Jan. 31st, 2016

proximoception: (Default)
UnReal Season 1:

Trying to work through wtf was up with that next to last scene.

Maybe backing up to the overarching stuff will make more sense of it?

Women are being blamed for The Bachelor, on the grounds that only women understand how to push the right buttons - in the audience, in the contestants. This isn't necessarily gender essentialist, since it may instead just indicate that women are raised into a sort of social prison that men mostly aren't, so display a particular psychology - or set of related ones. So the male "creator" is a total idiot, the uncredited creator a female.

Why would women turn on other women? Because they too are trapped, and feel that by collaborating they can earn their own freedom.

Men are associated with drugs - the father is Prozac-zonked, the boss partying himself to death, the bachelor spoiled by unearned second, third, etc. chances and by female attention, the host a vapid figurehead granted self-satisfaction by his Emmy. All get away with sucking and never truly paying for it.

The suggestion is that if women got together this system could be taken down. But certain older women who have lost to entrenched male power in their every attempt to claim their rightful spot have become power-obsessed, so kick down.

The big analogy the show sets up is between the female Bachelor-type mastermind and a Gaslighting psychologist mother. The mother convinced her daughter she isn't right in the head, thus can't make the right choices, so needs the mother to tell her what to do. Since said daughter ends up in show business in a very similar dynamic - crazy-shamed, begging for a survival pittance - I think we're maybe supposed to look hard at all other similar features.

The mother has inadvertently (?) trained her daughter to be a woman-specializing master psychologist, and Quinn is transparently desirous (and convinced) that Rachel will end up exactly like herself. Rachel's main job is to convince the contestants that their various perplexed or horrified (sensibly so) reactions to reality show expectations about their behavior need to be shelved because if they capitulate for a little while things will get real later on - they'll have their own show, or get to do charitable work with their winnings, or whatever. She succeeds at this because they've been convinced to do it before, and basically talks them into thinking that they're using their power in the process. But the contestants never get what they want, because since all of their other options have been foreclosed their behavior can be predicted. Their only real shot is to absolutely rebel, but this is socially costly when not quashed physically (e.g. being committed, imprisoned, sued for breach of contract, outright blackmailed, or just kept out of the hearing of other potential rebels).

So the notion is the whole damn world is The Bachelor, where women put women against women for the scarce resource of access to some sort of power in life, which seems to come only through men.

Love is a sort of lie told to marry these pyramid scheme promises to the stupidest parts of the human brain. Love is love for the rich guy, with whom you can finally be freed from worries, limitations, and others' expectations and schemes. Everyone falls in love with the blonde British bachelor because they genuinely love what he can do for them - sexual release with him becomes just a symbol, or foretaste, of literal release.

He's trapped too because he feels he has to keep looking like what he isn't really, since otherwise no one really respects him. The power is hollow because unearned. No one wants to be a (mostly but not always figurative) meal ticket, and every woman he encounters is starving so that's all he can feel himself to be. It's Rachel's more or less intellectually-based power that draws him to her, since he feels that her interest must be real if she needs nothing from him. But she does - those showers, those silk sheets. That was a nice touch. Effectiveness doesn't translate to security, if you're female. She falls for the dream because her collaborationism has all been in pursuit of the same thing he seems to offer, and since IT seems to have never quite worked...

The way the older women get to the younger, behind the scenes of the romance lie (where everyone on the show lives, really, despite also thoughtlessly buying it in their personal lives), is by letting them know that power is all that's left. This justifies their own gradual selling-out, prevents their ever having to see the younger women attain any of the less dubious sorts of happiness they'd abandoned, and in a weird way even makes them feel altruistic. They're warning those like their younger selves that all the other paths are dead ends, saving time and heartbreak.

Because the romance lie would be fine if it were just an inaccurate ideal - you'd break your heart once and move on. But when it becomes the notion that you could never be loved for who you are, but only what sort of mannequin you can at great cost become, it is much worse. How do you know you've done enough? And once you've put in enough effort to being false, you become another sort of idealist since what's natural (hence now very lonely) in you reaches out in yearning toward anyone who seems authentically living toward you. You thus become easier to gull the more practised you become at gulling.

So the real horror here becomes that love maybe IS real, since no one could know it if they saw it. They instead feel they want to be fooled, and when it's confirmed they've been they seem angrier at the incompetence of the fooler than at his insincerity.

Is a gender-reversed version of this happening with the cameraman? We initially assume he's smitten with Rachel because she's smart, but he knows what she does better than almost anyone. Perhaps they'll explain it further later on? He stands for authenticity and stability, for her, but only really offers these to someone who would destroy them. Are the only women who seem like real people the crazy and/or cynically manipulative ones, to him? His new girlfriend is a heavily made up pretty blonde presented as nagging and boring (though everything she says turns out to be accurate); are we to understand he doesn't want her because the desire to genuinely share and please looks exactly like the falsified mock-up? Especially because of the make-up arms race? Or is it just that it's hard to cast an actress who doesn't seem a bit like an actress (conceivably a related problem!)? Can't tell if they're doing anything with the male gaze notion with him, given his job, or just suggesting it makes him immune to it, thus cockily unprepared for another sort of imposture.

Okay but anyway. We can't quite tell at the end whether Rachel's resolved to play some kind of long game against Quinn et al. or if she's actually gotten sucked into it and just makes rebellious gestures vestigially. I think we're to understand she's not always sure either.

But the murder bit is so strangely phrased. Her exact words were - uh, can't find them and it's too late to turn the tv back on. I'll fill them in when I remember to.

Julie thinks, given her affect, that she wants to murder Quinn, which, while doubtless true on at least one level, does not seem to account for the words. And of course if the second season concerns itself with her attempt to destroy Quinn it will presumably end with her realizing the extent of Quinn's own victimization.

Did Rachel do something more than what was openly shown that might implicate her in Mary's death? She almost seemed to be saying she'd engineered the suicide because she felt Quinn had covertly signalled her to (a la Henry II's famous, ambiguously rhetorical open question that got Becket killed). And was saying not that she objected to doing that but that it had been too difficult or too risky or ... what, exactly? "With the contestants behind the scenes." Did she mean that to top that they'd need to kill someone on-camera, presumably live? Was she just saying she didn't want the show to do the same thing twice, out of ambition or professional pride or something? It was hard to tell which of the two was morally uneasy at which.

Curiously similar to the daringly (but also alarmingly) baffling aspects of the Mr. Robot season finale, where you just don't have enough information about what the Swedish guy has done to/with/in or as the lead to guess where the show might be going - hence might be meaning. Hence wonder if the show knows exactly what it means to mean yet.

Though with both of these one feels one grasps the gist.

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