a clever title about the irony of a show called “the real world”

26 Mar

For some reason, a new season of “The Real World” begins on Wednesday, and for another reason unkown to me, they are filming in Portland. Why? Just why? Well, whatever the reason, in honor of this occasion, MTV made the incredible decision to air older seasons of “The Real World” over this past weekend. On Saturday, there was a marathon of the original “Real World Las Vegas” from 2002 and on Sunday, they aired “Real World San Francisco” from 1994. MTV did a pretty solid job of fucking up any chance of productivity I was going to have. I spent literally over an hour arguing with myself if I was going to work out because I really wanted to watch Vegas and I don’t have cable in the room I work out in. In case you’re wondering, television shockingly won out, and I stayed confined to my bed for as long as humanly possible, basking in the glory of the early 00’s drama and straight up astounding wardrobe choices (so many bandanas and terribly fitted and designed pants).

Seriously. Those pants.

Seriously. Those pants.

People, no one, whoever I am addressing who could possibly reading this blog (but I find that highly doubtful), I cannot even begin to explain to you how different “The Real World” is now from how it used to be. It’s as if it’s an entirely different show. I actually think they should give it a new name, since the world on the show now clearly does not depict real life (yeah, I went there. You knew it was coming, and there it is. The irony of the name). Even from the two seasons I watched, the shows were different. It had to evolve (unfortunately really) over time, and this marathon just showed me how asinine and degenerate both the casts and show itself have become.

“The Real World Las Vegas” was actually the first season of the show I ever watched. I was 12 and absolutely should have not been watching the show. I had no place there. I had no idea what a three-way was and it occurred like three episodes in. I was in for a world that I would not understand for years to come. Or even now, really. Irulan, my favorite, was in an open relationship. Not to undermine anyone in an open relationship, but I don’t get that shit. Either commit or break up, don’t keep it open ended. That’s just being greedy as fuck. But, it left room for her to engage in the romance of a lifetime with Alton and not feel too guilty about it (they didn’t have the romance of a lifetime, I just like to idolize their relationship in my head because they were so cute together). This group of people was all about drinking, getting wasted, having sex, etc etc, what we’ve come to know (and hate) about the show in recent years, but unlike what I’ve seen recently, the show did try to actually deal with other issues. Pretty much every cast member had a deep dark past that was explored. Three of the female roommates had eating disorders, one of the male roommates had been molested when he was younger and was homophobic because of it, another roommate’s mother died when she was 14 and she never felt like her father thought she was good enough. Along with this, there was drama other than who was hooking up with whom on the show, such as Trishelle thinking she might be pregnant. That shit right there got real. No other season recently has dealt with anything like that, I think, or at least not seriously (I’m not the best authority on this because my interest in the show has waned over the past few repetitive years). Alton’s ex-girlfriend before coming on the show thought she might be pregnant. Everyone thought they were pregnant apparently. I feel like in recent seasons also, there is a cast member that everyone bands together to hate, or they don’t all genuinely like one another, but I feel like this cast actually did bond and grow to love one another, despite their problems. Also, their outfits were hilarious. The early 00’s were a terrible time to be alive and wear clothes. I know from experience. That was the height of my ugliness. But the original Vegas season just had a different feel from it than the newer ones. Aside from Brynn throwing a fork at Steven (hysterical, he had frosted tips), the housemates weren’t getting into fights with each other or anyone else every single night. The house didn’t get destroyed. They still had to go to their jobs and work. They had to pay their bills still and had money problems. The show was just a lot less surface than it is now.

