“This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real: ‘The Real World.’”
MTV’s “The Real World” first took the world by storm in 1992 with the inaugural season based in the heart of New York City. The cast included Heather Gardner, Kevin Powell, Eric Nies, Julie Gentry, Becky Blasband and Andre Comeau. They all came from varying backgrounds and career interests.
The show was really the start of reality television. It launched the concept of what it looks like to have “real” people on television just living their lives.
Almost 30 years later, the cast has returned for Paramount+’s original “The Real World Homecoming: New York.'' The series depicts the original cast once again living in the same New York loft they lived in as they rehash old conversations and reunite after so many years.
The original season featured conversations regarding race, sexualities, and career interests, while it also showed the cast navigating their young careers in music, modeling, acting, activism and more.
One occurrence of conflict that occurs in both the first season and the reunion season is the heated conversation between Kevin Powell and Becky Blasband. Blasband said in the 1992 series that America was a melting pot of opportunity, while Powell’s response was the scale has always been tipped in favor of white people.
They revisit this situation in the 2021 series and Blasband ends up leaving the loft and show, due to unsuccessfully being able to resolve the issue. Blasband continued to defend what she said in 1992 while Powell tried to get her to understand how her words were wrong and racist.
“Those elitist things, I believe, everybody has a right to earn,” Blasband says. “Life is not fair. Life is not meant to be fair. That’s the facts.”
Other topics mentioned are that Heather Gardner and Kevin Powell felt stereotyped by the editing of the 1992 series. As the two cast members of color, Gardner said she felt as though she was typecast as the funny black woman, whereas Powell said he felt he was typecast as the angry black man.
Another mind opening conversation is when Powell details the parallels between racism and the fight for equality in 1991 versus 2020 in one of his one man interviews. In 1991, Rodney King was inappropriately and aggressively beaten by white police officers in Los Angeles, which sparked riots to erupt throughout the city.
This is extremely similar to the 2020 death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, who was killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin. America saw the rise of the historical Black Lives Matter Movement as people in cities all across the country gathered to protest and continue the fight for equality.
The beauty of a show like “The Real World” is tuning in weekly to watch real life people deal with real life issues that affect society as a whole. The show went on to have 32 successful seasons airing on MTV with a 33rd season streaming on Facebook Watch. Viewers continued to watch monumental conversations and situations that became relatable to everyday people.
One of the show’s most famous faces was Pedro Zamora, a Cuban-American living with AIDS. Zamora was an educator on AIDS and what it means to be HIV+. Zamora died from AIDS shortly after his season of “The Real World San Francisco.”
Other notable stars are actress Jamie Chung from “The Real World: San Dieg,o” “Queer Eye” Karamo Brown from “The Real World: Philadelphia,” Mike “The Miz” Mizanin from “The Real World: Back to New York” and politician Sean Duffy from “The Real World: Boston.”
“The Real World” spin off shows like “Road Rules/Real World Challenge,” now known as “The Challenge” on MTV were also created. This is a competition-style show where former “The Real World,” “Road Rules” and other MTV shows compete for a cash prize in countries all over the world. The show is currently in its 36th season with “The Challenge: Double Agents.”
“The Real World” paved the way for the reality TV genre and brought excitement to American screens. “The Real World Homecoming: New York” can be streamed on Paramount+ and Prime Video, with new episodes released weekly.
Follow Blake Haynes on Twitter, @BLAMHAY
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