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Thursday, August 12, 2010

"The Real World" explained: of sweatshirts and Subway

Posted By on Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 5:31 PM

click to enlarge This post brought to you by Subway — Eat Fresh!™
  • This post brought to you by Subway — Eat Fresh!™

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.
If The Real World were a marriage, the last six episodes constituted the honeymoon period, and now we’re in the part of the relationship where you wear sweatshirts and yell at each other all the time. Why are you even together anymore? You used to dress up and say nice things to each other, now all you do is wear baggy shirts, cry and eat Subway sandwiches. The Real World has given up, but I’m not giving up on it. We’re staying together for the kids.
Mosquitoes. We continue to learn that no amount of Applebees light fixtures, Pottery Barn for Tweenz furniture or antique armoire barricades can stop New Orleans’ most bothersome insects. The housemates encountered a mosquito in this episode, and what ensued was probably among the most stupidest of stupid things in Real World history. Ryan dared Knight to eat the mosquito, and he did, because he’s an idiot. And then Ryan proceeded to step outside and vomit — and by “vomit,” I mean make lots of gaggy noises and then spit on the ground. And then everyone laughed, they showed a few streetcars, and then it was onto the next inanity. Why is this show still on the air?

New Orleans restaurants. I’m not sure about the logistics of The Real World, but I’m assuming they probably give cast members a list of restaurants and bars, perhaps places the production team has already scoped out and gotten permission to film. Also, if the cast wasn’t provided a list of restaurants, they’d probably just eat McDonald’s and mosquitoes all day (They’d have no trouble finding bars). But who is picking these restaurants? The cast has eaten french fry-heart attacks at Bruno’s, food that’s displayed under plastic wrap in the French Quarter, $25 fried chicken at Jaques-Imo’s, giant plates of creamy things at Cannon’s, and more creamy pasta things at Leonardo’s Trattoria (What’s that, you say? Exactly). If they’re fattening the cast for slaughter, I support that, but otherwise the restaurant selection has been embarrassing. It’s possible many of the good restaurants refused to allow these zoo creatures (in the parlance of Jersey Shore) inside, which I can understand. But I at least hope the cast upgrades to more respectable casual fare like Slice or Juan’s Flying Burrito before the season ends.
Musician’s Village. Habitat for Humanity’s community in the Upper 9th Ward where low-income artists can own a home. In its continued effort to make good, The Real World cast spent a few days volunteering there. Here’s how it went down: McKenzie did a commendable job climbing ladders and hammering things. Sahar and Ashlee did stuff, too, I think. Knight looked competent using an electric saw. Preston is “afraid of power tools,” so he and Jemmye sat in the car most of the time like two drunk drivers avoiding their mandatory community service hours. Ryan stayed home, because he’s more interested in using his hair-cutting abilities to rebuild New Orleans. And I think Eric is still on the show, but I’m really not too sure about that.
Product placement. You see, we used to get most of our advertisements from commercials, but now with the Teevo and the DVDS and the Hulus, the kids these days don’t see TV ads anymore. So sponsors place their products in reality TV shows — you know, because it’s “real” and all, audiences better relate to these “real” people and are more likely to buy T-Mobile phones, or something. But the problem is that, as much as they desperately want to be, these reality show people aren’t actors. So when a company such as Subway, which is so obviously a sponsor of The Real World, wants to integrate its product into the show, they tell cast members to eat its sandwiches as often as they can, and to maybe throw in a few positive comments about the food. And, remember, these guys aren’t actors. So that’s how you get someone like McKenzie who, while at Subway following the cast’s volunteer stint, says things like “I LIKE THAT SUBWAY HAS BREAKFAST OPTIONS. THIS FOOD IS GOOD.” Oh, McKenzie.
And by the way, if you’re wondering about Subway’s breakfast options, it’s basically different forms of rubbery egg-stuff on bread and stale Seattle’s Best Coffee. So that pretty much makes it a gas station or that sad kiosk in your college’s library that was never actually open.
Women’s fashions. Knight, toward the beginning of his descent into Mel Gibson-ism (more on that later!), called Sahar’s top a “maternity dress.” Silly Knight! That’s not a maternity dress — it’s just what’s in style with the ladies these days! Don’t you know that current women’s fashion is all about looking fat? (See also: harem pants).
“If you have something to say about me, then say it to my face.” Knight borrowed a line from the Reality Television Catchphrase Bank, which also includes “I’m not here to make friends,” “He/she threw me under the bus,” “It is what it is” and self-assessments that are completely inaccurate, like when Jemmye says she “doesn’t like confrontation.” Ha ha.
The Stanford Prison Experiment. You probably remember learning about this in one of your college sociology electives, but in case you don’t, it’s that famous experiment in which undergraduates were randomly selected to play the roles of guards and prisoners in a mock prison at Stanford University. The whole situation delved into chaos as everyone got to into their assigned roles, somewhat proving the prison environment can wreak psychological havoc on its inhabitants. I was reminded of this experiment while watching this very house centric-episode. Without the Super Bowl or Mardi Gras, the cast members mostly sit around the house and wear sweatshirts. Everyone is adapting more and more to the roles they were cast as, and I think it’s wearing on their psyches. Knight’s becoming more of a chauvinist, Jemmye’s assuming her victim role to a dangerous extent, Sahar’s starting to get angry, and Preston’s dressing up like [the loser of a] Lady Gaga [impersonation contest]. Everyone is yelling and crying. Things are truly falling apart.
In the real-life Prison Experiment, the situation got so bad that it ended early. Maybe that will happen with this show. We can only hope.
Inexplicable phenomena:
- Well obviously, this show is going to sweep the GLADD television awards this year! Knight emerged as the cast’s newest homophobe, saying scary, nonsensical things like “I know when a homo cries” about Preston. But unlike with Ryan, it’s somehow OK for Knight to be a complete bigot. For the most part, everyone’s just like “Oh, Knight! Such a joker.”
What was more disturbing was his verbally abusive behavior toward Jemmye. She indicated Knight was one of the only people she’s opened up to about her past dating violence situation, and it seems like Knight is exploiting her vulnerability by assuming the abuser role. Because he’s one of the only people who knows about her past, he’s aware he has some power over her and is exploiting it. And she knows this, too, which is why she keeps taking the abuse. Sick, huh? This is when things aren’t funny anymore.
But at the end of the episode, Jemmye and Ashlee go to the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children to discuss volunteer jobs, and Jemmye opens up to one of Metro’s counselors about her abuse situation. I’m glad they included that scene, which sort of functioned as those disclaimers MTV shows before showing people jumping off buildings (Jackass) or women getting punched in the face (Jersey Shore). It’s MTV’s way of saying, “Hey, I know we’re showing this, but we’re not cool with this, ’K? Don't shoot the messenger, ya'll!!” At one point, Knight rationalized his inflammatory comments by saying he “makes a face” afterward indicating he’s joking. MTV seems to be “making a face” in the form of disclaimers and scenes at battered women’s shelters, but at what point is it not cool to be showing this stuff in the first place?
But again, this is the network that brought us Date My Mom and this guy, so maybe I’m reading too much into this.
-When is Eric going to do something on this show? At least Ashlee, who’s essentially a gray sweatshirt who talks sometimes, does somewhat entertaining things like lose tape recorders she needs for her fake job. Time to step it up, Eric, or else the producers might lock you in one of those armoires. At this point, I’m not sure anyone would miss you*.
*And, you can't see me right now, but I'm making a face that indicates I'm joking, which means that mean comment was totally OK.

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