”The Real World”: Alton’s shocking statement
This week’s Reunited: The Real World Vegas episode was looking to be yet another hyperstaged installment in which the roomies pretend to be surprised by a completely manufactured situation: They were all given $1,000 to gamble with, and whoever had the most at the end of the night would get everyone else’s winnings. How vérité! Because nothing puts the ”reality” in ”reality TV” like being handed money to gamble with in Las Vegas. What happened to the producers’ first choice, having a stripper tell the boys to put their dollar bills away, because she’s just dancing for the love of the art form?
And then something happened. Alton suggested they all just split their winnings seven ways. Steven said no, that was no fun. And Alton replied, ”You’re such a white man. You’re white and you’re Jewish.”
As a Jew, I was torn by two contradictory feelings. I was deeply offended by the horrible stereotype, but I also felt a strange hit of relief that a natural controversy had been injected into this entirely superficial series. Finally, something for people to argue about beyond skinning one’s ankle in the Palms’ most glamorous suite. Clueless fights over racial statements is what The Real World is supposed to be all about, not staged four-person bachelorette parties.
What does it say about me that I was heartened by a hateful slur against my own people? How has The Real World brought me to this point? Would I TiVo a Real World/Road Rules Inferno: Badasses vs. Holocaust Deniers just to watch a drunk C.T. try to quote Elie Wiesel?
And to think it all went down on July 4th: Was this MTV’s present to America? ”Happy birthday, U.S.A.! Enjoy our gift of slowly dismantling your society by televising anti-Semites while we’re not otherwise busy taping skanky 16-year-olds!”
Once again, Steven proved himself the sane one in the house. Yes, it was a little grandstanding when he said he had to stand up against any bigotry, even if he wasn’t Jewish. But what else could he have done? On reality TV, the best defense is a good offense: You know everyone else is going to yak endlessly to the camera, so you have to narrate your every move and try to do it as high-mindedly as possible if you want to come off well. He even tried to save Alton from himself, telling him to just drop it. But would Alton drop it? Is gefilte fish slimy?
First, Alton argued that his statement was okay since Steven makes fun of white people, too. At the beginning of the episode, we had seen a confusing, partially censored poolside conversation in which Steven commented that Alton had said, ”Where’s my bleep waitress?” What could possibly have been in that bleep? It was followed by Steven explaining that he makes fun of white people because he’s white, but that didn’t make it any clearer. Did Alton say, ”Where’s my honky waitress?” ”Cracker waitress?” ”Motherf—ing white-ass waitress?”
There are many different ways to try to get yourself out of a situation where you’re called a racist, and Alton tried them all. First, he tried to dismiss it, telling Steven, ”Grow up, man. You’re the one always saying something.” When Steven explained that he said it about his own people and that as a black man, Alton should be very sensitive to stereotypes, Alton went for the technicality: ”I’m not even referring to the fact that you have actual Jewish blood.” Ahhh, so it doesn’t count as racism because the stereotype didn’t hit the target. By that logic, if a car bomb goes off and no one is killed, it’s not terrorism, it’s just fireworks.
So Alton tried to do what he did for an entire season with Irulan: lie. ”You know, the Jewish thing,” he said to Steven. ”I was totally saying that in the most good way.” First of all, no one who says ”the most good way” can ever say anything in the most good way. But more important, what exactly was the compliment he was trying to pay the Jewish people? ”I wish my heart was big enough to love something as much as you love money!” Or did Steven just not let him finish his original statement, ”You’re white and you’re Jewish — and for that I envy you”?
When that failed, he went back to obstinacy. Earlier, Irulan had tried to end the argument, saying, ”Stop it….We’re better than this.” But I’m not sure that’s true, considering how Alton wrapped up the episode. He said that he was sorry he hurt Steven’s feelings, but he wouldn’t take back his statement in any way. Hmmm. Just moments before, Alton had given his theory on gambling: Most people leave Vegas wishing they’d quit two rounds ago, and so he was going to play it smart. And yet when it comes to anti-Semitism, Alton is staying at the table, doubling down on those cheap, cheap Jews.
With Alton’s comments still ringing in my ears, it’s hard to remember anything else that happened, but I would be remiss in not mentioning the visit by Brynn’s son, Halen. He was an adorable kid, but it was hilarious that he was so focused on seeing the hot tub, site of his mother’s infamous threesome with Trishelle and Steven. He must have the same power as the tiny Dr. Lesh from the movie Poltergeist: He walks in a room and can sense the lingering phantoms. Granted, anyone with a black light and a Petri dish could have found the lingering-phantom stains in the tub, but it’s still pretty perceptive for a three-year-old.
Halen (and please tell me he’s not named after the band) went around shaking everyone’s hand, and Brynn said that although he didn’t know any of the roommates, some day he’d see her original series and be retroactively impressed. Impressed? Didn’t she mean ”scarred”? What could be more shocking than seeing old tapes of your mother on The Real World? And not just any mother, but Brynn. At that point, she’s not a MILF, she’s a MILD: Mom I’d Like to Disown.
But at least Halen would be able to watch this later reunion series and be comforted by the fact that his mom grew up. What will Alton’s future progeny have? One long series in which Dad is shown to be a habitual liar, and a follow-up seven years later in which he adds the grace note that he’s also an anti-Semite. And I mean that in the most good way.
What do you think?