The ‘Selling Sunset’ Reunion Was Problematic

Selling Sunset has grown into a dynamite franchise. Quickly dominating Netflix airwaves and premiering at number one amidst season five’s April 22nd release, the series has gained popularity over the course of three years. According to Parrot Analytics, the show, which follows a firm of luxury real estate agents as they finesse the Hollywood housing market with style and sass, ranks at the 88.2% percentile in the reality genre. 

At the heart of the drama this season was the power couple incessantly force fed to audiences, Chrishell and Jason. Their dilemma boiled down to children—Chrishell’s desire for and Jason’s against—and whether one would concede for the other. The two ultimately end up splitting, and at the reunion, we see how their breakup has impacted them. Jason cries, Chrishell cries, and we hear news that Chrishell has moved on with someone drastically different than previous partners: 27-year-old nonbinary rockstar G Flip

Being in a queer relationship comes with a lot of scrutiny at the hands of friends, family, and society as a whole. My girlfriend and I have been followed, catcalled, and sexualized in public settings more often than I can remember. Historically, queer relationships have been seen as promiscuous, temporary, or dirty, an image perpetuated through media, news, and everyday language. Because of this, queer people are typically prone to being unfairly criticized, demeaned, and scrutinized based on negative stereotypes deeply engrained in society. 

News of Chrishell’s relationship broke during the Selling Sunset reunion that aired on May 6th, and immediately, people were on edge. Host Tan France, one of several Queer Eye cast members, moderated the reunion and handled Chrishell coming out aggressively, continuing to question her despite Chrishell’s clear discomfort. After asking Chrishell if there was anything new to tell us, hinting at the rumors in tabloids about her relationship with G Flip, France pushes for answers following Chrishell’s elusiveness on dating. “Who are you enjoying?” he asks. She fiddles with her hair nervously, touches her face, and avoids eye contact before being forthcoming about her relationship with the musician. 

The entire mood shifts following Chrishell’s reveal. The cast looks around at each other as if to confirm this is, in fact, who Chrishell is dating, with Maya’s reaction quickly becoming the most memeable response. Immediately, the cast’s behavior shifts as the camera sweeps over their faces to catch the disbelief. Try as some may to argue these reactions as “genuine astonishment,” the entire thing felt like a “gotcha” moment set up by producers to put Chrishell on the spot. Mary stammers over her words, Maya’s jaw drops, and Davina looks wide-eyed at photos of G Flip and Chrishell. Subconsciously, their responses, through stuttering, blank stares, and overall confusion, sends the message that Chrishell’s news is shocking, and something to be looked at outside of the ordinary. Their behavior becomes distant and cold—they’re avoiding eye contact, looking panicked, and making faces, a clear exhibition of detailed microaggressions queer individuals face every day. 

“A key feature of microaggressions, and particularly microinvalidations, is that they are frequently non-deliberate and unconscious on the part of the actor,” details report Validation of the Sexual Orientation Microaggression Inventory In Two Diverse Samples of LGBTQ Youth. “These subtle forms of discrimination can seriously impact the mental and physical well being of the individuals who experience the discrimination or invalidation resulting in psychopathology, emotional distress, and poor physical health.” 

As if the looks shared between cast members weren’t enough, France quickly follows up with no time for discussion as they move into a clip from G Flip’s new music video “GET ME OUTTA HERE”, featuring Chrishell. There’s heavy making out between G Flip and Chrishell in the video, something her co-workers watch in real time before her, and after, France proceeds to shame, fetishize, and disregard queer relationships through very coded questioning. He engages the other cast members and their history with same sex relationships asking if they’ve ever tried “dabbling,” indicating queerness is something to try on. 

Mary refuses to answer the question, saying her “parents are going to see this,” and France asks the others if they’ve ever been “dirty birds” or “naught” in regards to doing anything with other women. Emma shrugs and says she has and in response, France gets up to high five her, fetishizing queer relationships as some passing party trick for straight women to engage in. In doing so, France highlights historical assumptions that queer relationships are sultry, sexy, and some “dirty little secret.”

Considering the constant harassment people in queer relationships face in real life, it’s devastating to see someone like France—who himself had a difficult time coming out—perpetuate outdated the same stereotypes that have historically impacted queer women for years.

Already, Chrishell has faced a wave of backlash she otherwise wouldn’t have if moving on with a cis-het man. Coming off a season where the ideas of a cis-het suburban lifestyle between Chrishell and Jason are largely pushed, Chrishell has been under a microscope since the wrap-up. Her Instagram comments section have blown up with homophobic comments, with fans saying they’re “highly disappointed in her” for dating G Flip, and others stating they’re “not a fan of her anymore for dating a girl now.” 

