“The Real World” is Real White?

By Jonathan Adams Aug 31, 2007

I know more about MTV’s The Real World than most people, and have been a fan since the beginning. What I liked about Real World New York and the couple seasons that followed was the authentic interactions that occurred at the intersections of these strangers’ lives. The most notable of these is probably Pedro and Puck from the third season, Real World San Francisco. Pedro was Cuban American, HIV positive, gay man and Puck was an obnoxious, crude, white bike messenger. They argued about everything from daily hygiene to peanut butter—all the things that normal roommates discuss, meanwhile MTV discreetly let the world peer into the lives of a group of friends, one of which was living with AIDS. Flash forward to the nineteenth season of Real World and cable is a much different place. No longer is it good enough for reality shows like Real World or Cops to just keep the cameras rolling, but the viewer’s heightened voyeurism needs fighting, sex, drinking, and maybe a few games, eliminations, and rats for dinner to keep them entertained. As Real World has moved to compete with this new reality scene, that aforementioned authenticity exists less and less. This authenticity is directly connected to the dialogue that diverse points of view create. MTV’s casting recently has moved away from the formulaic diversity that included: one part white virgin girl, one part white jock, one part opinionated black woman, and a spoonful of gay guy for the ever-enthralling on screen kiss; that had become predictable and downright boring, but the alternative has proven even worse. Enter Real World Sydney. MTV’s latest edition to its longest running series looks nothing like the show that premiered in 1992. With a house that fit three lofts of the size the original cast members shared in New York, the cast looks extremely different. There are two blond girls who are frankly indistinguishably, two country boys from the South, one male and one female brunette members, and the lone South Asian woman from New York. The season started off with controversy when one of the young blond women from the cast retells her encounter with an Asian employee at McDonalds:

"I’m like, well I’d take the f….n’ Crunchie one but I don’t know what it tastes like because you wouldn’t give me a sample. I’m like, you know what, keep the money, maybe take some English lessons – I’m leaving cause you don’t know how to speak English."

Watch her tirade here. But the frustration continues. The most recent racist and sexist comments come from Mississippi’s Dunbar, who confronts Parisa, the lone person of color, for singing the blues. He tells her that she can’t sing the blues because there are no women blues musicians and, “it’s reserved for Black men with miserable lives that actually put soul behind it.” Watch it here. As the real world becomes more diverse, MTV’s television version has begun to mimic the rest of its programming and has become more white. In losing the drama of real life issues, we have gained an onslaught of white frat parties ‘gone wild’ that include token people of color to be ridiculed. It begs the question: Is “The Real World” becoming “The MTV World?” I want my MTV with a “Real World” that continues to be a launch pad for real discussions on race, gender, and sexuality, and that reflects the reality shown to me everyday in the real world.