Friday, March 19, 2021

Just Starting to Watch "The Real World: Homecoming New York"

The same "cast" back  in 1992 ...

Anyone that knows me well, knows I can't stand most "Reality" TV and the reason why (which I won't discuss here). 
Additionally, I have said many times, starting way back in 2005, that I thought that glorifying competitive-style reality TV was the beginning of Trump-style politics.

HOWEVER - the only exceptions I have to that are non-competitive reality-TV shows or house-hunting/remodeling shows (even though much of what happens in those is staged, now, as well).

For me, these exceptions also include only the first two seasons of the first "reality TV" show, The Real World, which aired on MTV.

However, I would disagree with the "Reality TV" label, for those first two seasons, because the first two seasons were more of a documentary of a social experiment:  Seven artists (singers, dancers, writers, artists) from all areas of the country; black and white, gay and straight, rich and poor - are given a free apartment in NYC and a small allowance, and are filmed 24/7, just to see what would happen. 

It wasn't until Season 3, when their ratings started to tank, that events and fights started getting staged, people starting getting paid big bucks for appearing rather than a place to live and a small allowance (because part of the "lesson" was teaching young struggling artists how hard life really was in New York),  and "confessional booths" were added to encourage behind-the-back discussions, rather than saying what they really thought and felt directly to their housemates. :/

They also talked about real issues, bigger issues than themselves, in the first two seasons, like racism and AIDs, because they were intelligent people of conscience  -  not gossip and  "So-and-So slept with So-and-So." 

I quit watching the third season, when it became clear that this was no longer a documentary of a social experiment, they were now signing up losers who had no skills or goals at all, just hoping to become as famous as the surprise fame which accompanied the cast of the first two seasons.  

Also, unlike the first two seasons, the show now had big sponsors and big money to pay the participants with, to include now intentionally hiring people to be group antagonizers to get ratings (Puck was an a-hole, and clearly hired to be one - sorry), and a "confessional booth" was added to encourage talking behind their roommates backs.

To their credit, though there is a confessional booth in this reboot (along with several features that were later added like dramatic sound effects, etc.) - they noted they didn't have one, and they refuse to use it individually.  

Instead, they all go in together and go, "What's going on?  Let's talk."  Bravo :)

Also, this was of course before competitive-style "Reality-TV," when things not only became obviously staged and and scripted, but veered towards individual or team competition for money, in which participants were encouraged to corporate-strategize, fight, stab each other in the back, make alliances, throw each other under the bus, smear campaign the competition with lies, cheat, or steal anything - and later admitted to doing so, unapologetically, in confessional rooms  - just to win some money.

Which, of course, America glorified, Donald Trump stuck his name all over, and then became president ;)

The first two seasons of this show was before all of that - when there was no big money, there was no big prize for a "winner," there was no fake drama created for effect, just watching natural idiosyncrasies of people from very different backgrounds trying to live and struggle together in NYC in a social experiment.

And we know this because Kevin, now a professional journalist and writer, predominantly on issues of race - who was vilified by the public at the time for his bringing up race issues frequently - has repeatedly said that they did not cast him intentionally as the "angry black man with a chip on his shoulder," nor did he believe the production staff spun it and edited clips to have him viewed that way (although he says he believes later seasons and other shows do that) - and that considering his whole career has been based on race relations, he'd be the first one to tell you if he thought they had. 

He also said (and the rest of the cast agreed) that the only racial spin on it was typical marketing bias at that time, towards focusing most on the "pretty, happy, white people," Eric and Julie, and that is the result of implicit racial bias in marketing - primarily race, yes - but not  just race, also our American obsessions with happiness, physical attractiveness, and sexual orientation as a culture - as even other attractive white members who were quieter (Andre), edgier (Becky), or gay (Norman) weren't focused on as much as the always-exuberant Eric and Julie.

Otherwise, he says that the public's perception of him wasn't the fault of the show's production team purposefully casting him or spinning things that way, that was John Q. Public's fault - and just more proof of our racism as a society. 

Kevin adds that they just "had no idea what they got," when he signed on, particularly in the wake of Rodney King happening while filming, and he says that what you saw happen, actually happened, and there are still hurt feelings today over it, that some of them haven't seen each other since, and he hopes there will be some healing with this homecoming.

Now, the original cast returns, 30 years later, all 7 of them - and who could forget Julie from Alabama being confronted by first just Kevin ...

... and then others on her racism. 

Though she never admitted her racism, she did finally admit to racial ignorance/naivete, adding that she had never really been around people of color, and that she needed to listen and learn more, and ultimately becoming BFFs with with Heather, the female rapper? :)

(Let's face it - no one, in the history of the world, ever thinks or says they are racist - and yet clearly, racism still exists ;)

In fact, the most memorable episode (besides the above episode), was at the end of the season, when MTV surprised them by announcing them they were taking them to Jamaica as a reward for sticking out the entire season despite problems, only they weren't allowed to tell friends, family, or in interviews, until it aired. 

Thus, Heather and Julie, frustrated that they couldn't tell anyone, wanted to tell someone, so they picked up a White Pages (yes, children, back in the day, instead of Google, we used to have printed phone books with names, addresses, and phone numbers, listed alphabetically, and yellow pages for business) and began calling random people (yes, children, before Caller ID) and just saying, "Hey, guess what?  We're going to Jamaica!"  LOL.

