unreal exposed

Watch UnREAL on Amazon. Seriously, go watch!

I’m rarely prompted to write about a programme I’m enjoying. I’ve written some oh so witty recaps for an as-good-as-defunct website in the past but apart from that, I’m usually hearing about programmes once someone’s already said they’re good. I think Transparent is utterly incredible: so does everyone else.

But I had heard nothing about UnREAL when I started watching it, I just finally gave in to the relentless suggesting of it on Amazon Video. And man, it’s good. The premise is fascinating, and UnREAL does it super well. UnREAL is a drama set behind the scenes at a hit reality show and as such, lets us glimpse behind the magic and into the machinations that make such shows happen.

At the centre of UnREAL is Everlasting, a reality show almost identical to The Bachelor, which is now about to enter its 21st season in the US. The Bachelor has been around so long that it’s easy to forget how huge it has been, and the extent to which it created the blueprint for dating shows. In the post-writers’ strike days of reality programming, The Bachelor is a behemoth. Looking at its Wikipedia page, The Bachelor has been accused of being scripted and I have no idea of the extent to which this is true, but UnREAL takes as its starting point the idea that the show isn’t scripted, but that the Producers manipulate every detail to produce the result they want. This includes cajoling, flattering, and criticising  the contestants into acting the way they want, which is as compulsive to watch as it is horrifying. And some of the ways they manipulate the characters is watch-through-your fingers bad, pushing buttons and using the mental health issues of the contestants to push them in to an emotional, sometimes extreme, reaction. Which is to say that it’s so entertaining! While I do like to think that Producers on a real show wouldn’t go quite as far as they do on UnREAL, I could well be being naive.

These women are badass
These women are badass

The co-creator of UnREAL- along with Marti Noxon, who is probably most famous for working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer- is Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, who originally wrote the acclaimed short Sequin Razeon which UnREAL is based. Shapiro worked on The Bachelor for nine seasons so I suspect she knows a thing or two about the show, but it is her personal reaction to working on it that I find so interesting, and is what makes UnREAL so compulsive for me. Yes, it’s fascinating to watch the manipulations and machinations, and to see the dynamics between the people working on the show as they simultaneously compete with each other and strive for a common goal. But it’s the characterisations that make me go back to UnREAL for episode after episode, long after that point that I lose interest with most series.

UnREAL has two main characters and they are both women. That genuinely doesn’t happen often, and when it does the female characters are rarely as flawed and complex as these two. Rachel is very definitely the heroine of the piece, dragged back to work on a TV show she finds morally repugnant but that she is so very good at producing. But Rachel also makes terrible decisions- and selfish ones- and acts in a way that makes you want to shout at her sometimes. She is stuck doing something she hates but is incredible at and we watch wondering whether she will destroy herself. She’s also played by the ace Shiri Appleby, who was so great in Girls, and brings a real humanity to the role. Rachel is bright, capable, right-on and likeable, and sometimes she is a pretty bad person. Luckily there is her boss, Quinn, the show-runner of Everlasting, to make Rachel look good. Quinn is vicious, cutting, hard-nosed, witty, and angry, and also a multi-layered character with human relationships, hopes and dreams. Looking at the other roles Constance Zimmer has had, I can’t pin any one thing down to where I recognise her from, but she has been in a lot, and I love her in this. Two female characters who are selfish and single-minded, successful and intelligent, and you still manage to like them for at least some of the time; I can’t think of another example of this. It happens slightly more in our new, amazing golden age of television, but usually as an ensemble cast or in a sitcom; a genre where the reality of complex human relationships is often lost. in UnREAL there are other fascinating characters, not least a gay character who isn’t a horrible stereotype, but it’s the women who run the show. It shouldn’t be surprising, but it is.

UnREAL holds a mirror up to reality TV and all of its racist, homogeneous tendencies. The drama of the show that is being produced is almost matched by the drama going  on behind the scenes, but I don’t find anything camp. Of course there are times where there has to be a little suspension of disbelief, but even watching episodes back-to-back UnREAL stands up. This is something I struggle with when I watch episodes of anything close together as so often the characters suddenly change their mind about things that were so important an episode ago, in order to advance the plot. UnREAL does a pretty good job of staying true to its characters and smashes it out of the park when it comes to the Bechdel Test. I’m thrilled that a third season is coming and heartily recommend this show. Now someone watch it so I can talk to you about it.

Category: Comment

If you’re applying for a job, please don’t do this…

I am currently recruiting and have so far waded through 179 applications . 179*! And every one is from a real live human being so I take the time to genuinely consider their CV and the cover letter they’ve composed. A big chunk of these applications have one or more major issues: not necessarily a lack of qualification or experience, more that the application itself prompts some cause for concern.

