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''The Real World'': Leaving Las Vegas

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Trishelle Canatella, The Real World

”The Real World”: Leaving Las Vegas

Though many of us may have had bad things to say about this dull Las Vegas reunion season, we can all praise it for one thing: It was short. Yep, the housemates were packing their bags after just seven weeks. In a regular season, the requisite house romance would only be getting to its third of 19 squabbles right about now.

The producers were obviously disappointed that they didn’t get much friction out of this miniseries. Their expectations must have skyrocketed that first night when Arissa said those magical words, ”Bone out, negro!” And then things went flat. All the giant, alcohol-stocked suites, stripper-clogged bachelorette parties, and free-throwing bartenders couldn’t spark anything more than Irulan’s tantrum about a skinned shin. Finally Alton came through for them with his lovable comment about Jewish stinginess, but it was too little, too late. (Speaking of which, how many times did they ask Steven to say he was never going to be friends with Alton? They had him reiterating it wearing about five different outfits. Was he hypnotized?)

So with one day to go before the roomies went their separate ways, the producers brought out their big gun: Awesome Anne. Remember her? The life coach who, five years ago, dragged them all out to a park and made them do trust falls and chant team slogans? This time, she clearly had one order from MTV: Make these people fight.

How else to explain her absurdly confrontational questions? She started with a bizarre New Agey exercise where everyone had to tell what was important to them in a relationship; this was all just a ruse to try to stir up animosity between Irulan and Alton. While Irulan went on about wanting to be heard, everyone was tossing what looked like poker chips onto the floor. Apparently there were more complicated rules to this exercise, but MTV didn’t want to take the time to explain them. I think the chips were just a way to distract the roommates with shiny discs. This way, if things got slow, Anne’s assistant Tim could tiptoe up and whack Irulan on the back of the head and then point to Alton and mouth, ”He did it.”

Let’s just pause for a moment to consider Tim. Yes, he was identified as ”Awesome Anne’s assistant.” First off, Awesome Anne needs an assistant? What do his duties entail, oiling the trust-fall stepladder? And second, once your résumé has the entry ”Awesome Anne’s assistant” on it, you might as well throw away the résumé. Any time your big reference is someone with only a first name with an adjective before it, you might as well just go on unemployment. Consider this sample phone interview:

Job Candidate: ”So in conclusion, I think my experience would make me a valuable addition to your team.”

Interviewer: ”I must say, you’re a very impressive candidate, and I think you’d fit in very well here. I can see you behind the wheel of one of our company cars in no time. Just as a formality, though, do you have any references we can call?”

Candidate: ”Absolutely. Please call my last boss. His name is Kickass Kenny, and he’s…Hello? Hello?”

When Irulan talked about what her ideal mate wasn’t, clearly referencing Alton, he got up to leave. Drama? Conflict? An explosion of long-suppressed emotion? Or phone call! He got a phone call! But that didn’t matter, Deputy Tim was dispatched! Finally, a chance for him to use the skills he’s learned after all these years fetching Awesome Anne’s motivational lunch, otherwise known as the #3 combo meal at Wendy’s. ”What are you scared of?” Tim asked. Alton tried to explain that the exercise was just useless, but as any good life coach who is paid by the hour knows, there is no such thing as ”useless,” so Tim dragged Alton back in the room. The guy got a phone call! Good thing he didn’t have to go to the bathroom, or Tim would be scaling the wall of Alton’s toilet stall to get him off his crapper of denial.

Anne then suggested a new exercise: Have everyone tell each other one thing that’s holding them back. And then something wonderful happened: The Real Worlders rebelled. ”That’s a bad idea,” said Frank, and everyone agreed. It was their last day — why force them to make hurtful comments? Anne looked desperate. No one had ever said no to Awesome Anne before! This was most definitely not awesome! She pulled all the ammo out from her life-coach arsenal, shaking her head and saying, ”You’re gonna be uncomfortable at some point in this process.” Ingenious! Make them realize that confronting their true feelings may be painful, but it’s the only way to truly bond a group! Except for one thing…

This group didn’t give a crap about bonding more. They weren’t all going to be stranded on a desert island where they’d have to work together to form a new society. No, they had planes to catch, and lives to get back to. ”You’re gonna be uncomfortable at some point in this process”? What process? There’s no process here, just a dopey reality show. She was as likely to get a breakthrough here as if she had wandered through an airport, tripping people who were running to their gates and, as they tried to disentangle their legs from their rolling suitcases, asking them why they hated their mothers.

I suspect that MTV was paying Anne by the tear, considering how desperately she tried to stir up emotions. When everyone refused to rip each other apart, she said fine, she’d do it herself, and went around the room telling people what was holding them back. She proceeded to dole out generic Dr. Phil wisdom that was just as accurate as if she’d handed out fortune cookies. Brynn? You don’t see in yourself the great things others see. Huh? Who does? Then to Alton: You refuse to forgive yourself in a way that others have forgiven you. I stopped listening here, but I think I heard her say to Frank, You can keep leading that horse to water, but you will not make him drink, and to Steven, If you smelt it, you’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that you dealt it.

You could see the roommates snickering as she went around the room. When Trishelle stated the obvious, ”But you don’t know us!” Anne sagely said, ”All I know is what I’ve seen today and five years ago.” Exactly. You don’t know them. I admired her tenacity, though. Even with no one listening or respecting her, she kept on doling out ignorant pap. A lesser life coach would have signaled Tim to toss in a smoke bomb and in the confusion escaped in the Trustmobile.

Anne’s entire goal was to have the roommates learn something. Ironically, her visit proved that they did learn something: They learned not to fall for MTV’s reality bulls—. They knew exactly what kind of sniping Anne was trying to instigate, and they knew how silly they’d look, and they refused to play along. Bravo, roomies. Bravo.

And so our seven-week reunion/Palms and Dentyne Ice advertisement ends. (Come on, MTV: Those hands that were sticking the gum into the suitcase when Frank and Arissa were packing and talking weren’t even Frank’s!) They were feted by the unseen George Maloof one last time with a red-carpet event (attended, sadly, by Luke Wilson), which seemed more like one last attempt by MTV to mess with their heads. Maybe we can convince them that they’re big stars, and then when they go back to work and home and school, they’ll have huge egos and will turn off their friends with their huge senses of entitlement! They may not fight with each other, but we’ll make damn sure they fight with someone!

Maybe that’s too cynical. MTV would never do that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go wait for the cast of The Real World: Sydney to be announced. I’m waiting to see if they’re gonna go with the Southern-redneck/gay-guy combo, or the Midwestern-racist/militant-black-roommate one-two punch.

What are your final thoughts on the season?