When MTV’s “The Real World” debuted in 1992, it centered on seven young people aged 19 to 26 from across the country, coming together to live together in New York City. It was one of the first explorations in the form of reality TV that viewers are familiar with today. The beauty of the show was that there was no parental supervision and little producer, but there were also no scripts. The seven roommates – Kevin Powell, Norman Korpi, Heather Gardner, Julie Gentry, André Comeau, Rebecca “Becky” Blasband and Eric Nies – saw their lives and conversations documented as they unfolded.
Almost 30 years later, the original cast reunited in New York City, filming six episodes that ended in early January. It’s called “The Real World: Homecoming” and the finale airs Thursday on Paramount +.
Since “The Real World: Homecoming” is just a miniseries, it doesn’t take much time to build up the cast partners’ past and seemingly expect most viewers. recent (and younger) recognize everyone upon their return. But there are those of us for whom the first season aired before we were born.
So before I started the reunion, I had to go back and watch the original to understand both the cast and the point in time it aired. It was like another world – a world in which people would schedule their landline phone calls and say goodbye to each other at the airport gates.
Despite the drastic change in the landscape of the city and the country, the events unfolding seem, unfortunately, to have remained the same.
It was a singularly strange experience watching a group of friends who were then the age I am now when the series (and reality TV) started, who grew up together and reunited at the same age (or older). ) than my parents.
“What I really want to see is 50 years. It would be interesting to see us at 70, ”Nies says in a flashback clip. Watching them sit down together and reflect on their young selves and the world as it was is one of the most fascinating parts of this season.
And, unlike modern reality shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” or the “Real Housewives” franchise, MTV at the time featured people representative of the experiences of their own generation. This allowed topics such as race, sexuality and women’s rights to appear on television in millions of homes around the world, and in some places, for the first time.
During the first season, for example, Kevin and Becky engaged in intense discussions about racism. Julie used the fact that the cameras were following her to shine the spotlight on homelessness in New York City. And Norman, who was the show’s first openly LGBTQ + cast member, has always faced backlash from the community not to fit into a label.
For the reunion, filming in the midst of a global pandemic – which takes hold on set after Nies called for isolation after a Covid-19 diagnosis – and national Black Lives Matter gatherings, the group has returned to the same discussions he had decades ago, including viewing footage of their youngest struggling with the Los Angeles riots and police brutality. Despite the drastic change in the landscape of the city and the country, the events unfolding seem, unfortunately, to have remained the same.
It was like another world – a world in which people would schedule their landline phone calls and say goodbye to each other at the airport gates.
The same goes for conflicts. The season’s central conflict is between Becky and Kevin, reigniting their old conversation about racism in America. The show apparently tries to give it an authentic and modern purpose, as Kevin tries to stop Becky from becoming the next “Karen” on the internet with her dull ways of playing the victim that don’t seem to have changed much from it. ‘time she was originally on the show.
Becky believes the producers are portraying her as an example of “white privilege,” but her individual decisions are the ones causing the problems. This ends up highlighting something for young viewers who may have ignored the Karen phenomenon, which is that these types of behaviors and statements were once considered more socially acceptable among young, middle-class white women who have now grown up, rather than something so unusual that it’s worth filming and calling on the internet.
Yet when Becky packs her bags and leaves the house in the midst of the reunion, clearly on bad terms with many roommates, the tension is almost forced – rather than the “real” part that viewers enjoyed about the show when. she began . Other participants in a reality TV show have experienced much more tense times than those seen here.
In the season finale of “The Real World: Homecoming,” Becky doesn’t return home to troubleshoot, and the other cast partners just seem to be in a better mood without her – despite, or maybe because the majority of the airtime at this point was focused on Becky’s dynamic with everyone. Again, perhaps this showed concretely exactly what black women have said about ‘Karens’, as they have captured the public imagination more recently: that their antics and feelings about how people react. to their racist behavior ends up receiving most of the attention, rather than the racism itself.
Still, it looked like the cast had managed to stay friends for several decades, so it must have hurt to see that dynamic being thrown away for good. Still, as the remaining six of the show packed their things and said goodbye on the last day, the show hinted that this likely won’t be the last we see them together.
While “The Real World: Homecoming” had production constraints due to the pandemic, the isolation it imposed on the case also allowed more feelings and deeper discussions to rise to the surface. . Compared to the first season they spent in New York City, which managed to strike the perfect balance between being touching and fun for viewers to watch, the spin-off was touching, but since some of the entertaining elements had been removed. . (That might describe the past year for many of us, though.) And, once the world opens up again – whenever it can – the filming of a second reunion season has the potential to be more watchable than ever.