OMG! While “the gay one” is a staple of almost every season of MTV’s long-in-the-tooth reality show The Real World, the show’s latest edition, which premiered last night (and which you can watch online), is a fagariffic journey into the gay-gay-gay heart of America’s youth.
Pity the Mormon mothers who tune in looking forward to seeing a nice Mormon boy show the rest of America how they rock in Salt Lake, only to be greeted by 23-year-old Chet Cannon – a nice Mormon boy (VIRGIN!) – who makes up for his lack of ever having had sex by, well, dressing like a twink bottom on the way to Boysroom. Oh, and he sews his own outfits.
But Chet and his skinny jeans are just the tip of this rainbow-hued, manufactured, conflict iceberg that makes Queer as Folk seem positively regressive and breeder-filled. Already, we can see how much we are going to hate the Real World tools on this season, but if the show offers a snapshot of America’s kids, it’s safe to say that, while they’re in no way, shape or form “alright,” they sure are fabulous.
The Transgendered One
For the first time ever on the show, a transgendered person lives in the house. Just three weeks after her gender-reassignment surgery in Thailand, Katelynn Cusanelli lands in New York, where she’s greeted by Scott Herman. (Herman shall henceforth be known as Abs, since not only did he win an award for having the best set on the East Coast, it’s his only distinguishing feature. We’ll get to him in a minute.) Abs tells the camera how he likes the way Katelynn’s a bit of a tom boy and how he relates to girls like that– and we’re hooked! Red Hooked!
First off, we love Katelynn off the bat. She reminds us of Invisible Girl from The Incredibles, right down to the long-hair constantly covering her face and the crippling lack of self-esteem. Though she’s now got a boyfriend at home in West Palm Beach, Florida, being the first trangendered person on The Real World has to be pretty daunting, so Katelynn defuses the tension by talking about how she’s been in orgies (“polyamory” she explains to Mormon Boy, who doesn’t know what the word means) and by running around in tight pink short shorts. This makes her awesome. Also in the “Katelynn is awesome” department is the fact that she’s already blogged about her hatred of The Gothamist.
Anderson Cooper‘s Ex Boyfriend
So, there’s a rumor that Miami dolphin trainer J.D. Ordonez is the ex-boyfriend of Anderson Cooper. Of course, Anderson’s not gay at all, so obviously its a vicious, vicious lie, but we’re going with it anyway, since we’ve been talking about it before J.D. was even cast on the show. (If making wild speculations about the cast of a reality show bothers you, we’re not sure why you’re reading this article. What do you watch reality TV for? The product placement?)
You can tell J.D.’s spent a lot of time in therapy, as he has the lingo down pat and, frankly, in the first episode he comes off as kind of a prick. From the get-go he realizes Katelynn is transgendered (because he you know, has eyes) and decides that what he needs to do is take her out to dinner and make her come out to him. We can see why the Coop no longer dates a guy whose first impulse when he meets someone is to get them to divulge their personal secrets, but whatever– at least J.D. takes Katelynn to dinner at ELMO, which is a totally cute restaurant in Chelsea that I bet Anderson took J.D. to when they dated.
OH: and Katelynn does “come out” to J.D. after he confesses that not only he’s gay, but his father was horribly abusive and his family life growing up was a living hell. They do this in a cab and then they both start crying and holding each other. This isn’t misty-eyed-couple-of-tears-rolling-down-your-face crying, it’s sobbing loudly while clinging to each other waterworks. It’s supposed to be tender, but it comes off as awkward. The tiny Tom Hanks voice in our head screams, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
The Straight Mormon Fag
When roommate Ryan (we’re getting to him) tells Chet that J.D. sets off his gaydar, Chet explains off-camera that he doesn’t seem to have a gaydar and can’t tell if a person is gay or not. This is hilarious, because Chet is obviously gay and unable to recognize it, which sounds like something we should all grab each other and sob about. Fortunately for us, Chet makes willful self-delusion entertaining and fun, and the producers have clearly decided Chet’s here to make us larf.
We get scene after scene of all the other boys and girls in the house talking about Chet’s pink clothes, skinny jeans (“You left your balls in the sink, man!” Ryan says at one point) and the fact that he’s never had sex in his whole life, and watch them marvel that Chet’s not a total flaming homo. Chet’s defense is that he’s just a totally flaming metrosexual conservative Mormon dude, which is a nice idea in theory, but come on.
