Sympathy for the devil

I’m not sure what I should call it. It’s not merely an interest, I would say. Nor an obsession – seems a little heavy. A passion also feels wrong somehow. But it’s definitely something that’s been on my mind: the world wars.

Of late, I think of the wars, the impact they’ve had, the people involved, the decisions made, the ramifications that still reverberate to this very day. And the possibility of it happening again. Maybe it’s Trump. Maybe it’s Brexit. But to me, I feel a stirring in the world. Something’s changed. Something’s different. It’s like we’re on the brink of something and it’s put me on edge.

Whatever it is, it’s made me look into both real accounts and fictionalised stories, detailing these wars. My latest venture into the foray of European and American misery has been The Man in the High Castle, which just had season 2 drop in its entirety on Amazon Prime. I’d seen the first season last year, thought it was “nice”, figured I’d go for season 2 when it came out, but kind of left it at that.

This weekend, I re-viewed the first season, to get myself back into this horror world where the Nazis and the Japanese agressors won instead of the Allied forces. Season 1 is… Scary, sure, but mostly very far removed from our own reality. The evil guys very much feel like the evil guys. And the resistance are easy to sympathise with, imagining they are “us”, the viewers. Which is exactly why I used to think this was a “nice” show in the past. It was all very clear cut and dry. No excessive thinking required.

But now… Season 2 has changed things. The agressors have been humanised. There’s a bigger picture. I don’t know when it happened, but gradually throughout these past 48 hours I have started to root for the man who gassed a woman and her two kids early on in season 1 without a real cause. And the man at the head of the SS in the American Reich has become someone I look up to, someone I admire for his strength and even his values. Naturally, it’s partly the actors delivering on outstanding material that makes it easy to sympathise with the devils. But it’s also the humanisation of monsters. In a way, you could say, every monster has a soul. Somewhere. Hidden deep inside, underneath layers and layers of filth, struggling to survive. But survive it always does. And that’s a scary thought: because are monsters still monsters when we know they have souls?

And that raises another interesting question: is it right of us to easily vilify anyone we feel acts as a monster? Do they not also have a soul? A good side? A side worthy of a chance, no matter how slim it is, at a better life? At the end of season 1, one of the characters makes a decision based on that very belief: thinking that no matter what someone else has done, they deserve a shot. She bets on hope. She bets on people. She bets on a better future, no matter how unlikely it is. And for argument’s sake, the show has proved her right to do so. Her actions reverberate into season 2 and, in the end, help save millions of lives.

I remember thinking, a year ago, that The Man in the High Castle was a piece of dystopian fiction. Most people might still view it as such, even after the realisation that some of the shows’ worst nightmares are human beings with people they love and who they want to protect. But I, for one, will definitely no longer see it as dystopian. Because no matter how bad it gets in the Pacific States or the American Reich, no matter the hatred and fear some of the characters have to endure, there’s at least one woman who continues to believe in her fellow men. I fail to see anything dystopian in that. I find that belief of hers to be very utopian indeed. And we could use some of that in our own lives, I’d say.

Wouldn’t you agree?

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This show is UnREAL!

I have found my summer show. No. Scratch that – I have found the show that will etch 2015 in my tv-memory as particularly exceptional! So please, without further adieu, welcome to UnReal, a fictional show about what it’s like to film reality shows. More particularly, it parodies the years-old format of The Bachelor. It’s even written by someone who used to be a producer on The Bachelor – so now you can catch a relatively accurate glimpse of what that world could look like – in a fictional setting. Can you feel the meta?

So let’s get to the reasons as to why I bingewatched the first 9 episodes in one go…
Note: I only discovered it when 9 were available and next week’s already going to be the season finale, which is silently killing me already it’s so tragic! But thankfully I also immediately read the news that season 2 is already approved – thank you, Universe!
Anyways – why I love UnReal and you should too:

1) Meta! I love meta! Especially when it’s a parody on something I absolutely abhor – I don’t even see the point in reality tv. Not only is it not real – harr-di-harr-harr – but real life usually isn’t all that awesome anyways. Fiction is… Possibility. It’s dreams. It’s an endless world of beautiful endings. Why film real life? You want something entertaining, right? I don’t find it entertaining to watch people fight each other – unless I know it’s actually not real anyways. It’s not fun to see “real people” hurt each other – and trust me, that’s what gets you your ratings. It’s simply disgusting. And fiction is a way to let that pretty harsh world slide and find a better one. Even when it’s about reality, such as in this particular instance, it’s damn near awesome to watch.

