”The Real World”: Shavonda and Landon’s Fiji fling
It would be hard enough to expect viewers to take any pleasure in watching seven twentysomethings enjoy an all-expense-paid trip to Fiji as a reward for deciding whether a swing set would have three swings or four. Why not follow it up with footage of Paris Hilton scratching off a pile of winning lottery tickets and make the evening one long undeservathon? And just to stick the knife in a little deeper, MTV broadcast The Real World‘s sunny fun-time frolic three days after a blizzard. Take that, audience! I was half-expecting that right after the episode aired, VJ Sway would come by my home and personally poke me in the eye.
This episode was mainly devoted to seeing the roomies’ vacation adventures through Shavonda’s fearful eyes. They swim in an oasis! . . . and Shavonda’s scared of water. Sarah takes off her top! . . . and Shavonda’s scared to go topless. Then they all jump off a boat! . . . and Shavonda’s still scared of water. Left on the cutting-room floor was footage of the roomies trying to get away from the cameras! . . . but Shavonda’s afraid to not be on TV.
One activity that Shavonda’s worries did not play a part in was sand surfing, which I’m reasonably sure is something the locals made up to take out their bitterness on tourists. Come, jump on a boogie board and slide down a hill and thrill as your thighs’ skin is rubbed away from friction while your joyful, screaming mouth fills with dirt! And when you’re done, for five dollars you can try the Fijian sport of trikeplanking, where you ride a tricycle while we swing two-by-fours at your head! As we speak, the Fiji folks are probably developing a new event modeled on the photos from Abu Ghraib; just add free T-shirts and tequila shots and you’ll have the local teen tours lined up for days to pay for zaps to the genitals.
But the sand surfing was only a brief respite from Shavonda’s fistful of phobias. If The Real World were to grant me one wish, I would ask that they never make me endure one more roommate conquering fears. Shavonda says she’s afraid of deep water, and then she finally jumps in, and the producers play it in momentous slow-motion like it’s George McFly punching Biff Tannen. Enough with the false resolution of phobias. Arissa brought us through that ”journey” back in Las Vegas when she was scared of heights, and then two years later, there she was on the Real World/Road Rules Battle of the Sexes, back to soiling her bikini when she so much as had to climb a flight of stairs. From now on, the only fear I want anyone to conquer is the fear of shutting up. I don’t even care if they relapse, as long it buys me five minutes of silence.
Then we had to endure Shavonda’s fear of going topless. When did flashing become a character-defining accomplishment? She said that she idolized Sarah, who was taking off her top. So she’s still using Sarah as her sexual role model after last week’s hook-up hat trick? Who’s her diet guru, Kirstie Alley? I used to think that the most annoying character types on The Real World were the roommates who paraded around topless, blathering about their openness. But they now take second place to the people who yearn to be them.
All right, clearly I’m dancing around what was intended to be the central plot of the show: Landon and Shavonda’s hook-up. I have been dreading addressing it because watching it made my eyes burn, so God knows what writing about it will do to my fingers. Their first kiss happened during a truth-or-dare game, where Landon dared Shavonda to kiss him for 30 seconds. Karamo was disgusted by this, but it was a little hard to take his indignation seriously as just moments before he had put M.J.’s underwear on his head. The high road does not travel through M.J.’s BVDs.
Karamo had trouble settling on just one reason to disapprove of Landon and Shavonda’s budding relationship. First he harped on the interracial thing, bitching to Sarah that Shavonda wasn’t in touch with her own culture. But he later apparently decided that sticking up for her boyfriend, Shaun, was a more palatable argument (even though Shaun is white). And at least that reason was valid; Shavonda seemed unconcerned that she was cheating on her boyfriend on television. In fact, she happily stood and held a smooch on the beach while a cameraman circled around her and Landon for full romantic effect. If you’re going to smash someone’s heart into a million pieces on national TV, you might as well be clichéd about it.
But then, worried that this might be too rational a complaint, Karamo tossed in the fact that if the septet were on a deserted island, he would slit Landon’s throat. Apparently Karamo practices the Ann Coulter style of debate: When you accidentally say something that makes sense, quickly toss in some explosively insane statement just to keep it a zero-sum game.
I shouldn’t mock Karamo’s statement too much, though, as I’m sure editing played a part in making it seem creepier than it actually was. Clearly an extra awkward pause was stuffed in between his throat-slitting statement and his subsequent smiling explanation that he would need to kill the other alpha male. In that manufactured silence, the producers stuffed in plenty of footage of uncomfortable glances by the other roommates, which could have been taken from any time during the dinner. Most likely they were from when Landon and Shavonda were chattering in baby talk, because that was awkward. (Although not quite as awkward as the moment in Shavonda’s room where Landon watched her get dressed. He was staring at her psychotically as if imagining how he’d look wearing a bathing suit made out of her skin. You can take the boy away from the knife, but you just can’t take the knife away from the boy. . . . )
Ultimately, Shavonda declared that she had done nothing wrong by kissing Landon, since she and Shaun were on a break. Well, this episode could officially turn that break into a breakup. Hey, Shaun: On the off chance that you do want her back, here’s a quick fix: Hire a film crew to follow you. Shavonda will be back rubbing up against you before you can say, ”16th minute of fame.”
What do you think? Did Shavonda cross the line? Was Karamo way out of line? Will what happened in Fiji stay in Fiji? What did happen in Fiji?