Stop Being Polite

Real World Denver begins November 7. I would be excited but I don’t have cable anymore.

Despite being able to name almost every cast member from all 17 previous season, I’ve always been ashamed of my predilection for the Real World. Even when the Real World was “real”—because it’s realistic that a person with full-blown AIDS would spend his last months on a reality TV show—I was a closeted fan of the show. From my experience, watching the Real World implies having too much free time and too little ambition to do anything better.

Each season of the Real World evokes different memories of loneliness for me. I saw New York and L.A. on repeats at 5:00 and 5:30 every afternoon when I was 12. When the episodes were over, the house would be dark and empty. An impression from the sofa fabric would still be on my face when my mom came home. Miami reminds me of the Saturday nights my parents went out to the city. My brother and I would order greasy Chinese food with the 20 dollar bill they left us. After dinner, he played NBA Live in the den and I watched TV in my parents’ room.

Since my middle school malaise, the show is less about avoiding pleasantries and more about seeing what happens when three men with hairless chests and four anorexics get drunk in a hot tub. I don’t care that Real World is not about race relations anymore, but I am curious about the frat and sorority member who now infiltrate the show. The new casts seem too superficial to have ever gone through an awkward phase, so why did they watch? And don’t they know what being a fan of the show implies to their cool friends?