Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Real World: New York vs. Cancun

My, how we've changed.

While I admit reality TV isn't generally something I go out of my way to watch, I remember enjoying the early years of the genre. Specifically, the first seasons of MTV's "The Real World". The show rapidly went downhill within a few seasons and I stopped watching. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to give Real World: Cancun a try. BIG mistake. I revisited the very first season (Real World: New York) in an attempt to see the origins of how it all began and to understand how it could have possibly ended up as hideously bad as it evolved into...

Flashback to 1992. 7 strangers were picked to live in a house...

In Episode 1, we meet the housemates. Among them are:

Eric - A troubled-teen-turned-model who despite popular misconception appears to be far more than just a chiseled face and cut six pack.

Becky - An outspoken folk-singer who is unafraid to defend her views and develop a relationship with the ("ex") Real World director.

Andre - The guy rocking out with his band Reigndance who provides the house with a much-needed mellow roommate.

Heather B - The rap singer who powerfully flows on the mic and wears her opinions on her sleeve.

Norman - The bisexual man who is always on hand to provide a good laugh and a warm hug.

Julie - The Southern girl with the overprotective parents who wants to see and experience the world.

Kevin - A gifted poet with a penchant for stirring up intense debates in the house.

Flash forward to 2009, when MTV has premiered the 22nd season of the Real World filmed in beautiful Cancun. Our cast of characters (yes, characters, i.e. not real people) include:

Ayiia - A bisexual Hooters waitress who creates no end of drama for her roommates and is revealed to be a cutter.

CJ - The Football player who has bad pick up lines (yes, this is as deep a description as we could conjure up for him).

Jasmine - The former cheerleader with a Napoleon complex that drinks far too much and never lands her crush despite the best of efforts (i.e. being a creepy stalker).

Bronne - The loud-and-obnoxious-yet-relatively-friendly house goof

Emilee - Another bisexual Hooters waitress with A.D.D. and two therapists for parents (*paging Dr. Freud*).

Jonna - A multiracial girl who loves to befriend men and steal them away from her housemates.

Derek - Your friendly neighborhood homosexual who worked at a bar with Jonna prior to filming.

Joey - A three-time high school dropout in a punk band who sleeps with anything he can get his hands on while sadistically egging on his roommates.

If the casting breakdown doesn't scare you enough, read on.

In the original Real World, there were truly 7 distinct people and personalities all thrown into a fishbowl experience without any expectation of what the experience might hold. The only similarities they all shared were that they were all artists and had aspirations to work in entertainment. After an entire season of Cancun, I really couldn't tell you much of anything about who these people were and what they thought (if they indeed had any rational thoughts at all) other than at least five of them appeared to be the same person, i.e. naggy, bratty, overly self-involved, and immature. These were people I wouldn't want to share an apartment with, nonetheless a city (save for Derek, who was smart enough not to get entangled in the drama, which is probably why we didn't see much of him - much like Season 1's Andre). I am praying that the production team of Real World just did a horrible job and have let the show be reduced to utter nothingness rather than believe that the generation gap really has widened that much and that this show is somehow reflective of its present generation (If this is the case, bring on the asteroid - we're done for).

In Season 1, we were presented with a group of determined young people ready to make their mark on the world. They were interested in learning about one another and engaged in intellectual discussion while concerning themselves with political and global issues. They attended human rights rallies (Julie wanted to understand others so much she spent the night on the street with a homeless drug addict) and the roommates worked through their issues to try to find common ground and live together in harmony so they could actually enjoy the experience, and best of all, they were real people we could connect with and relate to. Their arguments weren't always the most sound, but at least they were about real things that were relevant to our population. While they learned about eachother, we learned about them, and cared.

Interestingly, the original season took several months to film while the latest was filmed in one month (I'm sure the people in the control room were regretting the day they were born). Even in one month, these kids couldn't come up with one interesting thing to say. They were contractually obligated to work for Student City, a program designed to help vacationing college students have a fun and safe Spring Break. The cast members had no trouble immediately breaking all the no-no's they were given by the company, couldn't show up on time, didn't always fully participate, and Joey couldn't even be bothered to take responsibility for setting his own alarm clock and was fired from the job and ultimately the show, only to return on the last episode in the 'twist ending' where the sleeps with his sworn enemy and housemate, Aiiya. I wonder if they even contemplated that this was a real company with a real reputation that was giving them a real opportunity. If I were Student City and somehow still managed to be in business after the airing of RW: Cancun, a serious name and identity change would be in order.