Currently, her comments are shut off.

With how Selling Sunset co-stars responded to Chrishell’s news of being in a queer relationship, it’s no surprise viewers followed suit. Excusing their behavior at the reunion as anything other than homophobic sends a message that nervous side-eyes, awkward glances, and other microaggressions, such as referring to kissing same-sex partners as “dirty,” is okay. As queerphobic remarks pour in on Twitter and YouTube, public opinion reinforces, quite bluntly, an age-old misconception that queer relationships are impulsive, unrealistic, or worse, “just a phase.”

Image: Courtesy of Netflix

There Is No ‘Selling Sunset’ Without Christine Quinn

On April 22, we returned to the offices of The Oppenheim Group when Netflix dropped season five of Selling Sunset. In the show’s tenure, the drama has always felt manufactured, but between the 20-million dollar real estate and the Hunger Games-esque wardrobes, manufactured is the show’s very essence. And while this season brought the property porn and over-the-top outfits we’ve come to expect, it failed to deliver compelling story arcs. Because even though the cast of realtors continues to grow, the entire show is carried on the teetering shoulders of one Christine Quinn. 

Since season one, Christine went full method as the baddie. Unlike the rest of the cast, she had no qualms about her role as villain—and between her antics and outfits, she often put Cruella de Vil to shame. But the fundamental flaw of Selling Sunset is the majority of the cast is blind to their own bland personalities. 

This season, Chrishell literally started secretly dating the boss and seemingly hard launched her relationship on-camera. But the milquetoast repartee of the cast made this top-tier reality TV setup fall flat. How easy would it be for Mary to have misgivings about her ex-boyfriend dating her best friend? Or for the office to question if it’s ethical for one of their own to date the boss? The drama-making opportunities were ripe for the taking! But the women of the cast apparently made a pledge of sisterhood, supporting everything the others did—everyone except Christine. But undying sisterhood does not make good television. Even Troop Beverly Hills and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants had some in-fighting. Mary-Kate and Ashley didn’t travel the world without some inter-twin conflict. 

Season five of Selling Sunset could be summed up as The People vs. Christine Quinn. In seasons past, Christine’s role as the singular villain worked because she always had people in her corner. As a storied member of The Oppenheim Group, her history with Mary gave us something to watch as Mary waffled allegiances, but now they’ve fully severed ties. Last season, Christine fell out with her longtime allies Heather and Maya. And now, even her sidekick Davina switched teams in an effort to get a storyline that wasn’t about failing to sell a $75 million dollar house. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for her. 

The cast never missed an opportunity to discuss Christine. She was quite literally their only topic of conversation. And while producers attempted to get ahead of the one dimensionality of the drama by adding Chelsea Lazkani to the mix, bulking up team Christine, the rest of the cast missed their cue to spice things up. 

Even when the producers created opportunities for the women to repair their relationships with Christine—setting up one-on-ones with Amanza, Heather, and even Mary—none of the women took the bait and instead chose to continue feuding with her. It seems the women want Christine out of their office and off the show, but they don’t realize this will be their downfall. 

Before the season premiered, Christine tweeted: “30 minutes till the launch of #SellingSunset enjoy the new season and all of its 5,000 fake storylines!” The figure in her tweet likely in reference to the $5,000 Emma claimed Christine was offering to pay her clients to switch agents. Whether that storyline is fake or not, Emma missed the point. Christine didn’t need more drama centered around her, the rest of the cast needed to create conflict of their own.

This is the first time Selling Sunset filmed a reunion, dropping May 7 on Netflix. Reunions cap off a reality TV season, closing the door on feuds and resetting allegiances to shake things up for the coming year. Queer Eye’s Tan France will host. As a gray-haired gay man he is Netflix’s answer to Andy Cohen, but can he take the mantle to drive the drama and resolutions necessary for a successful reunion? To top it off, Christine did not attend the reunion because she said she tested positive for Covid—nor did she attend virtually because she wasn’t feeling up to it. Chrishell and Mary implied Christine lied to skip the reunion and photos show Christine on-set filming a commercial three days after the reunion taped, so that may be true. But either way, what Mary and Chrishell don’t see is it’s truly their loss. A reunion without the villain will likely give us nothing. 

Last week, Christine announced she left The Oppenheim Group to launch her own venture with her husband: RealOpen, a platform to buy and sell real estate using crypto. (Villians love crypto.) It’s unclear if her new job will impact her return to season six of Selling Sunset, but the rest of the cast better hope it doesn’t—because without Christine there is no show. The reality is, the women need to step up their game and learn to make their own drama rather than living off the work of Christine Quinn, or the future does not bode well for their reality TV careers. 

Image: Courtesy of Netflix