Courtesy of Netflix

October 12, 2020

‘Selling Sunset:’ A Not-Quite-Reality Show On Realty

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In a time where everyone seems to be focused on elevating stories of oppressed groups, the popularity of Netflix’s Selling Sunset seems to be an unwelcome break in the matrix.

In Selling Sunset the viewer is taken through the ins and outs of The Oppenheim Group, a luxury real estate brokerage in Los Angeles. The Oppenheim Group is run by two twin brothers and staffed entirely by women, giving the show a Charlie’s Angels twist in the weirdest possible way. Selling Sunset marries together the easily digestible reality TV of Housewives, with the very American real estate obsession that makes us watch HGTV for hours on end.

Los Angeles is known for having one of the highest homelessness rates in the country and has only gotten worse with the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, Los Angeles is also home to some of the most wealthy people on the planet, leading to a very stark contrast of extreme wealth and extreme poverty within the city. This show focuses on the wealthiest inhabitants of Los Angeles and often struggles to balance the reality of the homelessness problem with the almost parodical nature of parading wealth around Los Angeles that the realtors and their clients partake in.

The lack of humanity and general unrelatability of the realtors and their clients is further aggravated by the almost ridiculous nature of the luxury real estate market. Throughout the show, there are several star-studded cameos of people coming to buy homes, from Taye Diggs in season one to Karamo from Queer Eye in season three.  However, most of the clients shown are young, white and many are making their first home purchase. Their starter homes are beyond what most Americans can ever dream of having, and the fact that these clients are so young goes to show how big of a role generational wealth played in most of their lives.

The newest season was easily the most in-your-face lavish of the three. The focus was mainly on Christine’s Quinn’s wedding to a billionaire. Throughout the season she talks about making purchases on his card without asking or telling him. Every conversation she has centered on her travels, purchases and new life under the financial care of her fiancé that has more money than he could ever spend. She enters the season stepping off of a private jet and comes to work every day decked from head to toe in flashy designer clothes. She pays people to plan extravagant events for her equipped with zebras and live performers. She flaunts her wealth in a way that makes even her co-workers seem poor.

So, why did this blatantly out-of-touch show get as popular as it did? And why did I watch all three seasons in one weekend?

Everything about this show is meant to suck you in. Take the way it’s filmed: Bright lights and blurry backgrounds train your eyes to focus on one spot, making it easier to zone out. It functions as an elevated House Hunters, filling in the boring parts where they don’t show homes with petty drama to keep you interested. The episodes are short and fast-paced so that when watching you almost don’t feel time pass as you are seamlessly carried from one 30-minute episode into the next.

We say we want to highlight stories of BIPOC, and take the stories we have heard thousands of times out of the spotlight. But this hasn’t happened. One reason being the COVID shutdowns giving us more time to watch Netflix than shows to watch. But another reason is that shows like Selling Sunset don’t require much thinking. Selling Sunset fills the function of being something calming and relaxing, something you can turn on and not be forced to reflect on all of the glaring issues in our society that the pandemic has only worsened.

In Selling Sunset we get to experience the life of people who are equipped with the highest level of privilege for a day. The housing market, something most Gen Z-ers will be priced out of when old enough to partake, is shown as a world of endless opportunity for those with enough generational wealth to get a multi-million dollar starter home with a view.

Did I enjoy this show? Absolutely. It was comfortable and fun and the houses were stunning. It was a good break from thinking about everything that is going wrong in our world. As long as you don’t look deep enough within it to find it again.


Christine Ochoa is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].