The only seeming priorities of the Real World kids (whom I refer to as kids, because they look and act like them in every way) has been to drink, have sex, fight, and party, which basically reminds me why I stopped watching a decade ago. Watching this show, it's apparent most of these people can't be in committed relationships, control themselves in any form (drinking, sex, public urination, etc), have zero motivation, and can't perform jobs responsibly or share a house for five minutes without WWIII. The tagline should be changed to: Seven losers picked to live in a house to create pointless drama that bore us to death. I can't even conceive of a person who steals her 'friends' romantic interests, a person who encourages a cutter to cut herself again, or a person who sleeps with the individual they hate the most. I honestly think the visit to the welfare shelter they were assigned to must have been designed to make these characters look semi-sympathetic and to take their minds off of their own endless selfish desires. They came across as completely sociopathic and emotionally damaged and void of logic across the board. A reunion was aired, upon which I hoped watching the season would have embarassed them into a life-altering experience but to no avail (I should have known). I absolutely hated watching this, I'd rather endure torture than sit through it again. PLEASE give me those hours of my life back. However, I did overcome, just so I could write this for all of you.

I shudder to think that there are young people out there that enjoyed this. If this is you, just know that your generation is capable of so much more and that there is nothing real about any of these people. It's obvious they had a non-stop bid for camera time and nothing else. They kept accusing eachother of being fake, all the while being forgeries themselves. They didn't take the time to learn about eachother, presumably because that required actual intellect and took away from their precious time to party on a beach and shout at eachother. Even from a selfish perspective, wouldn't it have made more sense to get along with your roommates so you could really enjoy time spent in Cancun?

I'm not trying to reduce these people to stereotypes though the Real World has long been known for enjoying perpetuating them. I realize that these people must inherently be multi-dimensional and could very well be different if a camera wasn't taping their every move, however it is, which naturally makes it the Unreal World. Blame must fall on the production crew of the Real World who clearly made the choice to not only cast these immature charicatures but also have allowed once multi-dimensional people to be selected and edited into one-dimensional cardboard cutout puppets not worth the view. Watching this was truly like pulling teeth, I couldn't fathom what the producers were drinking thinking when these were the folks that appeared on their casting couch. Did they draw names out of a hat?! With the exception of Aiiya, who was selected by the MTV audience (Way to go). The producers have realized some inherent value in instigators, most likely stemming from the most infamous casting choice in Real World history: FPuck. Imagine having five of him in your apartment and you get the idea.

I honestly don't believe that this generation of teenagers resembles anything close to this colossal mess. Their generation was truly jipped with this presentation and I feel sorry for that. They are living in times of change and reconstruction and I hope they stop to reflect on something other than the beverage they have later. Perhaps the apathy so proudly displayed on this season's Real World is the same attitude that has contributed to some of the current problems our country finds itself embattled with. There are young people out there at this moment leaving their fingerprint on the world through volunteer work and the creation of ideas and art. Where is their representation? What about all the great minds and interesting young people populating this world? I'm guessing they didn't send in a tape. If they did, I'm sure they would see this opportunity as a unique time to learn from others and value their time at a new exciting locale instead of squander it away with petty insignificant arguments and illogical decisions.

Better luck next year (I won't be watching).


John said...

Nice post. I wonder whether the cast of the show (and thus the show itself) has devolved into dull, superficial nonsense because 18- to 24-year-olds have, in fact, changed since 1992, or whether what's changed is MTV and the standards for what qualifies as entertainment. I'm very much hoping it's simply the latter, because if we're witnessing an actual decline in culture and civilization itself, we're in a lot of trouble.

Sure, 17 years have passed, and some things have changed. But I bet you could find seven decent, interesting people to share a space without having it become a series of drunken shouting matches and threesomes.

With so many other reality shows on the air, I'm actually surprised MTV bothers to keep cranking out RW seasons. Why bother? Just throw in the towel, I say.

You know what I would like to see, though: A RW reunion of an early cast where they actually live together again (for however long their schedules allow). I'm sure that's not really feasible, but I'd watch it if they could pull it off.

Golden Silence said...

"A RW reunion of an early cast where they actually live together again (for however long their schedules allow)."

I would love something like that. Even if it's just an hour-long episode about a weekend they spent together. Anything would be better than these drawn-out, nearly 30 episodes-long seasons of drunken debauchery.