All phone calls were recorded by the show's audio, so people were like, "That's great, I'm so happy for you!  Who is this again?" LOL.

You couldn't do that, now, without people getting upset (even back then, some did) - but back then, it was hilarious and awesome  - and I know, because some friends and I tried it once - because it's not a prank, it's a "Sharing good news with random strangers" call lol.

Anyway, I've just started watching it, hoping they've tossed the later-season staging and go back to "real" talk versus "reality-tv" staged talk. I'll let you know what I think, meaning if it's returned to the original "real" format or staged BS like it became by Season 3 (and all other "reality-TV" BS since).  

But hey, at least they weren't thrown together to be pitted against each other for a prize - if you stayed until the end, you all were rewarded with a trip to Jamaica!

Also, the homecoming was filmed during the pandemic, quarantined for two weeks prior and tested daily, so they became part of their own "bubble," so it will interesting to find out how that went - and hopefully, it will go more like the first season and "real" reality, and not be too staged. 

First PS - 

Okay, I'm 20 minutes in, and I admit it -  I'm crying, and I don't know why?!? LOL.

I teared up first when Eric couldn't be present and had to Zoom in because he's tested positive for COVID -  but mostly, I still kept laughing because of Heather - Heather always brings the party :)

Then I teared up again, because everyone finally admitted that Kevin was right about racism in America, back then, though they labeled him the "angry black man," at the time.

The Rodney King beating literally happened while they were filming, and yet nobody wanted to talk about it or racism - but Kevin.

(Which, of course, I already knew Kevin was right, attending college here at UK, in the South, as a social work student, and just after Rodney King - and that people just didn't want to talk about it or face it.) 

To his credit, Kevin took responsibility for his overly aggressive approach and  "not accepting people for where they are, but expecting people to accept people where he he is."

All of that made me tear up, I was so happy for Kevin's redemption - that has to be healing for him - in fact, you can see it on his face, how touched he was, and later, from the previews, healing tears rolling down his face  :)

But I think my tears actually started to flow the most when Julie's daughter announced to Kevin via Facetime that she was the ambassador from her high school at the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, and that her mom's experience in New York (and later L.A.), after challenging herself on race, was very influential in who she wanted to become - someone who changed the world for civil rights.

Okay, that one got me - Julie's daughter, who literally looks like Julie's twin, wants to be an ambassador for civil rights - amazing.

And Becky said something interesting, that their fights weren't fights, they were debates, where people listened to each other - as opposed to later reality TV in which fights were staged and people got physical.

True dat.

It's good to see some people can change for the better, with the passing of time, maturity, and self-examination - good to see.

(However, most people don't have the opportunity to view themselves on video, for the next 30 years, in order to see their  mistakes and how things really were versus preferring selective memories of events ;)

Unfortunately, I've heard tidbits about Becky - like so many fellow liberals I know - despite talking a good liberal, anti-racist game, later acts like a over-privileged "Karen" (not uncommon in upper-middle class and above white people, conservative AND liberal, and Kevin calls her on it, and she and Kevin argue (again) and she threatens to leave the show? 

We shall see. 

Lots of my own memories, too, from during that time in life.  

I remember I had some friends playing Ice-T/Body Count's "Cop Killer" so loud it would wake the dead, and other friends wanting it banned (successfully, both rock and hip-hop stations here in Lexington refused to play it) and threatening to kick the asses of anyone who played it or showed sympathy for Rodney King.  

I personally didn't encourage killing cops OR banning the song - but I admittedly like the song, it was an interesting mix of thrash metal and rap, at the time, and I supported their right to their artistic expression of anger over Rodney King.

Hey, I'm a Johnny Cash fan, remember?

If a white Johnny Cash can sing about fantasy killing someone with "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch them die" in "Folsom Prison Blues" in 1957 to work out his issues by writing therapeutically, but would never do so in real life, then Ice-T, as a black man, should be able to sing in fantasy about killing cops over police brutality, also to work out his issues by writing therapeutically, never doing so in real life.  

I don't have to like it or let my kids listen to it (or more likely, listen to it with them and discuss), but these artists have every right to write fantasy lyrics as a sort cathartic of therapy :). 

I mean, these are musicians and artists therapeutically and cathartically expressing fantasy aggression in artistic expression of things that they will never do  in real life  - NOT the President of the United States or Congress, responsible for shaping very real law and policy, trying to pass off/ promote their personal fantasy aggressions into a legal reality  - there's a difference! 

Thus, instead I tried to facilitate communication for better understanding instead of banning anything or physical fights.

However, this usually just ended up with my either verbally out-debating ignorant, over-privileged idiots, or wound up with people just saying, "Save it for class, nobody wants to talk about that shit"  and "nobody likes mouthy, opinionated, smart girls - just laugh at the guy's jokes and listen to them talk politics," ended up feeling like something was wrong with me because I wanted to discuss things to facilitate better understanding, rather than continue to ignore and pretend until things exploded again, or ban things or physically fight.

Oh, but you want to ban music or provoke fights instead?  Okay.

And here we are, 30 years later.

Very glad, also, that even though there's a "confessional room" given to them this time around, which they noted they didn't have, they don't go in alone and bash the others - they all go in together - and whatever they have to say, it's not behind any backs - it's straight up to faces, out loud in front of God and everybody - at least so far lol. 

More later ...

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