In Defense of the Bitch


by Shanna Bowie

I just spent the day watching Lifetime’s UnReal, which is the amazing summer show no one is watching and all I have to say is “hooray for the bitches!” The first episode opens on Constance Zimmer’s Quinn, the show’s quintessential bitch. She is easily identified by her carefully coiffed bob and fitted blazer. Quinn is the manipulative executive producer of a Bachelor-style reality show that offers her producers cash bonuses for crying catfights, and 911 calls.  Her right hand girl is Rachel; a producer who excels at manipulating the contestants but unlike Quinn has a conscience. But throughout the course of the show, UnReal shows us that everyone can be a manipulative bitch and even the manipulative bitches have feelings.

We watch Quinn show her vulnerability as she strives to have a relationship and family and we see her lash out against other women when she doesn’t get those things. Rachel constantly struggles with doing her job, which she hates, to make money while talking about wanting to throw it all away and help African AIDS babies (yes, they say that and somehow it works). At one point, even the sympathetic on-set psychologist uses the women’s distress as a way to advocate for her own potential spin-off show. Obviously, each of the women contestants has an agenda for being there, while the producers try to maneuver them into “water cooler worthy” moments. And while the female characters perpetrate many of the machinations, the men also take their turns being manipulative bitches. After orchestrating a racially motivated blow up between two contestants, a black, gay producer is called an Uncle Tom and we see him question his own morality. The suitor of the show literally whores himself out to get investors for his development project. No one on this show is immune from the catty manipulations because we’ve created a society where getting ahead is the name of the game.

This is what makes UnReal so very real. If this show were mainly about men it wold be about the cutthroat, ruthless world of business but because the cast is mainly female, it’s about bitches. And I say embrace that. These are the kind of bitches I want to see on my screen because these are the kind of bitches that exist. Not just the childless, bob-haired, maneaters that Hollywood is so fond of giving us. These bitches have agendas or stumble into someone else’s. They are occasionally opportunistic and sometimes calculated. They want families. They want careers. They are women of color. They are not gendered. They cry. They MASTURBATE! (I actually put up praise hands when I saw Rachel and her vibrator going for the gold). UnReal has one more episode left to the season and I can’t wait to see where all these bitches end up.