Friday, April 4, 2008

The Real World Awards Bash....

So I managed to make it through The Real World Awards Bash the other night and words can’t describe my feelings at the end of it. First, my ass was super drunk and staring at people at the party thinking – Who the hell are these fools? Watching cast member after cast member who I had no idea what their names were come up and receive awards like, hottest male and biggest ego or something else even more ridiculous made me realize MTVlost its cache many many years ago. The awards bash was basically a reason to get all the trouble makers in a room, feed them booze and make MTV cash in on viewers watching drunks make fools of themselves once again. The most interesting thing was that Stephen from Seattle, who slapped Irene for calling him gay, was actually gay and marrying his partner. Oh and don’t worry, his ass didn’t apologizing for being an asshole back then. While they filled in with some updates on some of my favorite cast members and relationships that were born on the show, most of the time was filled with pointless comedy from Jeffrey Ross and idiotic chatter between cast members. At one point though, the show took on a serious tone and revisited cast members who had passed away, Frankie from San Diego and of course, Pedro from San Francisco. This is when it hit me that The Real World at one point had validity and creditability and a real importance.

When I began watching the show, the first season in New York on MTV, I was mesmerized by the “real lives” of young people struggling to find themselves, develop a career and learn to relate to people incredibly different than them. I was very young and while I grew up in a fairly mixed cultural neighborhood in Long Island, I hadn’t seen this kind of grouping of people on TV together before. The charm of the show in the beginning was that no one who participated really knew what to expect out of the process. They were “virgins” to the reality TV genre and were more focused on the sociological experiment going on then TV time. I have to say the Los Angeles cast was similar to that and while there was definitely drama in the house, it wasn’t for TVs sake but just merely an effect of multiple alpha personalities in one house.
When the show went to San Francisco, I was in junior high. I attended a private parochial school, where the biggest problem I encountered was the back brace I was forced to wear due to early onset scoliosis. I watched 6 people, relative strangers, rallied around a man named Pedro Zamora. Not to get too touchy feely, but Pedro embodied true strength to me. A Cuban immigrant, who was also an out gay male, brought his battle with AIDS not only to his housemates, but to America. Finally there was a face to a disease we were constantly hearing about, but in a very dark way. Pedro battled the disease, but famously said “I am living with my disease, not dying from it”. It was not only his strength that was admirable, but his ability to befriend almost anyone. Zamora passed away a day after the final episode aired and the media coverage was astounding. It almost felt like a close friend had died. This at one time was the power behind MTV’s Real World. The social experiment allowed us to watch others, whom we might never meet in real life, and form an attachment with them. Now, The Real World is known for its girl on girl kisses, meat head dude bros and arrest records for the cast members. Ever since the Chicago and Las Vegas seasons, the audience has wanted more “gone wild” attitudes and the casting directors seem to only find people with fake boobs, low IQs and the love of fist fights. While I have to say I really enjoyed watching the San Diego cast, since they seemed to really like each other and have fun, even when being bad, it wasn’t to grab screen time, but to bond with each other. But for the most part the previous five seasons have been nothing but boring and uncreative fools stealing TV time from each other. I am not sure which came first with this – the chicken or the egg – but I can tell you that MTV’s programming is almost exactly reflective of the change in the Real World.

When The Real World’s first seasons were on, MTV was at the forefront of youth culture. They were interviewing President Clinton, showcasing underground music acts and introducing America to The State. They were the tastemakers and reflected the changes that occurred in the youth culture. They celebrated the idea of “grunge” and “indie”. They showed teens in the US hip hop and rap artists and people like Tupac and Biggie house hold names. If you look at MTV now and then, its crazy this is the same network. Now, MTV is focused on the sexuality of teenagers. They created Britney, Christina and sadly “The Hills. They are supporting teenagers in the consumerist ideals and pumping the “exploration” of sexual identities.

They are creating house hold names for people whom have no talent, nor real personalities. They are literally making personalities. Everyone looks the same, with blank stares and vacant eyes. In an election year this charged, I have only seen mere mentions of the fact that we are having a ground breaking presidential race this year. MTV is no longer a tastemaker, but a reactor. It’s a factory of one time cool executives who have lost their footing and appeal to the lowest common denominator. I know I will be sucked into watching something on the channel again and I am current viewer of “Rob & Big”, “Human Giant and occasionally “The Hills”, but this channel isn’t marketed to me. It’s marketed to 15 year olds who have $400 purses and think nothing of it. While it’s sad that the cultural symbols for this generation’s youth are so different than mine, I am very glad I got be a part of the indie generation. Anyways, after watching this many people get drunk and make out with their roommates, I think the social experiment is definitely over and I am not sure if we will like any of the findings.

Here is a fun little Then and Now photo function to see previous Real World cast members.