An Open Letter to Sarah Gertrude Shapiro

::Deep breath::

Hi Sarah:

I’m a reality producer who’s been working in the industry for going on twenty years and for, the past few years, have worked as a Showrunner. So, I’m talking to you reality producer to reality producer when I say: I think you have some story problems. Specifically regarding your work life prior to creating and running Lifetime’s UnREAL.

Let’s start with your claim in the Hollywood Reporter that you signed a contract on your first gig (on High School Reunion) that somehow kept you bound to do all shows for Telepictures “in perpetuity,” resulting in you being forced :: HORRORS:: onto their flagship show The Bachelor. You refer to yourself as an “indentured servant” during that time period. Now, I may not have gone to Sarah Lawrence for creative writing, but as someone who’s signed a contract (or a thousand) in my time, and walked off many shows for various reasons, I know that there is no contract that can legally bind you to work for one company, forever. No matter how “special” you are or how fanfuckingtabulous you are as a producer. As Gigi points out in the comments on this Deadline article, no one gets those contracts (even if they wanted them). I’ve also spoken to folks who have worked on The Bachelor and I have been told that getting on that show is actually a highly desirable gig when you work for Telepictures, one that most people work actively towards. So, while I’m not necessarily calling you out on the claim that you didn’t want on the show, I am going to take a moment to give some serious side eye.

Next let’s take a look at your actual credits on the show in question. To quote Gigi again:

… depending on the interview or article you read, she either worked on one season of the Bachelor or nine (your quote in this article). It was either a breezy side gig, or drove her to the brink of suicide.

“And my stint in reality TV was a pretty quick day job, along side jobs in fashion and advertising.” The Mary Sue 6/23/15

“She spent three years as an associate producer of The Bachelor.” Cosmopolitan 6/15/15

“After six seasons with that show, Ms. Shapiro was despondent.” NY Times 7/2/15

Shapiro claims to have started in season 3 (airing March 2003 so assume filming as early as June 2002) and left in 2005 for Portland. Season 7 aired starting in March 2005 and Season 8 started in January 2006. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say did season 8. At most, that’s six seasons but is most likely, five.

Actually, I don’t think much more needs to be said on that subject so, moving on.

Let’s chat for a second about your breakdown. As a fellow depressive, I don’t want to question that you had a nervous breakdown. However, as a fellow depressive, I am highly offended by your suggestion that your mental illness resulted from having taken a gig that offended your moral values. It’s a tad more complicated than that, as you oughtta know. (DSM-V, holla!)

Ok, now, let’s review:

  • you were bound in a multi-year, unbreakable, artist formerly known as, contract
  • you were thereby forced to work on the most sexist of shows, The Bachelor
  • you worked on The Bachelor for …how long now?
  • your nervous breakdown was triggered by moral qualms about The Bachelor

Why do you feel obliged to make these ridiculous claims? Is it just for the publicity? Maybe putting those creative writing chops to work? Or, and to me this is the nub of the issue, are you simply that mortified about having worked in reality in the first place? Because, guess what, Feminist lady: some people work in Reality because, you know, they need the fucking paycheck. You don’t throw shade at the guy who flips burgers at McDonalds because the corporation does bad shit, so please give us poors a break for deigning to work in a field where there are jobs.

Finally, if you were as good a producer as you’ve written Rachel to be, then you are well aware that it is possible to do something that you are good at, have moral qualms about, yet still enjoy it. It’s called moral ambiguity and it is sadly lacking in Rachel who is soooo distressed about her lot in life.

Sarah, hit me up if you want to hear some real Reality producing nightmares. There’s a lot of bad shit going on in Reality, as my loyal readers know, but none of that has to do with your tale of woe.

Gigi, girl, we need to get drinks some time.

Shrugging woman in doubt doing shrug
Just… why?

3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Sarah Gertrude Shapiro

  1. I think a big part of the problem is that you really can just cross over into narrative and then look down your nose at us reality people. Crossing over is considered the ultimate ‘success’ and once ‘successful’, pretty much everything is forgiven. It’s a variation on success has a thousand fathers and a failure is an orphan. She can lie about what she did on The Bachelor, the contract, the people she was working with… it’s all up for grabs as long as some of it’s true in the end. Cause ‘hey ya’ll, scripted!’ Then, once you’re on the other side, nobody really gives a shit about the questionable resume, timeline, and stories she’s using as fodder for a scripted version of reality bullshit. It’s just the way reality tv is looked at not just by the public, but by the industry as well (probably even more so). If you were to pull an average person off the street that watches UnREAL and said all of this about Shapiro, I’m thinking they’d probably consider anything this woman did to get out of reality tv to be only slightly above what one must do to get out of a life of prostitution. Even though making reality tv is extremely difficult, all that hard work goes into something ultimately disposable… the pay is great, and that’s about it. And make no mistake, the industry does need ‘saving’, in a way, if it’s going to continue to exist, simply because the most talented people are shat upon (I’m sick of hearing he/she ‘failed upwards’), nobody is making any kind of record of how this stuff is made and the wheel is reinvented in a less efficient way every time. Oh, and we have no real health insurance, retirement, vacation days, or job security. We have to save ourselves is pretty much what it comes down to, which I think this post sort of reveals.

    Awesome blog, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

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