What happened to The Real World?
Erica M. Hughes
http://screenwritersdaily.com – 10/13/06
“This is the true story, of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens, when people stop being polite, and start getting real. The Real World.”
I remember when MTV first aired the Real World. It was an intriguing premise that producers of the show called “a social experiment”. Basically MTV would chronicle the lives of seven strangers with entirely different backgrounds, all living together in a house for six months.
I thought it was a great “experiment” although, due to not being much of a tv watcher, and not having cable, I didn’t become a viewer until the third season.
This was the season with Pedro Zamora, the Hispanic HIV infected gay AIDS activist and lecturer, along with Judd, the comic book artist and writer, Pam, the doctor, Rachel, a Republican activist, Corey, a naive Christian, Mohammed, the muslim black guy who wanted to be a musician, and last, Puck the bike messenger. Puck was a complex, but inconsiderate stoner type who was later kicked out of the house for being not only crude, but downright despicable and immature. In some ways, Puck became the template for later cast members. I’ll expound on that in a bit.
Puck aside, the cast was comprised of well rounded, educated, every day people with dreams, aspirations, goals, and moral consciousness. Season three is hands down my favorite season, even after viewing seasons 1 and 2 of the show.
But in later years, what began as a social experiment changed. The faces of the cast [seemingly all actor and actress wannabees], their lives, and their ages. The new cast members are typically very young adults with lack of focus in life. Unlike the cast of Season 3 there are no doctors, real musicians, artists, AIDS or Republican activists. In fact, they’re downright aimless, with no real lives to go to after the show, returning season after season for challenges on a spinoff program where they compete for cash prizes.
Sadly, shortly after season three, cast member Pedro Zamora died of an AIDS related illness. I watched a reunion show where friends, Judd and Pam [now married] and other cast members reacted to his death with tears, solemness, and anger toward Puck who apparently had some disparaging words for the activist even after his death. But there was still a brother and sisterhood among them. These cast members had depth and soul, and I generally look back on it all with a bit of nostalgia for a time when life rewarded us for being good people.
Unlike today’s aspiring youth, where the Paris Hiltons of the world are rewarded for doing nothing, I see a reflection of that in the newer seasons of the Real World and their spinoff shows where the most obnoxious Puck-like characters are instead, rewarded for being terrible people, stabbing each other in the backs, spitting in each other’s faces and spewing vile and hate-filled words to each other.
The Real World is no longer a show in which the audience are voyeurs watching real people live real lives. The new groups are sheltered, controlled, without books, tv, radio, newspapers, or jobs. Some are college graduates, or college students, but there’s little of this side of their lives depicted on the program.
As I watch the show [which is pretty rare these days], I wonder if the Real World has become an experiment in who can drink, bitch, or have the most sex?
But then, as I flip through the pages of a magazine or turn the tv only to see the likes of Paris Hilton, the Carters, or Tara Reid, I wonder… is the show indeed, “the Real World” and a true reflection of the times we live in, and today’s youth?