2) Shiri Appleby! Since an amazing performance back in the late 90’s – oh Roswell, how I miss you – she hasn’t really been doing that many great things, if I’m honest. But she is bringing an absolutely stellar performance here! Gone are the perfect youthful good looks from her days in Roswell, but let’s bring in some actual wrinkles and bags under her eyes and generally a person who looks like a person. Not a person who looks like a cute actress – with too much make-up on once she gets older, but an actual person. So I’m really happy about that. And also, she’s just superb at nailing this anti-heroine persona she’s got going for her. Her character, Rachel, is someone who’s actually pretty evil, but you can’t help but love her, root for her and hope she gets her happy ending. And, ironically, she just seems so real here. Truly some exceptional acting, in my opinion.

3) The open and honest BLUNT fun! Omgosh hahaha, this show is hilarious! As I said, it’s based on The Bachelor – the show they’re shooting in this fictional universe is called “Everlasting” and the bachelor is aptly named “The Suitor” – and there is absolutely no political correctness in this series. “It’s about ratings people! And the winner is never a black woman. I can’t help it if America is racist.” Hahahaha! Stuff like that. All. The. Time. It’s absolutely hilarious, because it’s basically a bunch of conversations between people who have no social filters. Naturally, I feel at home in this show.

4) The romance. Let’s be honest. A girl loves a good romantic story – or perhaps not “romantic” per se, but more about… Something that feels like it could be real. No perfect dinner dates. No first looks that immediately mean love. No sweet kisses in these gorgeously cute settings. No looking absolutely stunning at all times. Instead we’ve got a woman recovering from a mental breakdown, working on basically no sleep, dressed like “a homeless wizard” and with the added benefit of having a mentally abusive mother to boot! We have a gorgeous suitor who needs to lose his bad reputation and prove to his father he can be successful on his own, but is often no more than a puppet strung along by different people. We have all these characters and none of them have it all together – which is very often what real life looks like, fictional though this is.

And that leads me to my point: this show just feels so real in its unreality. The crap they pull on their fictional show: I don’t know how much of it is completely made up and how much of it does happen in real life on The Bachelor. I do know that some of it is undoubtedly exaggerated, to add some extra drama of course. But the characters themselves? They are as real as anyone can be, given those situations they’re in. They may be actors and actresses, but if that was a real person in his/her real life, I have no doubt that’s who they’d behave like. And that’s some sweet meta, guys. That’s an amazing hook that’s got me watching until deep into the night! Shows like this don’t come around often. In my many years of bingewatching – and when I say “many”, I mean before it was even appropriately named “bingewatching” – there have not been a lot of shows where I literally could not let go and had to forego sleep to keep watching.

The last time I’ve been this excited about a new show was about 3 years ago when I first discovered the full first season of Teen Wolf and was able to watch that back to back. Trust me when I tell you… That was a good day. And so was the day when I discovered UnReal: if you are not watching this show, you are doing it wrong. If you have it on your “to-watch” list, you are doing it wrong. If you are watching something else at the minute, you are doing it wrong. Basically: stop reading my stupid blog and get your ass watching this show! Seriously, you are unreal.

And just something to get you started… You know, the first time you see an attractive guy (or woman) naked should be in some hot and intimate circumstances – one would hope. Real life is often different. And our Rachel simply hadn’t showered in a while, so… Hygiene first, the rest “whatev”. This show has no filter concerning speech, but also definitely not concerning personal propriety. Who gives a shit whether you’re basically a stranger and this needs to be a professional relationship: “I smell and you have a perfectly good working shower right here. If you happen to be in it at the moment, I’m unable to care, so just move over and let me get the soap!”
Seriously folks… I. LOVE. UNREAL!