The Real World: Brooklyn is winding down and Cancun is filming as we speak. So all is well for the seminal MTV series as it closes out it’s 21st year. Yep, the show is finally legal, getting ready for a senior Spring break in Mexico, and preoccupied with thoughts about upcoming graduation day. What better time to take a look back?
Of all the TRW cast members ever to lock themselves away in the Confessional for a look straight into America’s eye, the most memorable was Pedro Zamora, the first openly gay man suffering from AIDS to share his story on national television, and an activist who literally gave his life for the cause. Tonight, MTV remembers him with the biographical documentary, Pedro, a dramatization of his experiences getting on the show, interacting with the cast (especially an antagonistic David “Puck” Rainey) and his death from AIDS only one day after The Real World: San Francisco aired its season finale in 1994.
A natural question to ask is, what would Pedro think of the show as it is today? Does it still have the spirit he tried to breathe into it’s heart? Well, MTV recently announced that the series is safe for an unprecedented 4 more seasons, so something must be going right. But an honest answer would have to include the observation that many of the lessons Pedro tried to teach have fallen away, and the current cast proves the point.
Pedro Zamora was passionate about the choices young people make when it comes to risky behavior, and the consequences of not weighing those risks seriously. Even in his own season, he was ridiculed by other cast members for not practicing what he preached, and the entire world was riveted by the debate. But Pedro stuck to his guns. How would the cast from Brooklyn fare?
The most obvious similarity involves another first for the series, a trans-gendered woman, Katelynn “Kat” Cusanelli. Her reception by the cast has varied widely, from acceptance by J.D. Ordonez, a gay man from Miami, to outright hostility from Ryan Conklin, a former Army soldier still haunted by his tour of duty in Iraq. But the issues that confront these 20-somethings are not the central focus of the show any longer… it’s the hookups that matter most.
From day one, Devyn Simone, a former Miss American Teen lusted over personal trainer hunk Scott Herman, and let everybody know. As the series has been winding down, it’s obvious that any problem can be shouted down or resolved over a box of wine. So what’s the point? Has Pedro’s legacy been for nothing?
In the last episode, the windup shows some promise. When Ryan receives notice he’s been recalled to Iraq, the cast has a stunning moment of “real world” reality and rush to assure him that he will be alright. To prove their loyalty, they give him a journal to record his memories. One day, they swear, they will all reunite and share the journal with him.
So it’s off to Cancun for the next season. We’ll probably have a cast member with an unusual lifestyle, the hookups will continue, and let’s face it – the late night beach parties should be a lot of fun. But we’ll also get a chance to see how long the memories will linger from TRW’s 21st year and whether or not Ryan’s journal is completed and shared.
I have a feeling Pedro Zamora would be proud.