I’ve been watching MTV since I was a kid. I distinctly remember watching the video for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” on the floor as a child and I was probably three or so. When I had a TV in my room in middle school off and on, I would get up early and immediately put on MTV. I was addicted.
For some reason, I also spent hours watching The Real World on MTV as a child. Probably my parents didn’t realize how much I was really watching this show. I mean, they didn’t forbid me from watching much of anything, but I still think probably 8-year-old Erin was sneaking watching The Real World.
I also definitely watched a ton of it when I was like 12 and they did marathons basically every weekend. At any rate, it was one of my first obsessions, from Pedro’s journey to anyone coming out on the show to Neal getting his tongue bitten off. For our purposes let’s just only focus on the first 9-10 seasons of The Real World.
Let’s stop being polite and start getting real (yep, that happened) about five ways The Real World has ruined my life:
1. Obviously Made Me Want to Document My Entire Life
I mean, let’s be real, my dad is an archivist so I was raised documenting and compiling my life from birth. (You should really take a gander at my baby book, that thing is DE-TAILED).
I even have documentation of the first self portrait I ever took.
Actually, that might be a lie because I also had an awesome camera when I was 6 and I think I took a picture of myself in a mirror with that but whatever.
The point is, I was ALREADY painstakingly documenting my life. (Still do.) And The Real World was a whole new level of documentation. I was pretty used to my grandfather’s Camcorder (a term I still use) and was excellent at filming any and all family gatherings as well as tours of the house. But the idea of living your life and having THAT filmed FOR you was so intriguing to me. Sure, they got in fights and some of them looked like jerks. But they would always have this to look back on!
Gosh, I’m glad I wasn’t 18 in 1994. I would have made so many Real World audition tapes…
2. Pretty Much Convinced Me I’d Have Terrible Roommates
Now, obviously, one of the problems of “having your lives taped” is that you’re having your life taped.
So, you get into a fight with your roommate over his gross misuse of the peanut butter and everyone gets to weigh in on it. You get smacked in the face as you’re leaving the house because you said your roommate was gay…everyone gets to watch.
But really, I just watched this and thought, “Whoa, people are insane” and was pretty convinced all roommate experiences would be exactly like The Real World.
I always lucked out on the roommate front and actually remain close friends with my randomly assigned freshman year roommate. But thankfully, aside from a few awkward incidents that I was woken up by sophomore year of college (shower orgy – JUST like Real World: Miami!, sex in the bed next to me) I never really hated any of my roommates.
3. Made Me Want to Pierce My Eyebrow
Obviously this is a direct shout out to Elka from Real World: Boston.
There was no one I wanted to be more in 1997 than Elka from Real World: Boston. (Okay, there were a lot of people I wanted to be in 1997 but Elka was top of the list).
And she had an eyebrow piercing.
All I can say is thank goodness I was 13 in 1997 and not allowed to pierce my eyebrow because I think it would have been an awful look for me. I mean, I’m really glad I was 13 in 1997 for lots of reasons but not getting an eyebrow piercing is definitely one of the best.
Similarly, I’m glad I was only 11 in 1995 otherwise I would have wanted a Kermit the Frog tattoo just like Allison on the first season of Road Rules. Luckily all I did when I turned 18 was get my belly button pierced (and then remove it 8 years later).
4. Convinced Me My Name Was Too Boring and Normal
Also related to Elka, obviously but also the entire cast of Boston. I mean, Elka, Genesis, Montana?! Where are my Erins and Annes and Sarahs??!
There reached a point while watching The Real World where I had a serious thought of, “are they just casting people for their names?” and “that can’t be someone’s real name, right?”
Well, apparently they were people’s real names. And I was jealous.
I’ve always liked my name but been disappointed you can’t have a nickname for it. Like, I can’t “go by Becky,” you know? It’s just Erin. As recently as this week the topic of being able to find your name on a license plate at an amusement park came up and everyone else I was with said, “Oh they never had my name” and I found myself slightly jealous that I could always find Erin, no problem.
Then again, now I have a sweet “Erin” license plate collection and they don’t, so whatever.
5. Didn’t Prepare Me For the “Real World” At All
In the early seasons they used to just kind of live their lives and just live within this house, right? Then all of sudden they would have a job they all worked at., you know, create more tension. I get it. I’ve done casting before, I work in TV, I get the game.
But then it sort of makes you think “okay, I’ll move in with some friends, we’ll all work the same job and then bingo, life.” When really, all the cast members on The Real World were doing was delaying the inevitable actual push into the “real world” by sitting around their house getting into fights.
This isn’t new information, obviously. But, you know, I was also disappointed I didn’t have a Friends-like existence post-college too.
(I also had an intense obsession with the first season of Road Rules - I was ALL ABOUT Mark and Kit – and always think of beans out of a can and RVs fondly as a result.)
MTV, if you’re listening, I’d totally buy the first 10 seasons of The Real World on DVD, so…your move.