TV Article

Pride and Prejudice

On ''The Real World,'' Karamo is falsely accused of carrying a gun, and M.J. and Landon fail to see why he blames racism

FRISK AVERSE Karamo got singled out
FRISK AVERSE Karamo got singled out

''The Real World'': Karamo confronts racism

In episode 4, M.J. and Landon finally found something to distract them from their homophobia: their racism, or, to be generous, their profound and embarrassing ignorance about racism. At least the provincial pair is willing to acknowledge their discomfort with gays. When it comes to race, they imagine themselves to be magically color-blind -- when they're actually just plain blind. Not to mention dumb.

Soon after proclaiming himself lucky that his ''educated'' parents raised him without prejudices, goony-grinning Landon kicked off the episode by telling Karamo a ''funny'' anecdote about the time he used a racial slur in kindergarten -- repeating the offending word in the process. ''They made me eat a bar of soap,'' Landon said, flashing that Dude, Where's My Brain? smile. ''I learned real fast.'' ''Mm-hmm,'' Karamo replied, offering the fakest grin seen since, well, last week's Sarah-Melanie peace summit.

Landon then topped himself by saying, ''I roomed with a black guy in college and he was just hilarious!'' Mm-hmm. Soon afterward, a seething Karamo told Shavonda that he feared being labeled the stereotypical ''angry black man'' (a fate he had so far avoided by being black, masculine, and gay, a combination that caused the Real World stereotype-o-matic to explode three weeks ago). ''I think I could help Karamo a lot if he would just come to me,'' said M.J. Yeah, dude, you could share some killer workout tips.

Shavonda, meanwhile, starred in a subplot that might have been cut and pasted in from another episode: It seems that the lovely former Hooters waitress was physically abused by her mother and neglected by her father -- and that the most immediate effect of her family problems was that she was low on cash. It was actually touching that her former stepmom's boyfriend -- who had never met her -- lent her the money she needed. But really, couldn't the Real World producers just have slipped her a few bucks?

Then Karamo's bad day (or week, or month -- impossible to tell with all the editing) got much worse. As he hung out in a bar with M.J. and Landon, police officers suddenly surrounded Karamo, patting him down for a gun. They claimed they had received an anonymous phone tip that he was packing. Of course, he wasn't. And he understandably flipped out.

''It was just a prank call,'' M.J. said. Okay, fair enough -- especially given Philadelphians' well-known hatred of Real World-ers. But then he added, ''They didn't do it because you're black.'' So according to M.J., it was a mere coincidence that the only black guy we could see in the place was singled out for a false accusation of gun possession. (Then again, if the caller had claimed a curly-haired, overmuscled doofus had a firearm, both M.J. and Landon would have been arrested.)

On the way home, M.J. lost his patience with Karamo, Karamo lost his patience with M.J., and Landon grinned his goon grin while modeling a set of beaded necklaces seemingly purloined from the Real World: New Orleans house. After Karamo explained that he'd been a victim of racial profiling before, M.J. hit another high point, asking sympathetically, ''Do you blow up like this every single time?''

The episode ended with a shattered Karamo praying in the dark, leaving me absolutely nothing to joke about. Damn complex Karamo. Quick, Sarah -- do something slutty!

What did you think? Did Karamo overreact? Did M.J. and Landon underreact?

Originally posted Sep 29, 2004