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Tonya's mystery illness is very real!

Tonya’s mystery illness is very real! Josh Wolk issues a mea culpa and shames Aneesa for hogging the spotlight

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The Real World
The Real World Chicago: MTV

Tonya’s mystery illness is very real!

I’m not too stubborn a man to admit that I owe Tonya an apology. In covering past episodes, I have postulated that she was a big faker, and even when she’d go to the hospital, doubled over and whimpering, I thought her alleged kidney problem was just a psychosomatic tummyache. Well, there’s nothing like a close-up of a jellyfish-like giant blood clot that she just peed out to really change your diagnosis lickety-split. My bad, Tonya!

Even though seeing this piece of urinary flotsam on the April 23 episode of ”The Real World” might have been the only surefire way to convince the audience (and me) that Tonya’s troubles were real, there was something unsettlingly lurid about the way the MTV cameras hungrily dashed to her toilet to zoom in on her pinkish water: You’d have thought that the blood clot was shaped like Justin Timberlake. The producers would probably claim that they wanted to show all of Tonya’s ejections because it would teach today’s kids the danger of kidney problems…in the same way that they hungrily documented ”RW: Seattle”’s Irene’s descent into madness with the high-minded excuse that it showed the horrors of Lyme disease.

But you can bet if a cast member came down with a disease that’s symptoms had no good visuals, like chronic fatigue syndrome, the cameramen wouldn’t be hanging around for a close-up. ”Yeah, Joe, we feel really bad that you’re so tired, and…hey, Betty’s making out with two guys, let’s go get her! If you start hallucinating or bleeding from the ears, Joe, give us a call and we’ll be right back.” This prurience under the guise of education reminds me of HBO’s ”Real Sex” series, which treats stories about strippers, swingers, and fetishists like they’re serious documentaries. Yet all they are is an excuse to show porn without getting a horny-network reputation like Cinemax.

The fact that the producers were all about the gory discharge became clearer when Tonya arrived at the hospital. The cameras crowded into the examination room as Tonya writhed on the bed, backing out only when the nurse booted them and the roomies. (I expected to hear a producer yell, ”If you find anything, can you save it in a cup? And make sure it signs a release!”) And yet, while the roommates stayed the whole night, the cameras went home; when Cara et. al. later told the exciting story about how Tonya became delirious and started screaming at them, there was no footage of the action. Even though the bulk of the roommates were there, the cameramen went home, likely assuming that all that was left was boring-old recuperation. Well, that’ll teach ’em to leave early! I bet they got quite the drubbing from the top executives: ”As long as there is even the slightest possibility that someone may either secrete some slimy discharge or start freaking out, I want those cameras on!”

The cameras may have left the hospital, but they never seem to leave Aneesa, but probably because she’s so self-involved she demands their presence. She says the word ”I” more often than a pirate yes-man. After watching 11 seasons, you would think I would be inured to ”Real World” self-centeredness, but Aneesa shocked even me. Take this hall of fame moment: After Tonya stated that she didn’t get medical care growing up as a foster kid (and therefore now has thousands of dollars in outstanding medical bills), Aneesa actually tried to top this tale by complaining how her mother wouldn’t let her get a job in high school, and therefore she now must live with the curse of being spoiled. I’m curious if there is a single planet in the universe where that is not considered crazy talk.

Aneesa has obviously studied old ”Real World” tapes, because she knows how to spew penitent self-improvement vows in the confessionals, but she seems to have no real comprehension of what the words mean. It’s as if she’s reading them phonetically off cue cards. ”I have to be the adult that I’ve been claiming to be,” she says…and later runs past Theo to theatrically go to the bathroom with the door open. Her grand finale came with her pronouncement that she and Tonya are still there for each other when times get tough…even though the entire episode dealt with her refusal to visit Tonya in the hospital, which might well be the very definition of ”tough times.”

Nothing Aneesa said showed any understanding that all of Chicago, let alone her house, wasn’t in existence to serve her. When asked to do the dishes, she said she would only when she was bored and didn’t have anything better to do and felt like cleaning. (Don’t forget, ”…and when someone invents a robot that will stand behind me moving my arms in a scrubbing motion, which will help me conserve my energy for later loud, demonstrative trips to the bathroom.”) When everyone but Theo (who at least sent a note) left to visit Tonya, and Aneesa refused to go, she complained that no one kissed her goodbye. And the final note that put the ”me” in ”mean” came when Aneesa, after finally visiting Tonya for a half-hour, got angry at her roomie for not seeming happy enough to see her. ”It was like, ‘Oh, you’re here,’ not, ‘Oh, I’m happy you came,”’ she complained. She has a point: Tonya could have offered Aneesa her bed for a nap. At the very least she could have shared her IV. It’s perfect for Aneesa, since it’s already got an ”I” in it.

Who’s fed up with Aneesa? Raise your hand! Now put your hand down and tell us all about it.