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Brooklyn housemates take out the trash

By web

Section: Arts

January 16, 2009

diverse-city-1-16-09_page_2_image_0001A few years ago, somewhere between “Real World San Diego” and “Real World Key West,” I remember thinking that is was time for MTV to throw in the towel. The days of challenging relationships and interesting discoveries about race relations, sexuality, and social politics were over. The days of trashy barhopping, trashy blondes, and trashy sex were upon us. Get over it, MTV. Twenty-somethings don’t need to turn on the television to see their peers making fools of themselves. It’s called a frat party.

At that point, I thought the best bet was for MTV to stop filming new seasons of the Real World and start airing old seasons. Most current college students and those who’ve just recently graduated are unfamiliar with “Real World New York” (the very first one) or “Real World San Francisco,” where we were introduced to the infamous hygiene-challenged bike messenger, Puck, and Pedro, the young Cuban man who put a face on AIDS for everyone from Omaha to Wasilla. With two older sisters who came of age in the mid and late nineties, I was lucky enough to see these seasons (albeit at too tender an age).

These early seasons were meaningful. We actually did see what happened when a diverse group of interesting, intelligent, and thoughtful young people stopped being polite and started getting real. Through the tenth anniversary “Back to New York” season, it seemed that the Real World was continuing on the right track. Then came “Real World Chicago.” It pains me to call out the season filmed in my illustrious hometown (the season was filmed on the north side so it’s OK for me to hate on it), but the sex and “dramarama” of this season opened the door for Las Vegas, which, in my humble opinion, should really be called “Real World Emotionally Unstable and Immature People Drinking and Having Unprotected Sex.” Pretty much every season of Real World since could pass under that title.

For the last half a dozen seasons, it seemed that the criteria for casting was drunk and stupid but with Real World Brooklyn, the reality television gods might just be smiling down on us. The tide might be changing.

Of course, like any young person familiar with the Real World from Las Vegas to Sydney, I’m skeptical. However, the moment between JD and Katelynn at the end of the first episode where he shares stories of his abusive father and she of her struggles with gender identity gave me hope that this time around we might see more substance than substance abuse.

Now the second episode brought us back to some familiar Real World tropes – the sheltered country boy at his first gay bar and fights about who went through whose drawers. But the episode didn’t stop there. Excepting Ryan’s horrified expression after a kiss from a drag queen, we saw individuals deal with issues in a way that could almost be categorized as emotionally mature. We even saw two roommates engage in a conversation that was pseudo-intellectual!!! No one’s quite Kevin Powell from the very first season, but this is major progress.

My joy was tempered though when I saw the preview for next week’s episode. It seems some roommate love (or lust) is on the horizon. While predictable, and frankly, almost required by viewers at this point, I’d rather not see the confessional phone call to the soon-to-be crushed girlfriend whose boyfriend’s infidelity will likely garner its own highly viewed YouTube clip. But alas, I may be asking too much. I should just be happy that this season the cast knows how to read.

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