Image Credit: Netflix
When Keeping Up with the Kardashians stopped to take its mid-season break back in May, I found myself looking for something to fill the reality TV shaped hole that had appeared in my life.
Selling Sunset first came to Netflix in 2019, but its popularity has boomed over the past few months with the latest season being released just last week. Set in the Hollywood Hills, Selling Sunset follows the team at luxury real estate brokerage The Oppenheim Group.
As well as showcasing the properties each member of the team is working on, giving walk-through tours of multi-million-dollar homes designed exclusively for those with more money than they know what to do with, the show also follows the personal lives of the staff and their many disagreements.
Finding something deep or profound to draw out of Selling Sunset is about as likely as Davina managing to sell that eighty-million-dollar listing. Yet despite the show having little to brag about in terms of meaningful or educational content, it has been hugely successful.
The Oppenheim Group is run by twin brothers Jason and Brett Oppenheim, both as smarmy and patronising as the other, who have a team of eleven agents working for them at the brokerage. Just seven agents regularly appear on the show however, who when they are not viewing prospective listings, spend most of their time in the office with the twins stabbing each other in the back.
The cliques within the office change with such regularity that it can be hard to keep up with who is supporting whom at any given time. But most episodes will end with drinks or a party to offer the staff an opportunity to scream at each other, storm out of the room, and in doing so make their allegiances clear.
Almost exclusively referring to their female employees as ‘babe’ or ‘honey’, Brett and Jason are just the tip of the sexist ice berg that is luxury Hollywood real estate. In the very first episode of the show, agent Maya is seen having to downplay the inappropriate advances being made on her by a client that persists even once she has repeatedly told him she is not interested and eventually results in her going for a drink with him anyway.
What Selling Sunset does, beyond its function as each-to-watch reality TV, is give an insight into what appears to be the inherent sexism in the real estate market in Hollywood that sees the female employees being repeatedly patronised and sexualised by their employers and clients alike.
But what is also interesting, is the discussion this show can provoke about wealth. Watching Selling Sunset leaves you with a knot in your stomach similar to that of watching footage documenting abject poverty.
It seems there is something upsetting about viewing such extreme inequality regardless of which end of the spectrum you are looking at. The houses in this programme are not for millionaires but billionaires and the discussion of such huge sums of money can be hard to comprehend.
And yet those working in the office, despite living in luxury homes by anyone else’s standards themselves, often discuss their aspirations to live in houses like the ones they are selling. They are working in an industry where they are making a living from providing a service, they themselves could never afford. Something the agents often remark on in their interview style cut aways throughout each episode.
Ultimately Selling Sunset is light entertainment, with pretty houses and petty arguments. If you’ve ever watched Real Housewives or Made In Chelsea, you will probably like this. On the surface it is fun to watch, and make no mistake when season four is released I will almost certainly watch it; however, it is important to also be aware of its glaring issues too.
Selling Sunset should come with a content warning at the beginning that says if your work environment in any way resembles this one please contact HR immediately. It should also warn viewers that if they find themselves aspiring to own any of the properties featured they should stop watching immediately and go for a long walk.
Reality TV is fun and Selling Sunset makes for good low-commitment watching, that I’d recommend if you need to relax and switch-off for a while. However, it definitely goes down best alongside a healthy dose of scepticism.
Season three of Selling Sunset is now available to watch on Netflix.