I’ve recruited for entry-level roles and managerial vacancies, and while there are definitely some people who need more of a support network to help them represent themselves properly in a job application situation, people of every level should be avoiding these pitfalls…

1. Maybe don’t use your personal email address

This is a pet hate of mine, so it gets top billing. It’s not enough to mean you automatically won’t get an interview, but it will make me think twice. Please bear in mind when you apply for a job that the recruiting manager has no idea who you are. And that their vacancy will receive many applications, into the hundreds if it’s not a managerial role.

Your email address is one of the first- if not the first- thing that someone will find out about you so try to think about what you’re saying with that email address. Ultimately, any employer wants to know you can act reasonably in a work situation and with a bit of common sense- if you can’t do that with your email address, why should I believe you can do it at work?

If you’re basically or then I don’t judge your personal choices! But your common sense is definitely under scrutiny. And no, I’m barely exaggerating. is an example of one I’ve had the pleasure of receiving a job application from. I don’t even know what it means.

Also, generally avoid the word ‘dolphin’ in your email address. Please.

I very much enjoy getting tipsy. I don't need to include it on my CV.
I very much enjoy getting tipsy. I don’t need to include it on my CV.

Even email addresses that don’t suggest a full and exciting social life can be problematic; I wouldn’t discount somebody great for this reason, but there’s always that confusion when the address seems to be somebody else’s name… If you’re Bob, why is your email address Pam? Just do yourself a favour and create an email address that is basically the name on your application- it makes everything simpler.

2. Fill in the blanks

I don’t know you, your hopes, your dreams. If all you’ve ever wanted was to move from Galway to London (or vice versa) then good for you! But if your CV states that you currently live in Galway, then it’s probably worth mentioning how and why you’re applying for a job across an actual sea. Even places closer by: if it’s an hour and a half from your city to mine, you clearly aren’t going to be commuting, and interviewing you is going to be a bitch. So state in your cover letter that you’re looking to move, or how you think you could make the role work, because otherwise I will think you’re just not paying attention. I shouldn’t have to work to understand your application.

Similar is true of career breaks and periods out of work: do not just leave gaps. If you were raising a family or had caring responsibilities then just put that in. If you were ill or had trouble finding work, these things are totally understandable but still worth a mention. Again, just try to bear in mind that you’re taking the guesswork out of the situation. The employer doesn’t want to have to try to figure stuff out so KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid. Which in this case means filling in the gaps.

3. Have an up-to-date CV

Boring? Obvious? Yes! Totally! And yet I see covering letters and personal statements all the freaking time that seem to contradict the CV provided alongside. On the current vacancy we ask whether a particular qualification has been achieved, and the proportion of people who answer yes and then it’s nowhere to be seen on their CV is frankly staggering. Do you not care enough to keep your CV current? Are you fibbing about having passed? Again, I don’t want to be the Miss Marple of Reed, digging to find out the truth. Just tell me what I need to know.

These are my beautiful cats. I very much enjoy cats. I don't need to include it on my CV.
These are my beautiful cats. I very much enjoy cats. I don’t need to include it on my CV.

And make it suitable for a lay person. If you have an HR professional doing the recruiting- which may well be the case in a larger organisation- then they’re likely to understand what your qualifications mean. Similarly, if you’re applying for a very specialist job in, say, a riding school, then listing all your horse-related achievements makes perfect sense. But if in doubt, just spell out what all these letters and names mean. I’m not going to sit and Google your acronym so just make it easy. On my CV I say that I have the Investment Management Certificate (glamour!), I don’t just put ‘IMC’ and let employers guess at what particular IMC that might be.

Other quick wins to bear in mind:

4. CVs of more than 2 pages won’t get read. Fact.

5. Get a friend to read your CV. If you can’t even capitalise your own address, or spell the name of your last employer correctly, I’m not sure I want to entrust you with my organisation’s financial future. So ask a mate to check it.

6. Don’t be weird. A bit of colour, or an unusual layout (as long as it makes sense) is a nice change for the poor, tired recruiter’s eyes. But don’t go on about unions ruining your year at a French university, or your obsession with the knowledge provided by Dan Brown books. Out of context it’s just  weird.

7. ‘Going to the gym’ and ‘reading’. Everyone puts these as their interests. It’s in no way a deal-breaker but it makes you stick out about as much as calling yourself easy-going in an online dating profile. Oh, do you like staying in and going out with friends too??

Oh you mean you like reading? Why didn't you say so!
Oh you mean you like reading? Why didn’t you say so!

8. Volunteering is great.

9. Try not to apply if you can’t even be bothered to slightly tailor your covering letter. I know it’s tough out there, I really do. But receiving the same covering letter you already had saved on the recruitment website without even changing the job title and company name is so depressing. Ideally you should refer to the detail in the job ad but in an entry-level job, if you really feel you don’t have loads to say, just keep it to the point but personalise it to the vacancy.

