Last night, GF and I were in a random discussion with things having to do with days gone by when suddenly it popped in our heads we ought to watch some of the early reruns of one of
today’s yesterday’s most wildly popular shows. The Real World. Today, if you can still believe it’s on today (I think it’s in its 25th season?), is really just a showcase of how much of a 24/7 frat party six or seven post college-age kids can throw. However, back in the day, I remember it actually stood for something with our young Generation X social crowd.
So, we started searching for it. Amazingly, we couldn’t find it on any of the numerous Internet TV sites. They didn’t even have it on Netflix. Amazon and eBay, of all places, weren’t even selling the early seasons. Finally, after about an hour of scouring the web, we were smart enough to actually look on MTV’s website. There we found The Real World: San Francisco in all it’s glory; every episode contained the original and unmuddied meaning of:
This is the true story of eight 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.
(However, now MTV’s streaming site is being gimpy, so we have to find yet another site…)
For those that don’t remember the second season (all the way back in ’93), that was a landmark year for the show. I think that in the first season, no one, even the producers, really knew what they were doing. However, this was the moment in the series when we got to see real life drama come together in real life fashion. I think a lot of us (or maybe I’m being a little too presumptuous here) were a little too young or a little too naive to get what really was unfolding before our eyes. Understand, this was the first reality show. We would not have Big Brother, Survivor, The Bachelor, Jersey Shore, The Biggest Loser, The Real Housewives of the Jersey Turnpike, even those shows about the experts helping failing cupcake factories that my GF seems to like so much. Think about it.
Coming back to the show, if you had watched the show at all back then, you’ll immediately recognize and remember all the characters. But even though they are living in a different time, when people acted differently and lived by different social norms, you feel you understand their inter-personal struggles and even inner struggles so much more. Perhaps we all witnessed the evolution of these story lines, because they have since been so prominent in our society. In 1993, the story of the homosexual guy (Pedro) living with AIDS at such a young age moved some but, at that moment in time, really shocked others. However, homosexuality is so ubiquitous and accepted nowadays we don’t even think about it like we did back then. Most of us, straight men included, will have gay friends. My sister even had a gay friend in her wedding party. (He didn’t have to wear a dress, though.) While I watched a few Real Worlds last night though and although back in the day Pedro’s character was in a way like opening a new door to understanding ignorance and prejudice so prevalent in society, he really just annoyed the fuck out of me this time around. He was so arrogant and acted like he was the only one allowed to say ‘gay’. Now, I mean absolutely no disrespect to the deceased (he succumbed to his disease in 1994,) but he really was a whiny little bitch.
Back then, a lot of us thought Puck was a complete bad ass, while everyone else thought he was just an asshole. Within that same timeframe (and remember, this is 1993), no one had really considered the idea of ADD. While still a complete freak of nature, he should also be thought of as the poster child for what a kid without “proper medication” will grow up like. Or at least, that’s what our teachers would tell our parents, right? The fights that he would get in with his roommates were off the wall and made him look bat-shit insane, when nowadays, we would just say, “Awww… he’s just really in need of attention!” While he did get the boot for getting in too many fights with Pedro, he did have some classic lines, like: “Bike messenger is revered as a pretty big thing here in San Francisco.” Umm, okay, please tell me which town worships its paralegals.
However, more important about the show is how it illustrates how far the real world can change in, wow, almost twenty years. Now, for one, this was when MTV played music. It was when The Real World came on right before Headbanger’s Ball. MTV also had really good shows. I think this was around the time that Liquid Telivision also aired, which introduced us to Celebrity Deathmatch, Aeon Flux, even Beavis & Butthead! This is a show before the Internet… You actually see people sitting around socializing. They even all eat together each night! There are also so many throw-backs in the show. Remember the Nerf Vortex? They even talk on those crappy “video-phones,” which would have like a 5 frame per second bit-rate. I really think, though, that one of most pertinent of the show’s ‘anachronisms’ would be the black singer/poet, Mohammed. I don’t mean the person, but the fact that nobody on the show at all reacts in any way different to the fact that he is Muslim.
Before continuing, I should point out that we watched about six episodes and he has not yet expressed he is Muslim, but I am willing to say he is. Mohammed is strictly a Muslim name. No one of the Christian, Judaic, Hindu, or Shinto faith would think to name their child Mohammed.
The obvious answer to the avoidance of this issue is that this takes place before 9/11. However, and I do not want to get too political here, but this did cross my mind, but you never really see Mohammed giving faith to Allah through the Five Pillars of Islamic Faith. The one, I believe, we would most easily see on the show would be Mohammed doing his five daily prayers. However, the cameras never roll. Who knows. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe the 1990’s producers thought, “Yikes, no one knows what that is! We don’t have enough time to explain that to the audience!” Fast forward a decade and just about everyone in “Christian” America knows exactly how to point out someone who follows the tenets of Islam. My point is that back then, they were so widely accepted and nobody had an ounce of fear about them. Today, it’s a totally different story.
Okay, let’s all shake off that heavy feeling we just got. We’re here to have fun and relive the good ol’ days. It’s really cool to watch this, too, if not for the human interactions, for the fact that this takes place back when nobody knew what reality TV was, so when the cast got hired to join in, they weren’t trying to act. They were genuinely being themselves. I don’t believe even the producers knew exactly the impact they would have by having the cameras follow these kids around to all the businesses around San Francisco.
Most notable was that the stars weren’t portraying some retarded persona like Audrina or Snookie or someone else completely scripted that the producer told the “reality show” actress to portray because the marketing exec told the producer that’s what kids these days are attracted to because the market researcher told the marketing exec that teenage drinking and partying is on the rise because the legal counsel told the market researcher he won a case to employ laxer restrictions on underage drinking because the paralegal showed the legal counsel a loophole in the system while three-hole punching documents. See? It always comes back to us.
And if you followed that to the end, you win. Here’s your prize.