I unfortunately couldn't find any worthwhile pictures of their outfits :(

I unfortunately couldn’t find anymore worthwhile pictures of their outfits 😦

Now, turning to an even different show, the 1994 season in San Francisco was literally like nothing I’d seen. I had never watched the season before, but had known about it because it was famous for housemates Puck and Pedro. Puck was a dick and got kicked out of the house because of his disrespect of pretty much everyone, but mostly Pedro, who was HIV positive. Pedro actually died months after the show aired and it’s incredible to me now that his story could have been documented in such a way, especially in the early 90’s, where although the stigma of HIV as a “gay disease” was wearing off, it was also very prevalent still. You’d think that since we’ve evolved as a society (I guess, we’re at least supposed to think that) since ’94, the show would portray someone like Pedro today. But really, I don’t think that’s what the show is about anymore. On this season of “The Real World”, the housemates literally carried on with their every day lives, but lived in a house together. Some of the housemates were students and still had to go to class, they had to go to their jobs that they already had, they had fun days out at the park, or roller blading and riding their bikes. They went rock climbing, Puck’s replacement, Jo, had to go to court because she had a restraining order on her ex-husband. It was literally people living their real lives, but just in a shared environment with new people. They weren’t just there to get drunk and have random hookups with people. These people were there to have an actual life altering experience for the better. My friend Amanda was texting me during the marathon and she pointed out that a difference between the ’94 cast and the cast of today is that these people actually had dreams and ambitions and were going about furthering their fulfillment. The casts of today don’t have those same desires, it seems. Sure we get our “wants to be a public activist” or “wants to catapult their career in music/entertainment industry” every once in a while, but really, the people on the show are there to be assholes for a few months on MTV’s dime. It’s just crazy how the show has changed. Another difference is that to be on the show now, it seems like the cast members have to have amazing bodies and be particularly good looking (by MTV’s standards. I could point out some uggos for you, though). On San Francisco, everyone was just a regular looking person. They weren’t all models thrown in a house together; they were average joes just living their lives. And there was something so incredible about watching that.

So. Much. Denim.

So. Much. Denim.

Watching the older seasons made me sad that our culture has advanced (or declined, really) in the way that it has. Obviously, “The Real World” was revolutionary and the first show of its kind at its time. They had license to do what they wanted and not have to worry about competition from other networks, so it was possible to create an amazing season about the social issues it covered in the earlier seasons. However, over time, as other stations created other shows to compete, MTV had to push the risk-factor, had to include more sexuality, drinking, and drama. This was apparent in the late 90’s and early 00’s, as Vegas was definitely a different season from San Francisco, but still, it had some heart. You didn’t immediately hate all of the housemates. They may have had their off moments, but there was something to like about everyone that lived in the house. Now, it seems the more unlikable a person is, the more likely they are to be cast for the show. The more likely they are to cause drama, have random sex, steal someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend, not give a fuck about repercussions, start fights, get black out, go to jail, etc, the more likely they are to be first in the house. It just makes me sad. Every season there’s a housemate who doesn’t really get that much air time, and it’s because they are the least dramatic and therefore, the most likable as a human being. They are also probably the most likely to do something beneficial for the world (in my opinion, who knows really). If you’re not going to be a mess the entire time, you’re not going to be recognized as a cast mate.

So this retro rewind to the glory days of “The Real World” did not get me excited to watch the new season of the show. Instead, it made me nostalgic for how it used to be, and I wish there was a station that only aired old seasons of the show. That’s what MTV should really consider doing instead of whatever the hell it’s doing now. It’s also just upsetting that the show has changed the way it has also represents our culture changing in the same ways. We are in such a sad, disparate, drinking, regressive culture. We’re not moving forward anymore. For every step forward of social activism there is, there’s twenty steps back from girls who say they’d let Chris Brown punch them if he kissed them after, or from guys who still think that it’s funny to make jokes about sexual abuse against women. I feel like we should be learning and we need to be learning, but instead, we’re being fed garbage. We’ve seen what “The Real World” is capable of with seasons like San Francisco, yet we’re stuck with the Neanderthals in the current seasons instead. And unfortunately, as much as I’d love to see a season like San Francisco happen again, I know it wouldn’t stand a chance surviving in our current market. That’s just sad to think about. I may sound like a hypocrite because I’m unfortunately living the life of some of the current “Real World” casts (I enjoy the occasional beer or sixteen), but as I was maturing and growing up, that’s how the seasons were evolving. The show has probably shaped me in ways I didn’t even realize, and now, this is where I am, when instead, maybe I could have been a doctor like Pam from San Francisco (that’s how life works, don’t argue this logic, “The Real World” decided who I am as a person now).

This is all the show is now. And it's making me jealous that I'm not in a hot tub drinking right now. I blame "The Real World" for all of my problems.

This is all the show is now. And it’s making me jealous that I’m not in a hot tub drinking right now. I blame “The Real World” for all of my problems.

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