In the first episode of the second season of UnREAL, Lifetime’s dark satire of The Bachelor, Rachel and Quinn, reality producers and reality’s puppeteers, are celebrating. They have just given their Bachelor-esque reality show, Everlasting, its first black Suitor—Darius Hill, an NFL quarterback who, like most of the show’s Suitors, agrees to take on the role because he is in need of some light image rehab. Everlasting, at this point, has gone 14 seasons without casting a star of color—and Rachel, having fought to update her show’s regressive monochromism, is now exceedingly proud of herself for having won the battle. “It was meeeeeee!” Rachel yells. “The first black Suitor, it was me! We’re gonna make hiiiiistory!”
UnREAL and the show it mocks have, for the past couple of years, been engaged in a particularly ripply kind of feedback loop: Since the satire entered the scene, The Bachelor and the other shows that circle in its gauzy orbit have offered viewers, even more than they did before, teasing plot twists and low-hanging conspiracy theories and, in general, a posture of inviting knowingness when it comes to the interplay between reality and “reality.” So it was fitting that, on Monday—when The Bachelor announced that it had cast the Texas-based lawyer Rachel Lindsay to be its next Bachelorette, the first person of color to star in the 21 seasons of The Bachelor/ette—the show neatly channeled that other Rachel. The Bachelor, at once so real and so UnREAL, was very, very proud of itself. It had, after all, made hiiiiistory.