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Opinion

‘Real World’ reflects reality of deteriorating societal values

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October 25, 2007

“This is the true story…of seven strangers…picked to live in a house…work together, and have their lives taped…to find out what happens when people stop being polite…and start getting real…The Real World.”

The introduction to MTV’s television show “The Real World” has been the same since its debut and is recognizable to nearly every teen and young adult in the United States. After “Cops,” it is the longest running reality television show in history.

The first season was filmed in New York, N.Y., in 1992. Reality television was a fresh concept at this time. Viewers were shocked and intrigued by the idea of the show and its focus on serious life issues.

Prejudice, for example, is apparent in many seasons. In San Francisco, a famously annoying “Real World” housemate by the name of Puck mocked his homosexual roommate Pedro for his sexual preference and Cuban heritage. Puck was kicked off of the show for his behavior, but continued to leave inappropriate jokes about homosexuals on the house’s answering machine.

Life-threatening illnesses have also affected Real World cast members. San Diego’s Frankie suffered from cystic fibrosis. She left the show due to homesickness, and passed away on June 9 of this year.

In addition to prejudice and illness, topics such as religion, politics and unrequited love are covered. In recent seasons, however, these topics are commonly discussed in a hot tub with a margarita in hand.

“No longer an outlet for 20-somethings to brood about their future careers, the show has become a cyclic three-month on-air party for young adults to mingle in hot tubs and obsess about the present. The locales have changed from creative Mecca’s like New York and London to vacation spots like Las Vegas and Hawaii,” critic Benjamin Wallace-Wells said.

“MTV has rejiggered the show to require characters to engage in artificial, season-long contests or projects—like putting together a fashion show—which the characters embrace in the way most American teenagers experience spring break: as a big party.”

Wallace-Wells’ description of the show’s evolution is accurate, but is it fair put all the blame on MTV? “The Real World” has become part of our culture, and each new cast member—who is increasingly airbrushed, bigger breasted and less and less unique—reflects what our society favors.

With the large amount of footage they film, MTV chooses to air what viewers demand to see: sex, trash talk and lots and lots of binge drinking.

The 20th season of the show is currently being filmed in Hollywood, Calif. If the show continues to progress as it has, what can we expect within the next few years? Quite possibly a trendy pornography with prejudicial outbursts. What does that say about the direction in which our culture is heading?

Annee Mayer-Chapleau is a junior studying creative writing. She loves astronomy and her main goal in life is to dance like David Byrne from the Talking Heads.