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Down the Rabbit Hole of the Real World SF House
Stevanie Wazna-Blank | Photo: Courtesy MTV | December 3, 2013
The shower doors are barely frosted, the hot tub is in the middle of the living room, and just wait till you hear about the people.
What happens when people stop being polite and start getting real? To find out, I hung out at the house where Real World Ex-Plosion, aka the 29th-edition-of-an-MTV-series-most-of-us-didn't-even-realize-was-still-running-and-was-filmed-in-SF was, well, being filmed in SF. From the the trailer, which has just dropped, you'd expect a pumped up drama filled EXPLOSIVE time. But all I saw was seven polite kids—joined by a few exes. That's the twist, but where was the reality?
To be fair, it was a press junket, and I was there with a reporter from another publication. We were told to sit and talked amongst ourselves. He was older, calm and reassuring. I was slightly nervous and excited—which dissipated as I was kept waiting to meet some of the cast members and their exes, all of whom were a lot more loving than I expected.
First off, I'm not much older than the cast members, and my memories of the Real World are watching it with my older sister when it was new and exciting and "all the rage." The people on the show felt older than me (because they were) and so sure of their identities, while at the same time feeling like archetypes—the Mean Girl, the Jock, and the Brooding Sensitive Type. But perhaps because I was young and reality TV was fairly new, or perhaps because TV is edited, or perhaps because people act differently when cameras are around, whatever it is, the show only reveals so much.
What I saw at the house on Sutter was an "apartment" that felt nothing like San Francisco. Like they do, it was decked out with fab and kitschy decor, with a hot tub in the living room and showers with doors barely frosted to cover whoever was inside. What it felt like was a set constructed so hastily it was weird. The whole place was one floor (previously an office with cubicles to be reconverted after filming stopped) with fake wall insets and flimsy beds. When I went to the bathroom, I could see the paint job didn't even reach the cheap linoleum flooring and the ceiling was made of what looked like acoustic ceiling tiles covered in aluminum. There didn't appear to be a vent, and one housemate said that some serious stenches were endured. I had no doubt.
My giddy middle-school self was excited to peek inside the Real World house, but that quickly changed. My favorite element of the whole place was a dissected grand piano with all its strings and key board vertically set on the wall. But I suppose it isn't really about the place, it's about the people.
They felt young. Not that I feel old and all figured out (believe me, I'm not), but it dawned on me that they were early twentysomethings, some of whom signed up on a whim not thinking they'd actually get accepted. They were all trying to make a name for themselves. The MC/club promoter from the East Coast. The local model turned filmmaker. The aspiring actress/dancer. They all figured, "why not?" Just meeting them, I could see the characters they would become onscreen (the drama queen, the lesbian, the smooth talker, the cornfed Midwesterner) and how I might randomly watch an episode and believe that was who they really were. But, here they were, just a bunch of strangers thrown together in a weird set-house with not a lot of contact with the outside world—no TV, very limited phone or internet use—and no jobs. But they did have a lot of time to kill. Seeing it in person cast it all in a harsh light.
I think what I'm most interested in is seeing them traipse around the city, which didn't exactly open her arms to the idea of having them here. As for me, I had to go back to work.