Everyone’s a Critic: Living in 'The Real World'
August 2nd, 2011
04:08 PM ET

Everyone’s a Critic: Living in 'The Real World'

We can attribute at least one thing to MTV as it turns 30 this week: “The Real World” may not have been the first reality show, but it was arguably the most groundbreaking. In it, you can find the blueprint for many of the reality formats that dominate today’s TV landscape.

It was a simple idea - put a group of strangers together, turn on the cameras and see what happens – that yielded an addictive, engaging result. The show became a sensation, a part of our cultural consciousness that gave Generation X a rallying point and a shared experience.

I can still rattle off the names of nearly every cast member from the first 10 seasons. I can tell you when and why that famous introduction sentence changed from “seven strangers” to “seven people.” I know when producers stopped casting people who lived in the city where the season took place, and when they started forcing the cast members to work together as well as live together.

And sadly, I can tell you when I stopped caring as much about “The Real World"... which was when it stopped being about the real world.

From its outset, the show was a social experiment, and it took on important issues. Race relations, abortion, sexuality, alcoholism. All the sensitive topics that we knew were out there, but we may not have known how to discuss.

In 1994, AIDS was a frightening constant in our society, but one that few people had direct experience with. That is, until “The Real World” producers cast Pedro Zamora, who was openly gay and HIV-positive. Zamora, who worked as an HIV/AIDS activist, used the show as a platform to educate. When he died following the season, President Bill Clinton made a speech honoring Zamora declaring that now, no one could say they had never known a person with AIDS.

Think about it: The sitting U.S. president commented on the impact of a reality show on MTV.

But somewhere along the way, “The Real World” shifted. Yes, there were always parties and alcohol and scandal. But now, that’s ALL the show is about. It’s permissive debauchery, where cast members are more concerned with hooking up and getting trashed.

Look at pictures of the most recent cast, and then look back at photos of the original cast members. Now tell me if any of those original seven would be cast in today’s “Real World.” (OK, maybe Eric Nies.)

It’s possible that “The Real World” still holds up a mirror to our society, and maybe the generational shift in cast members just brought a different tone to the experiment. But the show that launched a thousand reality series doesn’t hold the cultural weight that it once did, and it certainly doesn’t challenge our ideas about who we are and the world that we live in anymore.

We’re never going to be at a loss for reality shows filled with beautiful people doing wild things. And reality shows won’t be at a loss for viewers who want to watch beautiful people do wild things. But there was a time when “The Real World” strived to be eye opening, not just eye candy.

It may be a harsh criticism for such a long-running franchise, but that’s what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.


soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Basturd out of Carolina

    Notice in the pic the whites are of course the minority. The jews are responsible. F-ing nose full of nickel jews.

    August 3, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Tatiana

      Correction: There are four white people and three minorities. The guy sitting next to the black guy is white with a bit of a tan.

      August 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. weinerschnitzel

    If someone took a SHYT in the middle of that table those 7 idiots would fight over who gets to eat it.

    August 3, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. Eaton Manasses

    The white dude sitting by the chick in the red dress...FLAME-ON!! What a sweet gay smile. And the chick in the red dress doesnt care for the rican having his arm around her. The other white guy and the black guy are making eyes at one another...how sweet.

    Just more gayness from MGayTV.

    August 3, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. Peace

    LOL, fernace! Haven't too much of our buds, what's up w/that??? Have good eve! :)

    August 2, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. fernace

    @ Josh H, may I introduce you to tracie! Y'all could have a long, fartful relationship together!! :D

    August 2, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Josh H.

    This show makes me gassy

    August 2, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tracie

    I like these boys. I want all of them to sit on my face.

    August 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Asj

    I think you, like I, just got older and don't really mesh with the new and recent years cast members... In our growth, as we are obviously the same age, since I've watched from the beginning as well; we have just been through all their young and somtimes to us, inane problems and I just don't get them anymore. And yes I have recognized the change in gimmicks that they use to create drama and it's a little too obvious.

    August 2, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      The other part of the problem is that cast members on the Real World have become too self-aware of what's expected of them. They've seen the show before and they know what we want to see. It used to be interesting because the hook ups and the drama used to happen more organically. Now, when they get into the house, they bet on who will be the first to have a hot tub hook up.

      August 2, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Buzz Killingham

    And the show gave more teenagers bad examples to live up to. Like much of MTV, started out good, then kept going even after it sucked. The lesson learned here: learn when to stop before going over the cliff. Still, the main crime MTV is guilty of is "Jersey Shore", and in particular, Snooki. Never in history has someone so undeserving been so worshipped.

    August 2, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • T.Livingston

      'Buzz Killingham' ~ well you're KILLING my BUZZ! The only one worshipping 'Snooki' here is you! Leave that girl alone and let her make her change... Just dont watch! Is your remote broke... There is so much more in life and around life TO DO then worry about this girl on a little tv show!

      August 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • The name is Dalton

      Be nice. Speak your mind, but don't tread on my right to do the same. You never know what kind of bad karma may come back on you. Be nice.

      August 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |

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