I am obsessed with The Real World Homecoming: New York series that is airing on Paramount+. If you’re as old as I am, you probably watched the very first season of MTV’s The Real World. That first season was a complete experiment, bringing together seven strangers from around the country who had absolutely no idea what they were getting into. And it wasn’t just the cast that was clueless, it was the creators as well. No one was sure it would work. But it did! And so does the reunion series!
The first episode is a great introduction back into the show, but it’s the second and third episode that have hooked me. Why, you ask? Because everyone stopped being polite and started getting real! True story!
As a young kid, I lived in a white, upper-middle class bubble in the affluent suburbs of Washington, D.C. I didn’t understand that just by being born white, I was already starting life with an advantage others didn’t have. When that first season of The Real World aired, I believed racism wasn’t a part of my reality and that it still only existed in deep parts of the south. And of course I wasn’t racist: I had black friends, I dated a black guy in high school; I was colorblind. (I was a fucking idiot to be clear. But that was the bubble I lived in back in the 90s.)
When I watched The Real World back then, particularly the infamous fight between Julie and Kevin, I often saw Kevin as the unreasonable, angry black man. (Again, did I mention what a fucking moron I was back then?!) Now, here we are, 30 years later in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, a resurgence of hatred against Asian men and women, and a pandemic that has turned the entire world upside down…. Grown-up me see things a whole lot differently than 90s me did. And it seems the same for cast… or, at least most of them. But then there is Becky, or Rebecca as she calls herself now.
Now, I don’t want to demonize Rebecca because I get it, she felt victimized and attacked, but at the same time, did she not hear herself? Toward the end of the second episode, the gang was surprised with a clip of Rebecca and Kevin discussing white privilege on the show 30 years ago, which ends with Kevin calling Rebecca a racist and Rebecca claiming she is not. Right or wrong, I can oddly forgive Rebecca’s views in the clip because I was no different than her back then. We both clearly had our own bubble. But it wasn’t her behavior in the clip that seemed embarrassing, it was her reaction to that clip 30 years later.
Rebecca turned into a “Karen” before our very eyes. Highlights included saying she doesn’t see color because she’s in an African dance group and explaining what a good and kind man her father was (because that means she can’t be racist?). You’ll have to watch the episode to see how it all plays out, I don’t want to ruin the end for you, but it is reality TV gold. Especially for old folks like me.
This show, much like the cast, has really made me think about who I was when that first season aired vs who I am now. There are moments when I feel shame for my past ignorance and moments when I am truly proud of how much I’ve grown as a person. The Real World Homecoming: New York has allowed me to access memories and thoughts I had long-since forgotten about and it is never a bad thing to look at just how far we’ve come. Except Becky… I’m not sure her thinking ever left that 90s bubble.
Why is the next episode a whole week away?!