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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Word of the Day, vol. XII

Word of the Day: ”FAME”

It was a shock to my system when I realized, after seeing a flyer for auditions for the next season of MTV’s The Real World on campus, that I am too old(!) to be on it. Circa The Real World: Boston, I was determined to be on the show one day. I was sure I’d add an intellectual and reasonable air to any house of seven strangers. Alas, at the ripe old age of 26, I’ve missed that particular boat. And, of course, realize now that I escaped certain insanity.

Still, who doesn’t have a soft spot for MTV’s pioneer voyeuristic reality show? I was a devout follower of it through about New Orleans and watched some of a few seasons after that. One Christmas, I asked for several books about the phenomenon, in the days when reunion shows actually dealt with real issues the roommates had encountered, like alcoholism and pregnancy scares and death.

I put the word of the day in quotes because…the people on these shows, while I did become strangely attached to them…aren’t actually famous. Well, most of them aren’t. Eric Nies has carved out a sort of career for himself, post-Real World: New York. He was a model and on-air MTV personality. Jacinda Barrett is sort of a legit actor—she was on the London season. Sean, from the Boston season, is a politician in Wisconsin (and married to Rachel from the SF season—they have six kids!). But otherwise, most of the people we came to know and love either escaped media attention altogether and are living in the country and doing things like teaching elementary school or they continue to assault us on the never-ending permutations of The Real World/Road Rules Challenges.

I don’t really have a point except to express that, as a young adolescent, I thought these people were important. I learned from their debates about race and from their sexual indiscretions. I wanted to see them hook up and for their relationships to last and was pleased to discover that some of them actually have.

And, a couple days ago, I found archive videos of certain seasons on MTV.com.

I rewatched all of the San Francisco season, looking with new eyes at a city I have since gotten to know a little bit but which seemed foreign and exciting as an 11-year-old in Brooklyn. For your information, Judd and Pam are married and have babies now. Cory lives in Southern California with her family. Rachel, as I mentioned, married Sean from Boston and they have six kids. Even the notorious Puck is settled somewhere with a family.

And then, there’s Pedro. Pedro who died the evening the final episode of his season aired. From AIDS. At 22. I will never forget watching a marathon of the season in my room in New York and tearing up at Rachel’s final confessional, in which she cried about how much she’d miss everyone. Then, the screen faded and the words “In memory of Pedro Zamora, 1972-1994” appeared. I burst into tears, shocked and heartbroken and feeling kind of silly that I was so affected by the death of someone I didn’t know.

Nothing has really changed since I watched these episodes as a younger person. These people still aren’t famous. Further, the show itself has gradually deteriorated to be mostly a sad spectacle of binge-drinking and distasteful sexual behavior.

This review of the show has made me nostalgic for a time when reality TV was about putting people in a spotlight with something of substance to say. And to realize how educational and influential some of what they put out there was for me. Even if it never made them famous to anyone but me.


Laurnie said...

I completely agree with this post! I was just talking to my sister about this the other day. With Jersey Shore, The Real World, etc these days, its no wonder young kids are clueless sometimes. I miss the days of The Real World San Francisco. At the time you wouldnt think so, but they dealt with REAL issues. Reality TV has gotten out of control

Annie said...

i seriously got nostalgic for those days. now we're stuck with jersey shore and big brother :(