You know how a few years ago people started using “literally” as an adverb so much that you just had to start disregarding its actual meaning altogether? And then you started saying it inappropriately yourself because it was so ingrained into your consciousness and you had to forcefully make yourself stop? And now the word has been redefined altogether in the dictionary to mean both its original definition and the opposite of its original definition? As in, now literally, by definition, also means figuratively? That’s where The Real World is in its 29th season. Whereas it was once literally about the real world, now it’s just…well, “literally” about the real world.
Confused? Me too. I was confused when cameramen were prominently displayed in a number of scenes; I was confused when Ashley was shown calling a producer on a special landline to tell her what they were doing that night and ask if it was “OK” to go to a certain club; and I was most confused when a producer’s voice was both audible and subtitled asking Jay a question in a “confessional” scene. Even at its most absurd, this doesn’t happen on The Real World, I stubbornly thought to myself. Is this not the show that once saw Kevin and Julie battle it out about race on the streets of New York and claims the first televised civil union, where Tami openly discussed having an abortion?
No, it’s not. The Real World hasn’t meant what it once did for a long, long time, and frankly, it’s about time MTV officially changed its definition. EW revealed in November that the old show would be trying a new trick, but that twist hasn’t even come along yet in the premiere. The exes of five of the main cast members won’t be introduced until the original seven have been there comfortably operating under a film of vodka for 30 days. The audience is reminded of this by a flashing title card with each passing day: “29/28/27 Days Until Exes Arrive,” which is actually more indicative of the changes that are afoot this season.
All of the “realest” things that happened on The Real World: Ex-Plosion last night could be summed up pretty quickly: No one will shut up about their exes and at one point Thomas says “I don’t drink dark liquor,” which is a real thing that people really say a lot. For this newly embraced format where the cast’s names are flashed on screen every five seconds and people occasionally speak directly to camera, it might be most efficient to just mention the most Unreal Things That Happened within the walls of the abandoned San Francisco office building that MTV turned into a living space/psychological experiment:
The most unreal cast member: 90% of the most unreal things that happened on the season premiere centered on Ashley. Immediately upon her arrival she informed everyone, with no need of a topical segue to do so, that her boyfriend was a personal trainer for the Oracle sailing team. Then when out with her roommates, she introduces them to her boyfriend (she lives in San Francisco): “He’s a yacht designer.” Jamie, who has thigh tattoos so you know she should not be messed with, smells a cheater and calls Ashley out about it in front of her yacht man. Ashely immediately rips off all of her clothes in a rage, screams, “I don’t know who her family is but I promise my family will buy and sell her family” – which somehow means that her family is wealthier than Jamie’s and NOT the thing that I originally thought she meant – and storms onto the San Francisco streets in just her bathing suit yelling to the camera that making her want to leave the show is “the dumbest decision they’ve ever made.” I assure you Ashley, it is not.
The most unreal use of a foot: When Cory, who Jenny is interested in, starts getting flirty with Ashley, Jenny begins angrily gesturing at them with her foot in her hand while in the hot tub. There’s just really no other way to describe it.
The most unreal use of a hamburger: Ashley picks up a skillet that is currently cooking two hamburger patties, teeters around a bit and then tosses them directly into Arielle’s – a model, mind you – face. Arielle somehow manages to not get third degree burns or tear her limb from limb.
The most unreal individual line: Jay, who is from the Bronx, saying “I’ve never really interacted with a black girl enough to be able to get up and touch the hair,” while reaching for a handful of Arielle’s.
The most unreal exchange: On her second night of panty-less debauchery, Ashley calls her grandfather seemingly in the middle of the night to have this conversation:
Ashley: The people I live with are being mean to me and I don’t know why. [I might say it’s because of the steaming hot raw meat you threw at one of their faces, and also the saying you could buy and sell their family stuff, but what do I know?]
PawPaw: Don’t let nobody be mean to you. Be like PawPaw…when I went in the army, they talk mean to you, but PawPaw hung right in there.
Ashley: I just…wanna crawl up in your belly and go home, you know?
Listen, if you like things like buttery nipple shots and reading Texts From Last Night, you’ll probably still like the latest iteration of The Real World. If you want debauchery but you prefer it infused with a little content, just wait for the quadranscentennial return of The Challenge (given, the content is just people being catapulted over bodies of water while trying to land on a moving platform and correctly spell “restaurant,” but c’mon – that’s good stuff). If you want any semblance of actual reality, I suggest you change the channel altogether. I’ve heard the news is good.