dick Power.” Their slogan simultaneously represents their emancipation from patriarchy and their overt adoption of patriarchal values. Resolved not to be the passive receptacles of, but the active captors of the objects of their desire, Quinn and Rachel both invert a patriarchal hierarchy and reproduce it. Contemporaneous to their joint transformation, Chet (Craig Bierko), with whom Quinn engages in power struggle both romantically and professionally and who has largely stolen Quinn’s ideas for the show, is reborn out of self-destructive indulgence into an essentialist, masculinist form of male liberation, which inevitably fuels his competition with the version of feminism proffered by Quinn and Rachel. UnREAL’s play on gender runs parallel to and is inextricable from its provocations with race. The pawns of the show’s (Everlasting’s) game in Season 2 include Darrius Beck, (B.J. Britt), a famous NFL quarterback and the first black suitor on the show, Romeo (Gentry White), Beck’s cousin-turned manager, Ruby Carter (Denée Benton), a Black Lives Matter activist convinced by Rachel that the show can serve as a medium for her cause, a Confederate flag-wearing white contestant from the Deep South, and Chantal (Meagan Tandy), a black southern debutante whose hair politics run counter to Ruby’s natural look. UnREAL’s reflection of and commentary on real world politics is both overt and complex. Chet is a Harvey Weinstein- style sexual harassment perp. He uses his power to solicit oral sex from a pig-tailed production assistant, Madison, (Genevieve Buechner). Darrius and Romeo become black victims of white police violence, reminiscent of Walter Scott’s lethal shooting in North Carolina. And the politics of hair and norms of beauty in black feminism play out in the background of Everlasting’s female contestants. Rachel’s character and career arc mirror Shapiro’s. Shapiro developed a feminist worldview while studying filmmaking at Sarah Lawrence College, but ended up working on the set of The Bachelor manipulating jilted contestants into crying on camera in limousines. Rachel is a gender-studies major who dreams about saving African AIDS babies but ends up deploying her talent for the cruel manipulation of women for entertainment on Everlasting. 67