”The Real World”: Hugs and closure in Philly
The last nut in the slide has been tightened, the jungle gym is fully operational, and Jon Bon Jovi has had his final contractually obligated human contact with the Philly Seven. Which can only mean one thing: It’s time for them to go home. Which can only mean one other thing: It’s time to speed through some closure and have everyone hug over any past differences that haven’t yet been hugged over. And don’t underestimate the producers’ ability to power a reconciliation through in record time. After all, Karamo went from ignoring Landon to giving him a plaque in only two weeks. If Bunim/Murray were in charge of geopolitics, Bush and Kim Jong Il would have been bumping chests and calling each other ”dawg” months ago.
First to be wrapped up was Willie’s concern that M.J. was still a tad homophobic. M.J.’s subsequent abrupt turnaround felt like the results of panicky producers yelling to their staff, ”Quick! Look on the floor for anything that might indicate that M.J. is more understanding of gay people. No, not footage of his lingering glances at Landon — we used that all up two weeks ago!”
So the show started with M.J. freaking out over a drag queen. (Although had she worn a curly blond wig and been put on a weight-lifting regimen, perhaps M.J. wouldn’t have dashed out the door so quickly. ”Why, hello, my pretty young thing. You look so alluringly . . . like me.”) Then Willie drunkenly complained to Melanie that he wished M.J. would see him as Willie the man, not Willie the short gay boy. How about a compromise: Willie the short gay man? Willie the drunk man? Willie the short gay drunk manboy? Negotiations continue.
What did it take — according to the show’s editing — for M.J. to embrace gays 15 minutes later? Willie told a story about how his mother tells his beloved little brother that Willie will burn in hell. To which M.J. earnestly said that with Willie’s spirit, there’s no way he could ever burn in hell. Which on the surface seems like a sweet thing to say, but it’s actually setting the bar awfully low on tolerance. ”What do you think of homosexuals, M.J.?” ”Well . . . they won’t rot in hell, I’ll give them that.” If Sarah had asked him how he liked her pancakes and he replied, ”Well, God won’t hate you for making them,” I don’t think she’d go out and write a cookbook.
Next up for closure was the unholy Shavonda-Landon alliance, which hadn’t reared its head lately. I was optimistically hoping it would be like a bad blast of flatulence: horrible to experience but gradually dissipating so we could all pretend it had never happened. Alas, this duo had to go and recut the relationship cheese and fill the room with the rotten-egg stench of their romance. (And here, mercifully, endeth the metaphor.)
I was a little confused about the state of things: Who wanted to break up with whom? Landon said he wanted to cut things off to save their friendship but she was tough to resist and they kept having sex. Shavonda, meanwhile, protested that it was very easy to separate sex from feelings. And what was Landon’s solution to extricate himself cleanly and stay friendly? Bring home another woman, a waitress named McKenzie. Gee, why not just bash Shavonda on the head with a shovel? Nothing says ”clean break” like a concussion.
The next morning, Landon said he felt bad about having McKenzie over. In ranking how bad he felt, it was (a) so bad that if he could do it over again, maybe he would go over to her place rather than wiggle around in front of Shavonda, but (b) not nearly as bad as McKenzie must have felt last night, watching a reality show in which she starred as not just a one-night stand but a one-night stand whose only purpose was to make someone else jealous. Chalk up another Cameo of Shame for The Real World.
I’m not sure what’s sadder: that Landon thought that fooling around with a waitress next door to Shavonda would make them friends 4-eva, or that it actually made Shavonda love him all the more. What a wonderful lesson to put out to all of MTV’s young male viewers: If you really want to win a woman’s heart, fool around with someone else right in front of her. Sluttiness is the solution to all your relationship problems! And if that doesn’t work, try smoking crack. Not sure how it would help, but it can’t hurt!
And then came the goodbyes, indistinguishable from any other season’s. Hugging, crying, testimonials about how much they’ve learned. In this largely conflict-free season, it was easy to see why they’d be so upset at leaving: Everyone was pretty friendly, except for Karamo, who looked through all the wailing as if he couldn’t wait to be free of this prison, and was mentally reminding himself, ”Hug, don’t strangle. Hug, don’t strangle. . . .” This friendliness meant a dearth of all the petty conflict and irrational rage that makes The Real World worth watching, which was why it was so easy as a viewer to see this group go. I found myself whispering, ”Yeah, yeah, you’ll always be best buds. Now get on the ferry!” (Speaking of which, why was Landon taking a ferry home? What waterway takes you from Philadelphia to Wisconsin?) I’m glad that the Philly Seven will never forget each other, because the viewers have found them eminently forgettable.
What do you think? How does the Philly team stack up against previous Real World houses? Will Landon and Shavonda stay involved? Will Landon and M.J.? Are you looking forward to Austin?