We have two theories about Chet. The first and most likely is that he’s totally gay and horribly repressed by his Mormon upbringing. This, of course, is what’s going on, but just in case it’s not, option two: Because Chet has grown up in Salt Lake, he missed out on the fact that “metrosexual” isn’t actually a real thing at all, but rather a way for straight New York boys to get girls who, because they’re surrounded by gay men who dress well and use product all day, have come to expect basic grooming habits out of the male sex. It’s like Chet picked up an article about metrosexuals one day, decided it was the thing to do and then took the concept further than any self-respecting straight man ever would. Yeah, yeah: people should be able to express themselves whatever way they want–I know. Which is why I am expressing myself right now when I say, “Dude. You’re 23. You’ve never had sex. You line your jacket’s popped collar with fuchsia on your sewing machine. Give. Us. A. Break.”
Sarah’s mainly been with girls and is in her first serious relationship with a dude, which, unlike Chet’s self-denial, seems totally sane and normal. This is also because we like Sarah. We would want Sarah to be our friend. Sarah’s really big on validating other people, which is always nice, but she also seems to be the only cast member interested in getting to know the other cast members as people instead of you know, figuring out what label they are. This could be because she’s training to be an art therapist, but mostly we think it’s because she’s a good person.
It’s because of Sarah’s curiosity that we get to see that Ryan, who’s Aeropostale cap and cocky grin would normally have us peg him as “The Asshole,” is actually one of the most complex people on the show. She casually asks about what he’s done with his life so far and he mentions he was in the military. It gets heavy fast:
Sarah: Oh, wow. See, I knew there was more to you than just being the shy guy. Where were you stationed.
Ryan: Oh, Iraq (His bio mentions he was one of Saddam’s guards at his trial).
Sarah: Wow. Did you ever have to shoot a gun?
Ryan gets a far away look.
Sarah: Did you ever have to shoot at people?
At this point, Ryan’s face does something that makes him look like a five-year-old boy and when he speaks again his voice has become tiny and far away.
Sarah: How was that?
And then Ryan explains that he’s neatly divided his life between Iraq and America, but also mentions in the same breath how a service buddy of his had just killed himself because he was unable to deal with the post-traumatic stress and it’s at this point that we remind ourselves that Generation Y, or whatever you want to call it, is hardly the materialistic, fame-obsessed vacuous non-entity that some older generations we will not mention here try to depict us as. That in fact, our generation has had to deal with some Pretty Heavy Stuff at a pretty young age, and that rather than complaining and whining about the unfairness of it all, for the most part, we just Deal With It.
And if Dealing With It sometimes involves listening to the Jonas Brothers, or breaking down in tears in a cab with a complete stranger, or oversharing your emotions on Facebook, or signing up for a reality show, we’re okay with that.
Then later in the episode, Ryan asks J.D. about Katelynn’s transgendered status and refers to her as an “it.”
Epic fail, buddy. Though in his defense, he immediately says that he’s ignorant and doesn’t know what he’s talking about, which is why he’s asking. MTV’s doing a whole post-game show that’s too douchey to go into any detail here other than to mention that we see Ryan and Katelyn talk about this moment. Katelynn explains that while it’s always hard to hear stuff like that, she knows that Ryan’s view has evolved over the course of the show, though to what degree remains to be seen. They do a freestyle acoustic guitar round robin later in the post-game (don’t ask) and Katelynn sings about how Ryan is mean to her, so there’s that.
And then there’s Abs to bring us back to Earth. Abs remains adorably clueless that Katelynn is transgendered. He also pretty much spends all of his time in the gym. I don’t mean at home, but here, in the Real World house. Like most of this cast, Abs wants to use his spot on the show to advance his career, which he seems to think should be acting and modeling– and hey! He’s on the cover of Men’s Fitness, so there you go!
He also, thus far, has the personality of a turnip.
Devyn and Baya
The Single Ladies
Hey, just like in real Brooklyn, the straight girls on The Real World: Brooklyn are totally fucked when it comes to finding available men.
Devyn is the only one in the cast who has the whole “Here’s who I want to hook-up with” thing going on and her interest is focused on Abs’ abs. Baya wants to be a dancer, she says, but from the way she dances, we’re not sure she doesn’t mean she wants to be an exotic dancer. And while this makes us sound horribly misogynistic, it’s really just that these two get little to no time in the first episode, what with all the gay, transgender, sexual ambiguity going on.
We’re not going to watch the new Real World, but we will say it’s had a real commitment to putting a human face on the LGBT community. The third season of the show featured Pedro Zamora, who died of AIDS mere hours after the final episode aired, and who basically, taught the country what it was like to have the disease. The decision to put Katelynn on the show is as courageous a decision as Katelynn’s decision to be on it. People will form opinions about her and,like on all reality shows, they will decide what they like and don’t like about her. But they’ll be making opinions about her as a person. They’ll know a transgendered person, even if it’s just via schlocky reality TV show.
The Real World turns 21 this year, finally old enough to join its subjects for a drink. Cheers.