Real World catapulted during the ‘90s as MTV moved in a direction towards an unprecedented attempt at reality television and series programming, slowly veering off from its roots of music videos. Being the grandfather of pop culture, MTV’s Real World franchise made its inaugural debut in 1992 starting in New York with seven strangers being picked to live in a house to have their lives taped. We found out what happened when people stop being polite, and started getting real…again, with the reunion of America’s trailblazers of reality television.
The homecoming reboots airing on Paramount Plus have been more of a reunion, selecting the housemates to come back and stay in the same locale they lodged in during original taping for seven days. In a perfect world, it was ideal to have all original cast members from the Los Angeles season return, but housemates, Dominic Griffin and Aaron Behle, did not come back to the three story, 4,520-square-foot home on 30th Avenue in Venice Beach citing various reasons. Epic moments of the season that aired 30 years ago are discussed, the music soundtrack of each episode is played, and we each get to relive the reasons why we were so drawn to the seven strangers picked to live in a house.
Like all reunions, the cast members are faced with rehashing drama that sparked ratings at the time:
1. Pulling of the Covers — Castmate David Edwards goes into the room of housemate, Tami Roman, and proceeds to pull the covers from her almost nude body as payback from when she and Beth Stolarczyk (Beth S.) did the same to David while he slept in boxers, two weeks prior. The drama unfolds when Beth S. covered Tami, the two screamed and laughed, pleading for David to stop, but the laughs kept coming, right? Wrong. An embarrassed Tami runs to the restroom, gets an earful from Beth S., and by the end of the original episode, David is called a rapist with housemates who felt unsafe to be around him. He doesn’t make the situation better by pulling his pants down and proceeding to walk towards Beth S. in an antagonistic way. David became the first reality television casualty of bad behavior.
Fast forward to almost 30 years later, David explains how he was blackballed from Hollywood, was labelled a troublemaker, and no one wanted to work with him. He developed a drug and alcohol addiction, which becomes evident during the taping of the Homecoming series. Unfortunately, David hasn’t learned from his mistakes. Although he made sure to tell everyone he isn’t a victim, he still comes across as defensive as he continues to handle issues and conversations with other castmates with an immature approach throughout the Homecoming season. Some people have grown up. David, not so much.
2. The Confederate Flag — Castmate Jon Brennan from Kentucky was a naïve 18-year old who had just graduated from high school when he was selected to be included in the diverse bunch. Throughout the season, Jon was put into various situations where his ethics and beliefs were challenged, but he continued to stay true to his Southern upbringing of being the perfect gentleman. David, who roomed with Jon, spread the rumor about Jon asking permission to hang up a confederate flag on the wall. The rumor seemed completely believable at first. Jon was from a state that is known for discriminatory practices, lynchings, and attacks against People of Color so it wasn’t a complete shock that this was said, but Jon continually showed traits opposing David’s allegations.
Fast forward to almost 30 years later, the castmates are sitting around in the living room and David admits that he made up the allegation, and Jon never asked such a question. Everyone’s mouth dropped and then the air of hypocrisy set in. David cried and whined two episodes before about how his life was still in shambles because he was falsely accused of being labeled a racist. Jon admits that he was met with very minimal fallout from the airing of that episode, being questioned if he was a racist. The rest of the castmates are visibly upset with David, as he belts out an insincere apology.
3. The First Lesbian of Reality TV — Beth Anthony (Beth A.) was a castmate who offset the erratic energy already flowing in the house on Venice Beach when she joined as Irene’s replacement after she moved out. Like all new encounters, the protective walls come crumbling down after a few days of being in each other’s presence. Beth A. wore a shirt with logo, “I am not gay but my girlfriend is”. Her shirt’s logo sparked conversation within the group, especially with Roman, resulting in Beth A. coming out on national television to millions of viewers who watched that episode, including her grandmother who was unaware of her sexual preference. Roman went on to ask personal questions, contributing to the farfetched stigma that all lesbians hit on straight women. Roman became very guarded which made the two’s interaction limited during the rest of the season.
Fast forward to almost 30 years later, Beth A. became a spokesperson for LBGTQ rights in the 90s, having married a woman for nine years. Roman admits to the apprehensions she had because she didn’t have LBGTQ friends or acquaintances at the time. Roman then goes on to disclose that her daughter just recently came out as bisexual, and she is a supporter.
The Major Takeaway
Reliving the moments from the past 30 years that made television provided clarity and epiphanies on so many levels, accessing Beth S. as the first documented ‘Karen’ on television, race relations, and a castmate who has an abortion while on the show. What was also nostalgic was realizing how the issues and events that formed the community of Los Angeles and the nation during that day are still happening now in the present time. Each castmate revealed vulnerable moments in their life after being on the show, not being prepared for the success that followed. From the loss of a parent, loss of a spouse, divorce, to career changes, each castmate revealed delicate topics and issues that triggered a series of emotions. Overall, what was learned was listening is key when you are with a diverse group of people, respecting each other’s boundaries, and points of view. Some castmates learned from the mistakes of 30 years ago and unfortunately, some continued to be stuck and unable to resolve their own issues.