Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 78

dynamics the series reckons with feel half-hearted.” They appear half-hearted if Bastién is writing about Everlasting. But her reading is hard to justify once the critic retreats outside of Everlasting and interprets UnREAL. Once the cold-hearted producers demonstrate they are willing to risk Darrius’s football career by potentially paralyzing him and willing to put Darrius and Romeo in the line of fire of white police officers, it is difficult to avoid reading UnREAL’s depiction of Everlasting’s participation in the exploitation of black bodies and lives as a mirror to the actual injustices to black lives in contemporary society. Rachel’s call to the police to report a stolen car in Episode 7, after Darrius, Romeo, Yael, and Tiffany take the Bentley for a joy ride, is a racist means for professional gain. That a liberal white feminist is making the call is a powerful way to get the audience to reflect upon the hypocrisy and racism often built into the white feminist project, which is just what Curry and Harris claim MacKinnon’s project is guilty of. Bastién argues that this move in the show is exploitive. Of course it is because it is a reflection of the exploitive nature of reality television and the entertainment industry. Everlasting keeps Jameson (Karissa Tynes), a black cop contestant in the background, much like the reality shows it is imitating and critiquing. Rachel portrays the racist white liberal, who despite her empty desires to revolutionize television by featuring the first black suitor, uses racist schemes to do so and undermines her supposed goal by exploiting black characters’ pain for personal, professional achievement. That said, UnREAL does fail to fo llow up on some of its potential. For instance, in the episode following Romeo’s shooting, the audience is deprived of an update on his health and any insight into the Darrius’s feelings about the tragedy and injustice his friend has suffered at the hands of the producers. However, one must decide to read Darrius’s mistreatment at the hands of his producers as a function of the injustice of Everlasting or of UnREAL. If the latter, the entire show participates in the exploitation of black bodies alongside profit-driven professional sports, such as the NFL. If the former, then UnREAL can be read as a critique of such unjust exploitation. Critics who take the first horn of the dilemma should be writing critically about a season of The Bachelor instead. Bastién claims that the show fails to illustrate the interior lives of people of color. But is this not because the UnREAL is itself a criticism of reality TV, which exploits gender and racial essentialist stereotypes for profit? Even Bastién’s criticism of Season 2 of Everlasting, which she couches as a critique of UnREAL, falls short because her hopes that Ruby will win the show are actually realized. To the surprise of most of the producers, Ruby does return, and Darrius jilts two fooled potential brides at the altar. 78