The Unicorn Scale: High Fidelity

By Jennie Roberson

March 02, 2020



Photo credit: Hulu

Hey there, my dearest of dears — my Unicorns! Welcome to the fresh faces and old friends. Good to see you. Did you see the new releases at the front of the shop? Well, whatever you do, don’t use your phone to ask what the song is playing on the shop speakers — or, at the very least, don’t do it directly in front of the cashiers who can answer that for you. That’s one of their top five pet peeves.

If that makes any sense to you, you may have already read or seen the original source material for the new 2020 Hulu comedy High Fidelity. Perhaps you’ve ingested either the 2000 John-Cusack-showcasing-but-Jack-Black-launching film classic — or the 1995 Nick Hornby book — both of the same name. Or maybe, like me, you’ve consumed both versions and have a certain adoration for them. But if you haven’t, we now have a new iteration of the story in the Zoe Kravitz-led series, with an entirely fresh take on this tale. Which leads to why I’m talking about it in our little shared space today.


Before I get too far into this review, I should put forth a few disclaimers. Herein will be SPOILERS for the new series (as well as some references to the other takes), so consider yourself warned. Also if you have no idea what the Unicorn Scale is — or ya just want a refresher — feel free to click here.

High Fidelity focuses on the romantic life of Robyn “Rob” Brooks (Zoe Kravitz), a freshly dumped Brooklyn record store owner who is at a loss as to why she keeps having bad luck in love. Inspired by her own love of listing top fives — including her own heartbreaks — she embarks on a quest of tracking down and asking her top five exes what went wrong.

What I Liked:

From the get-go, I loved seeing when the first trailer dropped that this updated Rob macked on a girl in a club while her narration talked about her top five heartbreaks. Yes, dear reader: my queer millennial heart grew three sizes that day. Bi? Maybe. Bi experiences? Absolutely. So I knew this could be a good fit for the Scale and immediately texted my editor calling dibs on reviewing the show.

And I’m so glad I did. Because High Fidelity shows a queer character of color in a light rarely seen even in modern, progressive media. Yes, she is biracial. Yes, she is the main character and not there to support some white leading lady. And yes, she is definitely bi and very clearly accepting of that side of herself. But what I loved more than anything else about this is how messy Rob is as a queer woman.

Longtime readers of this column have seen me reference that article many times, and there’s a good reason why. In our struggle for more and better representation in current media, there can often be a purity test as far as how nuanced but good the bi character in question should be. Of course, the point of a bi character should not just be to get used as a talking point or for an educational moment for the audience. And we all know she should not be bi purely for titillating reasons or be an evil character because of her sexuality, or that it figures into her villainy (looking at you, Basic Instinct).

But there are all kinds of bi people out there, and it’s crucial to show we go through all the same types of heartbreak, spinning out, and bad decisions that other queer and straight people do. It’s even rarer to see a person of color inhabiting this character on our screens, which makes Rob’s messiness even more worthy of celebration.

I, for one, hope the show gets enough success for queer people to not only feel seen but get even more queer characters that live in the gray area of character development into our narratives. The white hat/black hat dichotomy of queer representation doesn’t do us any favors as far as getting as fully human people in the stories we tell.


What I Didn't Like:

Come on, Hulu. I’ll be the first to say I loved the hell out of this show. There is SO MUCH about High Fidelity that soars as a modern take on this rom-com tale. But seriously — no one uses the term bi? This is 2020 Brooklyn. Does no one breathe a word of being fluid, pan, or even the “I don’t use labels” line? I love how accepting everyone is of Rob’s romantic past and queer attractions (including herself), but it’s still important to use those phrases with such a wide platform as this streaming service. I refuse to believe that in over five hours of content, we couldn’t have snuck in a word somewhere.

And not on the bi front, but I just don’t buy Zoe Kravitz playing anyone who says they are “not cool enough” for someone. She may be the coolest woman on this planet. She just does not come across as the type of person who would be intimidated by anyone.


The Rating:

This is gonna break ground as far as how I rate a show, but that’s in line for a groundbreaking series in representation like this one. No, neither Rob nor anyone else uses any of the bi umbrella terms I mentioned above. No, her character isn’t a shining example of a human— in fact, she’s more of a selfish sad-sack who needs to work on some accountability for herself. But at the same time: when do we get to see diverse, messy representation like this out there that is more relatable than any of us would like to admit?

No matter your age, gender, race, or sexual orientation, we’ve all been a little bit of the self-pitying Rob after a nasty break-up or two. At least this time around, we get to see a version of Rob (minus the toxic masculinity) that actually looks like more of the general population.