Okay so it’s not at #459 yet but I’ve long since lost any interest I had in The Real World. Most of this probably comes from the fact that I remember the first few years of the Real World, when it was really a revolutionary show, when open talk about sex, politics, religion, race and everything else on television was always stringently scripted. Those first few years of the show gave us characters we’ll never forget (Norman, Heather, Pedro, Judd, Puck, Beth, Aaron, Pam, Kevin, etc.) and interactions I still remember:
The Original New York Cast’s Kevin and Julie having a loud raging fight about race in America.
London Cast’s Neil getting his tongue almost bitten off at a show.
Pedro of the San Francisco Cast openly talking about living with HIV.
These were really images that are historical in the framework of Reality Television and compared to those moments, what the show has become? The latest crop of starved, late teen/early 20’s, wanna be-actors/singers/models (because at a certain point the show stopped even entertaining the idea of allowing people who look average into the house at all), gossiping and generally acting like a bunch of six-year-olds holds next to no interest to me at all.
Then last week I caught the beginning of the new season, set in Brooklyn, and I met Katielynn, the first trans- contestant on The Real World. Suddenly I was interested in the show again. Not because Katielynn is transgender but because she’s not the usual stereotype of transwomen that we’re allowed to see on television. See Katielynn is a black belt martial artist who recently moved to Montana to be with her boyfriend and would love to own her own dojo one day.
Generally, when a transwoman gets featured on a television show she has to be a sex worker or a …well generally sex worker is all that transwomen are allowed to be in Hollywood, with Alexis Meade from Ugly Betty being an exception. Wait, I forgot the stock character of the tranwoman who is also allowed to be the suffering, tragic outcast who has no (or one) friends, no romantic prospects and eventually falls into something against her will that destroys any hope of a happy life for her – like drugs or… sex work.
Katielynn (from what I’ve seen, which I admit is only one episode) seems to be a strong and capable woman, someone who knows who she is and what she wants. Even though I’m sure that’s not her point and it’s certainly not her job just by being who she is she breaks down stereotypes society holds of transwomen. That interesting notion and how the rest of the house might react to her openness (there’s already two guys I’ve pegged as idiots) is definitely enough to make me interested in the show again. Because at it’s heart that’s what I think the show was originally all about – exposing people in the house and around the world to folks of all different walks of life, people they might not run into in their everyday life, breaking down stereotypes and showing humanity.
Some classic moments from past Real Worlds:
Kevin & Julie – Original New York Cast
Fellow Castmates remember Pedro Zamora