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Thursday, July 15, 2010

"The Real World" explained: Love in the time of Carnival

Posted By on Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 5:27 PM

click to enlarge "Paranormal Activity 2: Jemmye's White Boy Virginity"
  • "Paranormal Activity 2: Jemmye's White Boy Virginity"

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.
McKenzie. Unfortunately I'm not referring to the ain't-dere-no-more New Orleans bakery that closed due to silly "health code violations" (I miss that place so much!). I'm speaking of the cast member you probably weren't aware of existing until now (she's the one who has a starfish permanently attached to her Taylor Swift hair and says "obviously" all the time). I feel qualified to explain her because I've known so, so many McKenzies in my life: she's that girl from college who was likely a devout follower of a predominately white, fear-based religion who talks about being "classy" and a "good girl" all the time, but Everclear shots cause her to "accidentally" fall asleep in the beds of "good guy-friends" whom she tries to drag to church the next morning. And she has an Audrey Hepburn poster hanging in her room and likes quotes about friendships and relationships attributed to Lauren Conrad or "anonymous".
McKenzie was such an embarrassment this episode for multiple reasons. First, she would flirt with Ryan in such a shameless, obvious manner (never mind the fact that no one should be attracted to Ryan, ever); invite him to her bed, then brush him off at the last second in favor of bedside company from an inanimate Carnival doll she named Charles. Second, her bestie "Suze" visited the house and also, inexplicably, flirted with Ryan. While Suze's behavior is clearly violation of unspoken, but strongly enforced, female friend code (it's like, the rules of feminism), there was no excuse for McKenzie lurking behind the pair while they were trying to hook up, not unlike a strict mother who covers furniture in plastic and removes the bedroom doors of her horny children as punishment. And then when she called a taxi cab in the middle of the night to pick up Suze to keep her "from doing something she'd regret in the morning" ... well that was just silly.

The post-dormitory, pre-marraige male apartment. When they showed the cast members partying in someone's apartment on St. Charles Avenue, I briefly thought that I knew its owner. But then I realized the apartment looked familiar simply because it is belongs to every male who does not live in a dorm or with a woman: it's essentially a box with gray carpet, a hand-me-down couch with a beige slipcover, a splinter-laden wood thing doubling as a beer pong table and bar, and large sports team paraphernalia sparsely covering the white, sporadically stained walls.

Baby Kong. One of the Krewe of Bacchus' signature floats at which parade-goers throw beads. The float can be seen in one of the parade scenes at the beginning of the episode, and it got me thinking: Baby Kong is sort of symbolic of the Real World franchise, isn't it? It's this big, stupid thing covered in plastic objects that comes into our lives every year, and everyone throws stuff at it. It's pretty pointless, but we can all admit it's somewhat comforting to collectively hurl objects at something for no reason year after year.

The toothbrush. There's Ryan brushing his teeth with a Sonicare toothbrush. Foreshadowing!
Also, during one of the many scenes in which McKenzie acts as the house Abstinence Police, she's angrily brushing her teeth. Could toothbrushes be a reoccurring motif on the show representing betrayal?
I figured out who Jemmye is. Does Jemmye remind anyone else of Vicky Vallencourt, Fairuza Balk's character in Waterboy? Anyone?

click to enlarge "Paranormal Activity 2: Jemmye's White Boy Virginity"
  • "Paranormal Activity 2: Jemmye's White Boy Virginity"

The Bourbon Street Breakdown. Of course we find our characters on Bourbon Street once again, although they've presumably been in the city for at least two days and therefore the brief window of time in which they're allowed to patronize Bourbon Street has closed (as a first-time visitor to New Orleans, you're allotted one (1) night on the touristy part of Bourbon Street. After that, you become intolerable). On this episode's visit, Jemmye successfully experiences all stages in the spectrum of Bourbon Street drunkenness, from its euphoric apex to its miserable, red-tongued nadir. Here are the five stages of grief:

1. Denial. Does this large, blue drink filled with several bacteria-laden fruit garnishes really cost $20? Yes, it does. You drink four of them. The combination of sugar, alcohol and food coloring causes brief euphoria.

2. Anger. Jemmye is enraged to see a blurry-faced woman approach Knight in the bar (she says "Do you remember me?" and he responds: "How could I forget a beautiful face? ... uh, what's your name?"), so she angrily dance-assaults some guy. I hear handing someone a MTV waiver functions as an effective pick-up line.

3. Bargaining. "OK, Bourbon Street shot girl: how 'bout you give me one of those Jell-O shot beakers for only $10?" "Yes — but only if you consume it via my breasts or by getting down on your knees on this filthy floor." Jemmye is sort of a beaker-shot contortionist in this scene.

4. Depression. At this point, the curb surrounded by piles of sodden plastic and puddles containing a gumbo of urine and Big Ass Beers To Go looks like an OK place to sit while you sob until a male from your group throws you over his shoulders. You may also eat a Lucky Dog at this time.

5. Acceptance. If you're Jemmye, you scream "LET'S GO TO A GAY BAR!" and later call your mother from the house phone.

Kermit Ruffins (again). Look, I think it's great Basin Street Records is featuring its artists on the show. Really. I certainly prefer Kermit's music to a song with the lyrics "Why do we make the bed / Just to mess it up again," which played in one scene (I'm pretty sure 6-year-old me wrote that as a protest song against house chores). But it's really tragic that one of his songs was playing during Jemmye's Bourbon street embarrassments, although a composition called "Can't Take My Baby Nowhere" is a fitting tune for her.
Inexplicable phenomena:

-Everyone's hookin' up this episode, and not always with suitable mates, which confirms my theory that MTV pumps hormones through the house's ventilation system. Suze hooks up with Ryan. Preston hooks up with two people he met on Bourbon Street! McKenzie sleeps with a glittery doll. And, finally, Jemmye loses her White Boy Virginity to Knight. I have to say I'm a bit disappointed. I thought perhaps Knight being Jemmye's "first white boy" would be some running joke in the house, but I doubted it would actually happen. Jem's a wild one, but she's kind of cute, right? Why would she succumb to the advances of a pudgy pill addict with bad teeth, a stupid name, and even stupider one-liners (“Once you have a tip of the Knight stick, I may women fall in love”)? Is this how young people are wooed these days, with promises of perfunctory sex? (And yes, I am technically "young," as I am probably the same age as many of these cast members, but I have never been propositioned with "three pumps") The moment was a bit sad, but I enjoyed it when they did a thumbs-up for the camera from under the covers, shortly before Jemmye was like "OK, see ya later" and went back to her Mardi Gras bead bed.

-Also, did anyone feel a little weird when Knight said his conquest was for "white people everywhere"?

-In this episode's K-Ville editing moment, the camera shows Bourbon Street and a black Santa Claus carrying a crucifix, then it cuts to Republic during "Legit Night." A Christmas miracle.

-Ryan's homophobia continues to be confounding: referring to one of Preston's hook-ups, he says "I’d rather not (hook-up) than be doing it like that."

-I don't really understand Ashlee's role on the show yet, but I think she may function as a Greek Chorus of sorts. She doesn't really do anything, but she provides some insightful, prescient commentary about what's going on around her. At the end of the episode, she discusses Jemmye and Knight's relationship, saying it seems good right now but there may be some "trouble on the horizon." I think that could potentially apply to a lot of things, Ashlee.

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