Unicornland – Authentic New Web Series about Polyamory
In authentic new web series Unicornland, polyamory is explored through the eyes of Annie, a solo poly exploring new possibilities. Stream for free.
Unicornland is a touching and thoughtful new comedy about polyamory starring Laura Ramadei (Orange is the New Black) as recently divorced New Yorker Annie. The show has been well-received by the sex-positive and poly communities, shot by a 70% women cast and crew, with a cast that’s 60% non-white including trans, disabled and genderqueer actors. Now that she’s divorced, Annie is open to possibilities and experience. She heads out into a world of adventure and poly dating, and her development is both “feel you, sister” comedic and warm and honest to the core.
Episode 1 – Julianne and Ethan
Episode 2 – Martha and George
Episode 3 – Shira and Mikal
Episode 4 – Veronica and Archie
Episode 5 – Gina and Julio
Episode 6 – Samara and Kim
Episode 7 – Masha and Peter
Episode 8 – The Party
Why is Annie exploring polyamory? The show’s writer, creator and producer Lucy Gillespie has this to say to anyone who asks: “Because she’s horny. Why does she need a reason? I don’t understand that.”
In the first episode, Annie has what may be her first-ever poly experience with Julianne and Evan. There’s a lot to love about this episode. Evan is presented as a controlling partner, micro-managing every detail of sexual encounters (that’s not the bit to love, of course). The scene where Julianne dances in her underwear initially seems in danger of playing into the stereotype of the exoticised, eroticised black woman – not because she’s enjoying her body, but because it seems shot from a male gaze perspective. This is undercut by Julianne outright challenging her husband’s controlling behaviour and objectification of women. You’ll want to cheer when Julianne calls out Evan for using polyamory as a tool to play out his sex fantasies as part of a dysfunctional relationship.
Another wonderful detail of the opening episode is when Annie makes a point of asking for Julianne’s consent rather than taking her pressurising husband’s word for it. Ensuing episodes reveal that consent is, without doubt, key to the series. Whether Annie is attending her first sex party, exploring kink or meeting a couple in their home for a first date, every encounter displays an understanding of how important consent and communication is to Annie and the other characters in the show.
In a later episode (Faking It – Veronica and Archie), Annie fakes coming because she’s never orgasmed during sex. Archie’s response, played with warmth and humour but nevertheless important: “I feel so small. Do you think I get off on abuse?”
In an interview with Self-care with Writers, Lucie Gillespie explains that her divorce played a role in inspiring her to make the show. “Part of it was I had not been fully honest with myself about my reasons for wanting to be in a relationship, and I didn’t communicate with my partner. I felt like something was wrong with me and I didn’t know how to be in a relationship. I met a lot of people and asked a lot of questions, specifically about how to make your love work.”
Though the characters in Unicornland are entirely fictional, Gillespie’s perspective and insights may have been influenced by previous personal experience of being in an open relationship and solo poly. Her insider perspective on the kink scene has also helped to give the show its authentic voice: “it was a really interesting place to figure out people who really stretched their relationships”.
After a Kickstarter campaign to help fund production, Gillespie and the team also sought insights from members of the wider community who provided their “time, homes and in-kind donations”.
Lucy Gillespie describes the series as a “dramedy”, and the result is sensitive and big-hearted with a lightness of touch about the topics it covers. In the first episode, Annie’s social anxiety in a new situation, confidence pep talks and ultimate honesty with herself and others is good to see. She’s carving her own path in unfamiliar territories, and wants to do so in a way that feels personally authentic.
With each episode named after a different couple, Unicornland places its key focus on exploring the etiquette, boundaries, goals and freedoms of poly dating from the point of view of Annie the beginner. It goes (hopefully) without saying that poly people don’t just think about sex. They have whole lives to lead. Some of them may have additional concerns relating to housing, discrimination or parenting. Lifing in a non-normative way has challenges involved. While the series doesn’t overtly explore these elements, each short episode – under five minutes long – gives a sense of real people living their lives. As the Masha and Peter episode shows, being a new parent isn’t easy, and balancing a baby’s needs with having guests over for kink evenings doesn’t make it any easier.
Ultimately, Unicornland is warm, funny and encourages honest conversation about polyamory. It derives its name from ‘unicorn hunting’, a term which has negative connotations to some. It’s sometimes used in the poly community to describe a couple looking for a third member (who may be a HBB or ‘hot bi babe’, the unicorn in question) to participate. This partnering may come with rules and caveats as set by the ‘primary couple’, and the ‘unicorn’ may be viewed as a less integral or permanent part of the relationship structure. In Unicornland, Annie actively seeks experiences and people. It could be said that she is exploring what she wants on her own terms, and isn’t being ‘hunted’ or used in any way. The couples that she spends time with all appear to be transparent and communicative about their expectations of the date, too.
A web series of eight episodes, each five minutes long or less, cannot cover all bases. Polyamory means so many different things to different people. Even so, the series is a warm and wonderful insight into a broad community who can’t be placed in a ‘one size fits all’ relationship pantsuit. Annie may be casually dating, but many of the people she meets are in longterm poly relationships. Some are on the scene; some aren’t. Age doesn’t play a factor. Nor does orientation, race, gender or ability. Admittedly, the homes and settings featured do all look ridiculously glossy and interior-design-oh-my-god-yes, but that’s more down to high production values and visual aesthetics. In no way is Unicornland suggesting that poly dating is the province of the rich!
As the series progresses, it’s clear that every poly couple has their own needs and expectations, as individuals and as a couple. It may hurt, but you don’t get to join in just because you want to. Couples who have it all sorted on the surface may be dysfunctional underneath. Relationships that may be looked down on or dismissed as ‘otherly’ by society can be extremely rewarding, empowering and secure. Every polyamorous couple is as different as any other couple on earth. Communication is always key.
At the very least, Unicornland is a show that will make polyamory easier to discuss and relate to. In an interview with Conscious Polyamory, Lucie Gillespie says: “I hope that Unicornland will start conversations about how we relate, how it’s serving us, and what else is possible.”
And now for some really good news: The whole series was released on February 14th 2017. Aw. That means you can stream all of it on Vimeo right now. For free. Enjoy!