Thursday, August 5, 2010

"The Real World" explained: A brush with death

Posted By on Thu, Aug 5, 2010 at 5:20 PM

click to enlarge A scene from "Scared Straight! New Orleans"
  • A scene from "Scared Straight! New Orleans"

These weekly posts are intended as an episode-by-episode guide to the many psychological ailments, drunken gibberish, senseless actions, Bourbon Street mixed drinks and other embarrassments on MTV’s The Real World: New Orleans.

It contains spoilers — and who cares? You stopped watching this show several years ago — but also a lot of information that might help viewers of the series come to terms with their outrage over the cast’s cultural vandalism of New Orleans (and what was once a really lovely Uptown house), and also the bleak, black future of our society.

The emotional trauma caused by the show admittedly makes such coverage an overwhelming task, so posts may be supplemented by information culled from Wikipedia, WebMD and un-scientific polls of nearby Gambit staffers. Readers are also encouraged to submit any comments that may help us make sense of this wreckage.

In this episode: Ryan bristles at Preston’s toothbrush offense (see what I did there?), Jemmye’s mom makes me uncomfortable, and The Real World tries to make good. Tonight on the Real Househorrors of Dufossat Street

The toothbrush incident. Remember how we were back in March, still basking in the glow of a Superbowl victory and David Simon’s love? Our shoulders back and our heads held high, not even thinking someone like Ryan Leslie could even exist? That was a happy existence. Then the oil spill happened. Then The Real World happened.

But back in March, there was a sign of things to come. The great oracle Richard Thompson of the Times-Picayune gave us this prophecy: there will be seven strangers, picked to live in a house and have their lives taped. They will stop being polite and start getting real. And someone will have their toothbrush peed on and call the police about it.

Last night the Great Sonicare Showdown had its on-air moment, and I must say it was rather anticlimactic. Here’s what happened: word finally got back to Ryan that his $120 toothbrush was essentially being used as a pregnancy test, and he got all Ryan about and paced around the house like a maniac. So he woke up one day and decided to call the police and “teach Preston a lesson.” He called 911 and even after hearing “What’s your emergency?” proceeded to tell the dispatcher, in complete seriousness, “Someone took my toothbrush put it in the toilet and peed on it.” Ryan, while I understand your disgust, toilet germs are nothing compared to the airborne STDs and other maladies you’re likely being exposed to in the Real World house. You’ve probably already contracted herpes from the sheer amount of time you’ve spent on Bourbon Street. And I don’t think you want to see where Hand Grenades come from (hint: it’s not sanitary).

Anyway, this leads me to the NOPD, our notoriously inefficient crime apparatus. While rapists and murderers roam free, committing senseless crimes across the city, the NOPD takes the time to visit the house not once, but twice, in response to this juvenile prank. So if you ever get mugged or your car gets stolen or worse, and you call the police and wonder what’s taking them so long, it might be because they’re busy composing police reports like this. Is Mayor Mitch Landrieu watching this?

Cockroaches. Our housemates were exposed to one of the daily aspects of New Orleans living: dealing with cockroaches. I found it rather symbolic, as The Real World series is like a cockroach in that it will never, ever, ever go away despite our best attempts. Anyway, the cast did what most people do to get rid of a roach — shriek and throw objects in its general direction until a male shows up who’s willing to smother it with a paper towel.

Theresa Andersson. She’s New Orleans’ lovely songbird by way of Sweden and really, I have nothing snarky to say about her appearance. The female housemates attended her show at Le Petit Theatre that was being recorded for her DVD special, and Sahar approached her afterwards because she’s interested in singing, too. And Sahar, that lucky girl, got to hang out in Andersson’s YouTube-famous robin’s egg blue kitchen and jam to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” And she’s quite good! Really, the whole thing was good. Theresa’s music was a much-needed respite from the show’s abysmal soundtrack — the titles of its songs can be seen scrolling at the bottom of the screen, in case you’re interested in purchasing this dreadful music from MTV.com. And I prefer her music to that of a certain other local act who was featured on last night’s episode. The band’s name is omitted to protect the horrible. (But I'll give you a clue: it rhymes with … um … “Survivalists”).

Horse-and-carriage rides. Predictably, Knight, Jemmye and Jemmye’s mom Alyce (more on her later!) paid to clog up traffic and stink up the French Quarter by taking a ride in one of those touristy horse-and-carriage rides that people in Jackson Square are always trying to get you to do. Up next: ghost tours. Encouraging the statue man. Eating at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.

New Orleans Mission. The city’s largest service provider for the homeless where the cast spent a day volunteering. Do you think The Real World knows I’m making fun of it? Because it seems like it’s trying to make good. It cooked food for homeless people. It spent time with a great local musician and was actually really good at singing itself. It’s selling this Protect Our Gulf T-shirt to benefit the National Resource Defense Council’s Gulf Recovery Fund (maybe you should buy it?). And even Ryan ended up apologizing to Preston, albeit weirdly, for the whole toothbrush kerfuffle.

But like that final scene in The Omen when Damien faces the camera and smiles, we know that things won’t be good for long. The promo for the next episode portends many horrors to come, including Ryan pan-frying a fish from the house fish tank. Seriously.

Inexplicable phenomena:

-If I was a cast member on The Real World: New Orleans (if only!) and my mother came to visit, here’s how it would go down: first — God bless her — she’d be horrified that I’m “living in sin” in the first place, cohabitating with people of the male variety. Second, she’d be disgusted by the garish décor and try to clean up all the Mardi Gras beads before realizing they’re meant to be there. But she’d ultimately concede that the house is “festive,” she’d take a brief nap and then we’d go shopping or something.

Things were a bit different when Jemmye’s mom Alyce visited the house. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around it all, so I’m just going to provide some highlights from her interactions with Jemmye and Knight. Do not attempt to adjust your computer screens — this is all real:

-“If you touch her up there, you won’t be touchin’ much.” Said to Knight in regards to her daughter’s breasts. Knight’s response: “She ain’t got boobs like you, Alyce. I know what I get when I’m feelin’ those.”

-“I can keep you warm if you come up there.” Knight says this to Alyce after she says

Wisconsin or wherever he’s from would be too cold for her.

-Knight, to Alyce: “Do you wanna come cuddle (with him and Jemmye)?”

-And finally, after Knight emerges wearing a “wife beater”-style shirt, Alyce says, jovially (!) “I think you’re gonna beat Jemmye.” THAT’S TOO CLOSE TO HOME, ALYCE.

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