Thursday, August 19, 2010

"The Real World" explained: The fall of Jemmye

Posted By on Thu, Aug 19, 2010 at 5:46 PM

click to enlarge Erin go barf
  • Erin go barf

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.

I believe we’ve reached a pivotal juncture in the show — in which things stop being polite and start getting real. Specifically with Jemmye, who approaches a point of drunkenness somehow slouchier and naked-er than her Bourbon Street Breakdown. It’s quite embarrassing, even for a network whose main commodity is embarrassment (see also: most episodes of True Life, all episodes of Next and Parental Control). It’s time to sift through the wreckage.

Nonlinear narrative. Once upon a time there were some young people, filled with boundless optimism and creativity, who enrolled in film school to become the next David Lynch or Coen brothers or Francois Truffaut. But then the recession happened, and that low-budget remake of Metropolis didn’t really work out, so they took production jobs on reality TV shows just until they could find something else. And here they are, still working as pornographers on a television network for teenagers.

To maintain their integrity (and make their parents, who are saddled with their student debt, proud), they try to inject some artful touches on the show. They play with a nonlinear narrative, a la Christopher Nolan. The episode starts in media res with scenes of Jemmye’s drunken rampage set to dramatic film music, then a title screen says “10 hours earlier.” I hope they were proud of that.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Just as Mardi Gras parade withdrawals begin to kick in, another occasion for us to have things thrown at us while we drink in the streets arises. I guess it’s the combination of sunlight and green food coloring that creates some sort of uniquely embarrassing state of drunkenness, and Jemmye experiences that on this episode. Add that to her latent post-traumatic stress disorder and well, Jemmye’s motor skills begin to resemble those of wilted cabbage heads on St. Charles Avenue. Allow me to describe the sequence of events:

1. Jemmye, dressed in a green shirt and leggings-as-pants, takes shots at Parasol’s (R.I.P.). It seems her drinking causes her spine to gradually deossify (I think I just made that word up), because she’s progressively slouchier with each drink. It’s around this time when McKenzie sees something shiny and wanders off, and no one seems to realize her absence until several hours later.

2. Knight and Jemmye take a cab to the house. Jemmye is a mere pile of malleable cartilage and spandex at this point, so she plops out of the cab and lies on the sidewalk for a while. Her straggly black hair is askance as she slouches up the house’s steps, falling and throwing her drinks everywhere along the way, like if the girl from The Ring went to a fraternity mixer.

3. Much like a snake, Jemmye periodically sheds her outer layers. She strips, and ends up lying on the floor of the shower with the water running. At one point she’s naked, wrapped in a green comforter, throwing stuff around the house. Ryan gets a glimpse of her ladyparts and proceeds to yell “OH MY GOD I JUST SAW YOUR VAGINA. YOU HAVE A VAGINA TATTOO. THAT IS HORRID” then hides in the closet. Ryan’s grossed out by female genitalia and is in a closet. Ha ha.

4. Jemmye decides she wants to go home. And by “home,” she doesn’t mean this Mardi Gras museum in which they’re living — she wants to go back to Mississippi. So she puts on a sweat suit — her travelling clothes — and begins to bound down the street. She’s so drunk she swears she saw Mississippi on their way back home — it’s just a few blocks from here — so she’s just gonna walk there. It’s cool, ya'll, don’t worry about me. I’m too drunk to drive, and I don’t know where my plane is, so I’m just going to walk there. That kind of thinking is completely logical at a certain level of intoxication. Witnessing this, Ryan says “Mississippi is that way, so she’s going in the right direction.” Thank you, Magellan.

5. Ashlee and Sahar are upstairs talking, when they hear the house piano playing — it’s Jemmye, back from the dead, playing the piano.

The end!

U by Kotex. MTV and Kim Stolz of America’s Next Top Model fame (I watch a lot of reality TV) are doing these commercials in which Stolz goes around the country and talks to ladies about their menstrual cycles to promote these tampons, I guess. It’s sort of framed in this weird, consciousness-raising group way, where they’re trying to get women to be more open about their periods. Which, you know, is kind of cool, since at least half of the world experiences this uterine onslaught once a month, yet God forbid you talk about it! But when the Tampon Tour makes a stop at The Real World house, I’m a bit disturbed. I already know way too much about these people. I’ve pretty much seen Jemmye naked. I’ve listened to Knight’s many euphemisms for his penis. I’ve seen Ashlee in that gray sweatshirt so many times that I can almost smell it through the TV. I’ve heard Ryan fart. I was hoping we’d keep some private things, some private bathroom things, private. And now I have to listen to these girls talk about their monthly shedding of uterine lining in Audubon Park (watch the awkwardness unfold at this link).

But anyway, if you have any questions for the Real World girlz about their periods, you can ask them here (seriously). Because I know you’ve all been dying to.

Inexplicable phenomena:

- I need to be honest with you all for a second. I almost cried during this episode. I almost cried real tears. After Jemmye’s downfall, she realizes she’s been internalizing her past abuse experience and it’s causing these drunken meltdowns. So she goes to talk to the social worker at the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children, and it seems like she has a breakthrough. There’s this part where the social worker says something like, “Don’t you think you’re worth more than that?” and Jemmye kind of gets this glimmer in her eye, and that’s when I almost lost it. Maybe this experience is changing me, too.

Then Knight shows up and starts talking about his pill problem, and that’s when my eyes dried and my heart turned back to stone.

- Eric’s main contributions to this episode include carrying Jemmye while drunk and mentioning he went to Superior Grill (of course he did). Ashlee continued to sweatshirt around the house and provide useless commentary. You two keep this up, and MTV’s not going to want you on The Challenge: Fresh Meat and you might actually have to go back to school finish up your communications degrees.

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