Here’s a common conversation that happens when people find out that I am still happily and loyally watching The Real World in this our year of the Great Dumpster Fire, 2016:
HAPPY ME: I am going to watch the new episode The Real World.
SKEPTICAL OUTSIDER: That show is still on?
HEARD-THIS-BEFORE ME: Yes. And it’s better than ever.
ANNOYING SKEPTICAL OUTSIDER: No way. I used to watch up until ___________ (fill-in the blank with: Seattle, Los Vegas, Hawaii, Austin) when they had jobs and stuff but then it just became about partying and hooking up.
LESS-HAPPY ME: No, they do a pretty good job of dealing with current day issues still.
SOMEWHAT REASONABLE OUTSIDER: I don’t know, sometimes I’ll watch The Challenge but only if it’s a season with CT.
ME: Yeah, he’s great.
I say this all the time and I stand by it but The Real World is still out here dealing with the issues. Last night, they went to a #blacklivesmatter protest in Seattle. Think about that for a second. When was the last time you saw any kind of coverage of a peaceful protest on television? Because MTV put one of their most diverse The Real World casts to date on air, speaking out about racism and bigotry and living one’s truth in modern America. This is dope.
And yeah, the kids on this show do party and go out. And they fight and they do stupid things and probably for not great reasons. But this season, Will and Kassius are fathers. They each have a kid at home. Save the judgment of whether they should be on the show for somewhere else. If coming on The Real World seemed like an opportunity they couldn’t pass up, then I respect their decisions as adults. While most of the cast is young and carefree, Will stays in most nights so he can save up his money to send home. At the same time, Kassius is struggling with trying to find a balance between having a good time and not being irresponsible with his money. It’s tearing him up so much that he breaks down a couple different times. How often are twenty-something black men, new fathers, ever given this kind of screen time? How helpful is it to other people going through this to see this struggle and know it’s not just them dealing with it. Being young and supporting a family is hard. Making these choices is hard. And seeing these voices represented is important.
Then we come to Mike. who made a racist joke when he was drunk and self-evicted himself from the house. I’ll give him credit, a lot of times someone on this show will get lit and threaten to leave and it will be a drawn out affair where everyone is like “no stay” and they’re like “this isn’t my life” and then everyone says “we’re in this together” and they’re like “I’ll stay the night and we’ll see” and then nobody ever leaves. Mike was like “I’m out” and then left still wearing Peter’s sneakers, which is like the most Mike way to leave, he still figured out a way to get one last caper in on Peter.
The story of Mike leaving is a long-and winding road that involves a semi-unrelated backstory moment, which of course obviously becomes extremely related after what he said to Jordan. Mike tells everyone that he got into drugs in high school and because of that, he got arrested and had to do 15 days in jail. To protect himself from being assaulted during those two weeks, he joined the Aryan brotherhood. That was back in the day. Cut to now, some of Mike’s roommates (but not all) have been giving him a pass on some of his language because he uses it casually and in a friendly way. But his racially-directed comment to Jordan didn’t go over and he got mad that she got upset and told other people in the house. Mike didn’t think he was racist because he lives in Spanish Harlem and so rather than stick around and have to deal with how the roommates were going to look at him, he left in the middle of the night like “I crushed the first few episodes, figure out a reason to show why I left.” Also, with Peter’s shoes on.
Mike’s behavior caused another argument between Kassius and Theo, who seemed to be almost maybe sort of making their way towards squashing their beef. Although Theo still feels like all of his dream were destroyed by his cousin and the Weed in the Muscle Milk™, so maybe that’s never going to happen. They should probably just steer clear of one another, which is impossible on The Real World, which is why it’s great television.
Oh yeah, and Peter, who has been dating Jenn for maybe a couple days at this point already has her set as his phone background. My goodness, does this show have it all.