Netflix’s ‘Selling Sunset’ Reminds Me Why I Love Shows About NothingApril 11, 2019
This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
A few months ago I fell into a rabbit hole about MTV’s The Hills, which ended back in 2010, though it was recently rebooted. Laying in my bed hungover, I started investigating whether or not Heidi Montag had kept all of her plastic surgery, if she and Lauren Conrad had worked out their inexplicable feud, and then I topped it off by looking up Laguna Beach cast members on Instagram to see if they were still remotely famous. At the end of my somewhat exhaustive Google session, I texted my friend and asked her why the hell we were so into that show.
Neither of us could really come up with a good answer. After all, nothing really happened in The Hills. The show followed around already-wealthy young people “struggling” to break it into various glamours industries in Los Angeles and fighting with each other over manufactured drama.
But after binge watching Netflix’s Selling Sunset recently, made by The Hills’ creator Adam Divello, I was reminded of how delicious and satisfying shows about vapid rich people can be.
Selling Sunset has a simple premise—it’s about attractive white women who sell luxury properties for The Oppenheim Group, a major player in the Hollywood Hills real estate scene. The brokerage is run by Jason and Brett Oppenheim, two short, bald, impeccably groomed businessmen who seem like they would follow a rigid keto diet. They claim to sell a quarter billion dollars worth of real estate a year. The Oppenheim Group has its own brand of wine.
For some reason, Selling Sunset hasn’t caught as much hype as it should. Which is sad because it has all of the elements you’re looking for when you just want to shut your brain off.
A goody-two shoes protagonist
Our main character, Chrishell Hartley, is new to The Oppenheim Group so she needs to make a big impression on her bosses and on the other women, who, prior to meeting her, make a bunch of scary insinuations about how hard it is to break into their clique. Hartleyl is a former soap opera star who is married to Justin Hartley of This Is Us. She’s also originally from the south and that twinge in her accent really adds to her sweetness. Which is why I was kind of prepared to hate on her. I just feel like niceness is a quality I can do without in a reality TV show—it’s too safe. But then, at dinner with her sister, Hartley talks about how she grew up poor and at times homeless. She recalls being the “smelly kid” in school, a memory she brings up repeatedly throughout the show.
“That’s why I think I have this need to please people and fit in, cause I didn’t,” she says.
I have no clue if this show is as fake as The Hills but the “smelly kid” taunt is real AF regardless.
A likable ‘bitch’
Christine Quinn is the ring leader of the group, a designation that she enjoys reminding Hartley of at every turn. Before she even meets Hartley she suggests Hartley “can sit on the floor until she proves herself.” When she does meet Hartley, who comes into the office bearing gifts, she describes her as a kiss-ass.
“Whether it’s the Ann Taylor, driving Miss Daisy dress, I don’t know,” she says to the camera. “I think she’s like really nice; I just want to work on her style a little bit.” I love burns that are bookended with a completely disingenuous compliment.
Quinn talks a lot about how she’s “honest” unlike most people who will only tell others what they want to hear. It’s a theme that comes up again and again, and an excuse she hides behind when she’s really being mean and aggressive.
I see elements of myself in Quinn. In my early 20s, I often took it upon myself to deliver “tough love” to friends around me because I felt no one else was speaking up. Like, I was that person who would tell someone they were dating a deadbeat. Eventually, and I’m oversimplifying because it’s a very long story, a bunch of my friends ditched me and I realized that you don’t actually have to tell people everything you think. Sometimes “keeping it real” is just euphemism for being rude. Anyway, it’s kind of fun to watch Quinn learn this lesson.
Quinn, for all of her flaws, is at least funny and charming and loyal to her besties. Davina Potratz is none of those things, but she is still a shit disturber and very unlikeable. I have to admit, I didn’t even realize Potratz was a character in the show for a few episodes because she rarely says anything, she just kind of looks bewildered as other people talk.
There is something inherently creepy about her—like if Samara from The Ring grew up and got a reality show. Beef breaks out when Hartley and Potratz discuss their coworker Mary’s relationship with a younger man. It seems as if they are doing some relatively benign gossiping, but Potratz turns around and snitches to everyone else that Hartley has been talking shit about Mary. And then Quinn turns on Hartley. And then Potratz has the nerve to call Hartley two-faced. My disdain for Potratz was cemented when she justified going to Burning Man instead of a charity event by saying “it was an experience that totally changes your perspective.”
A dumb hot guy
Mary Fitzgerald, 37, another Oppenheim Group agent, is dating a 25-year old French baker (I think?) named Romaine. There are a bunch of issues relating to their age difference—he’s not sure when he’ll be ready to have kids, while she’s worried she might be too old by the time he’s ready. But the real issue with Romaine is that he’s dim. Fitzgerald says he can be hard to understand because he has a very thick accent, but I feel like the substance of his sentences is the root problem. For example, he asks Fitzgerald to marry him and then has literally no interest in any of the details, including what country they should get married in. When broached about it, his answer is always some variation of “it’s a girl thing.”
Real estate porn
The true star of Selling Sunset is the sweet real estate. One of the listings is an under construction 20,000 square-foot mansion with multiple hot tubs and pools, five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and an unobstructed view listed at $40 million. It’s fun to wonder what people my age shopping for homes like that did to accrue their incomes, though mostly likely the answer is being born rich.
We are endlessly bombarded with content these days, and a lot of it is really important—like the Elizabeth Holmes documentary or the final season of Game of Thrones. And while I think it’s necessary to be informed about pressing issues or what’s going on in Westeros, in a sense that’s even more reason to make space for shows like Selling Sunset. Think of it as a palette cleanser for your brain mixed in with a little bit of fantasy.
Most of us will never be able to afford a $40 million estate in Hollywood, but we do have Netflix for $13 a month and I would argue we could all use a little Selling Sunset in our lives.
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