10. Don’t Dear Sir me if you’re writing to my email address. In my old job I asked all applicants to email me directly. So howabout ‘Dear Laura’ or ‘Dear Ms Bosslady’ rather than ‘Dear Sir’ if you know. My. Effing. Name.

Bonus tip: Want the job, give me a call. Nothing sticks in the mind of a recruiting manager more than the person who took the time to double-check a detail, or ask an intelligent question. It makes us feel wanted and warm inside! And when it comes down to you and the similarly-qualified person, I potentially already have a bond with you.

I hope these help? It’s genuinely so frustrating to see bright young people who have loads of potential making it opaque. If you don’t do your CV right there’s a bunch of people right behind you who will, and will get interviewed before you. Also, I just had to get this off my chest; I’ve been holding on to that ‘daddysmyangel’ thing for years…




* since starting writing this, it’s jumped to 198. I haven’t read all of the new ones.

Category: Comment, Life
Kathry 1

What is Pity Party?

Cast your mind back to the dim and distant past of 2009….. The word ‘blog’ was just beginning to take hold and people were using them as a way to vent and share. Fast forward to now and to blog essentially means to have your own business: to invent and market brand You and, for many people, strive towards the ultimate job goal of full-time blogger. It’s like we can all be mini Carrie Bradshaws only without the deadlines (and glamour?).

So, in an age where it feels like everyone blogs about everything, how can any one blog be different? Well, I’ll tell you. It can’t be. EVERYTHING has been done somewhere in the world. Perhaps the only slither of difference is honesty. Pity Party was born out of the secondary needs of its’ authors, me and Loz, to be honest. The primary need was to write something, anything, for our own joy and the potential amusement or education of others. But how to do that when one is, essentially, not an expert on anything?

So, without any feet in the worlds of politics, fashion, beauty, film, music, or anything else, but with a strong lust for ALL of them, we decided to write a blog on just that: things that we like but on which we have no insider or professional insight. And because we felt sorry for ourselves and our lack of ‘officialdom’, we decided to name the site Pity Party. But it also kinda captures that light-and-shade mix of serious and silly articles we’re aiming for. Ya geddit???

For my part, I sincerely hope you enjoy our opinionated articles, searingly insightful recipes, somewhat photo-iffy fashion pieces and everything inbetween. Revel in the fact that you might not know too much either and join us for a pity party every week. And you don’t even need to RSVP. Legen————(wait for it, wait for it)——DARY!

Lots of love,

Kathryn xx

Category: Comment
White Dee

What’s your benefits beef?

The Guardian website recently published an interesting piece on benefit fraud, with shocking statistics to match. Not shocking in the way you might imagine. Startlingly, these stats highlighted how few people are defrauding the system, rather than trying to fly the banner for the train of thought that says everyone who claims benefits is “bad” or “lazy”. Apparently, only 70p out of every £100 spent on benefits is paid out to a fraudulent claimant, and society’s perception of fraud is 34 times higher than evidence suggests.

For me, vilification of benefits claimants has been a constant occurence for many years. Having worked for organisations providing two different supplementary benefits [these are the ones you get to assist you, rather than support you, which is what Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance are designed to do] I have seen the people with the huge TVs, nice looking houses, and seemingly designer accessories being supported by the State, all the while not being able to evidence that they have a bean in their bank accounts. Yes, it is frustrating to visit a claimants’ house and see that it is bigger than yours and they don’t have to pay for it.

However, I have also seen the fifty year olds who have worked their entire lives and still can’t support their families; the people with disabilities who would desperately love to work but face barrier after barrier to gaining employment; the women who have to be supported by the State because they thought they were having children in loving relationships only to be bullied, beaten, and tortured by their despicable partners.

If worthiness and whether you are nice person or not counted for anything in the world then it isn’t just the numbers of people receiving benefits that would change. Charities would win the lottery and no one would be homeless or abused. But life isn’t like that, and just because someone is a bit of an arse doesn’t mean that they don’t have the right to be supported when they need it. Is there fraud? Well, yes. There is plenty of it. But there isn’t as much as some publications and political parties would have the wider public believe. Do I get angry thinking about the fact that I will have to carry on working and therefore miss time with my child when other mothers get to stay at home and be supported? Yes, sometimes I do. But this is my upside: I have always been able to work and therefore have a society-sanctioned sense of worth. I own my property and have enough money to buy food, not just once every two weeks, but all the time. I have travelled the world. I have things in my life and experiences to cherish because I was lucky enough to be able to work. If you think I’m a mug then so be it. I think that’s more of a reflection on you then it is on me.

Being on benefits was as much fun as a dodgy curry wurst for me
Being on benefits was as much fun as a dodgy curry wurst for me

So why do we feel free to fling our scorn and hatred at benefits claimants? One reason could be that working is really hard. By the time you’ve slogged your way through traffic, commuters and whatever else impedes your journey, all just to get somewhere you don’t want to be, it’s difficult not to think that you’re missing a trick somewhere. If you’re struggling then why isn’t everyone else?

Another reason could be the fact that being on benefits isn’t an intrinsic part of ourselves. Hate someone for being gay, black, or a woman and you are hating their very being. Aiming your poison at a claimant doesn’t make you an “ist” and is a pretty safe way to vent your anger. After all, who out of the working population doesn’t think that benefit cheating scum should get a bit of rough treatment?

Well, actually, I don’t.

What the Guardian piece really told me is that it fits the prejudice-driven agenda of a few people very well to vilify one section of society. That minority opinion can start to become the public consciousness however, perhaps we should all act like human beings and remember that everyone is too. Time to buck the trend.

Category: Comment
save the male CALM

Men need Feminism too…

If you buy, or spend time with someone who buys, any magazine aimed mainly at men, you will most probably have seen the ‘Save the Male’ campaign being run by CALM. Even if you haven’t registered the message, you may have seen the eye-catching image of a man’s body, mostly submerged in the sea.

I first became aware of CALM when I worked at the British London 10K this year and spotted just how many runners CALM had; they stuck out because their fundraising t-shirts are orange, the same as our runners’ were, but the sheer number struck me too and I sought out the charity to see what they were about.  CALM is ‘the campaign against living miserably, .. a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the biggest killer of men aged under 50 in the UK.’  Later, I started seeing the adverts on magazines, and buses, and it got me thinking.

There is some controversy around the oft-quoted statistic that claims that the biggest killer of women aged 15 to 44 is men, but there is no doubt that, while instances of crime in general continue to fall in the UK, we still see two women killed a week by a partner or ex-partner.  The TUC estimates that one in four women will have to take time off work at some point due to domestic violence, a statistic that sits uncomfortably in as rich a country as the UK. We all know, right now, a woman who is suffering from intimate partner violence. And the prejudice of “why doesn’t she just leave?” is deeply ingrained in our societal consciousness, as well as a belief that some arguments just get out of hand, some couples just wind each other up, some women could do with a slap. But what story starts to emerge if we think about CALM’s statistics on male suicide in conjunction with rates of domestic violence? What is our society saying about men if violence towards themselves and others is so prevalent? Surely both domestic violence and suicide are symptoms of not knowing how to cope, a deep unease with the world, even if they do present in very different ways.

An initiative in Hull which helps men who want to stop being violent
An initiative in Hull which helps men who want to stop being violent

I feel that it is appropriate at this point to write a few words on domestic violence experienced by men, inflicted by women. Intimate partner violence, whatever the gender of those involved and whatever the sexual orientation of the couple, is disgusting. We all feel anger with our loved ones at times, especially in romantic relationships, but to physically abuse another human being is truly immoral. And when it is an intimate partner, a husband or wife, the pain of domestic violence goes so much deeper than the physical, and the feelings of shame are well-documented. Estimates on DV experienced by men in heterosexual relationships do vary but around 1 in 4 of DV incidents seems to be an accepted statistic, and this points to it being a huge problem. My caveat on mentioning this statistic would be that the remaining 3 in 4 violent incidents are against women, who physically are more at danger from the violence, have a higher number and more serious injuries, and that around 80% of continuing violence is perpetrated by men on women. I have always said that there is room around the table to discuss all types of domestic violence, and I am not dismissive in any way of men suffering intimate partner violence; we need to support those men, but it doesn’t negate the extent of violence against women.

One of CALM’s three mission statements is “We believe that if men felt able to ask for and find help when they need it then hundreds of male suicides could be prevented.  We believe that there is a cultural barrier preventing men from seeking help as they are expected to be in control at all times, and failure to be seen as such equates to weakness and a loss of masculinity.” I would hazard a guess that a very similar statement could be made regarding domestic violence, that men feel too much shame to ask for help and feel that there is a cultural assumption working against them. Deeply-entrenched cultural assumptions are massively, indescribably harmful to men and to women; assumptions based on gender only serve to pigeon-hole, and ignore individuality and difference. The same assumptions that tell women that they’re too emotional, too bossy, can be valued only on their physical attractiveness, attack men for not being traditionally masculine enough, dissuade them from seeking help when needed, and use the word ‘mangina’ to try to nip progressive thought in the bud. Male suicide rates are another way we’re reminded that the world needs feminism, for men as well as women.

For help and information:

The Samaritans:
Mankind Initiative:
Respect UK:


Category: Comment