‘The Real World’ Reboot Would Be Welcomed


The Big Picture

  • The Real World
    tackled hard-hitting social issues head-on, from racism to LGBTQ+ visibility.
  • Roommates faced real-life struggles on camera, like addiction, loss, and trauma.
  • The balance between entertainment and education was crucial to The Real World’s success and should return.

Back in 1992, MTV’s The Real World was a progressive documentary reality program that followed seven strangers as they had their lives taped and started getting real. Each season, the show tackled topics ranging from racism, AIDS, sex, religion, and other issues facing young adults. With each season, the show evolved from high-hitting storytelling to twenty-somethings having fun and getting drunk. Regardless of how it changed, the show shaped reality television and allowed the issues to find a platform. The Real World needs to return today, similarly to its origins, to become the voice of a new generation again.

Inspired by the PBS documentary series An American Family, The Real World documents a group of strangers who live together in a house as they connect and build relationships and bonds that transcend the show. For 33 seasons, the Bunim/Murray product has journeyed around the world as the seven strangers navigate the issues facing them. With a giant platform to bring awareness and discussions to its viewers, The Real World seemed radical at first, but helped normalize how young adults discuss their world. Despite how the world has changed since The Real World originally aired, the topics that the show covered are still impacting the new generation of adolescents. Should The Real World come back, the show could give the social media generation another voice and platform to educate on today’s issues. Turn The Real World‘s original water cooler moments into viral social media stories.

‘The Real World’ Was Unafraid to Tackle Hard-Hitting Issues

The Real World was synonymous with MTV for a very long time. It was one of the most successful non-music-related programs on air. Even from the first season, The Real World dove head-first into deep social topics that rarely found a place on television. Especially for its young adult target audience. Back in 1992, The Real World: New York captured headlines when housemates Julie Gentry, an innocent 19-year-old Southern girl, and Kevin Powell, a Black man from New Jersey, took to the streets of New York to have a heated debate on race, including how racism played into how he had been treated by police. It was an explosive discussion and one that may not have ever been had should these two individuals not been brought together for this television moment. Racism and police brutality has sadly been a hot topic in America since Julie and Kevin had their heated debate.

The topic of race and police treatment appeared during the second iteration of The Real World: Las Vegas in 2011, when Leroy Garrett discovered that his friend was allegedly shot and killed by police. It was a stunning moment, and difficult for Leroy to handle, but the bonds he made with his roommates proved how real the program was. The Real World has had mini-reunions with their previous casts before, but never in the way of bringing them all together. The Real World Homecoming was the nostalgia-driven spinoff that longtime fans craved. With Black Lives Matter as a backdrop, the cast of the first season of The Real World was reunited for a series called The Real World Homecoming: New York. The discussion of race returned, but this time, the show displayed the growth Julie has made since her time nearly thirty years earlier, while it was roommate Becky Blasband who was confronted about her views on race, prompting her early exit from the reunion series. Having The Real World unafraid to air these important conversations has offered young adults to have similar conversations with their friends and family.


10 Best Real World Seasons, Ranked by IMDb

This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house.

The first season of The Real World was groundbreaking on a number of topics, but roommate Norman Korpi was one of the first openly gay people on television. His appearance opened the doors for other LGBTQ+ cast members to appear on the program, as well as important topics that related to the queer community. During The Real World: New Orleans in 2000, Danny Roberts was dating a US Army Captain named Paul Dill. Due to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in America at the time, Paul’s face was blurred out when he appeared on the show, bringing up great discussions on the issue. Casting The Real World often featured a tokenized LGBTQ+ character, but their stories were bigger than they realized. Whether it was Beth Anthony of The Real World: Los Angeles wearing a “I’m not gay, my girlfriend is” shirt or Karamo Brown of Queer Eye fame becoming the first openly gay African American cast member during The Real World: Philadelphia, the presence of queer characters portrayed in the media was amplified thanks to The Real World.

The most iconic and important stories to come out of The Real World was thanks to the visibility of Pedro Zamora. Airing in 1994, The Real World: San Francisco introduced the world to Pedro and his struggles with AIDS. His mission on the show was not only to educate his roommates, but educate the world on the stigma of HIV/AIDs. Sadly, like a Hollywood script, Pedro passed away the day The Real World: San Francisco aired its season finale. The visibility of queer figures on television truly began to feel normalized due to The Real World. It wouldn’t be until 2009 for The Real World: Brooklyn where they would have the show’s first transgender cast member, Katelynn Cusanelli. With all the controversy regarding transgender issues facing America today, The Real World would be the perfect place to discuss them openly through varied perspectives.


‘The Kardashians’ May Be Manufactured But It Still Reigns Over Reality TV

Season Four of ‘The Kardashians’ lacks the “must see” quality of past seasons of ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians,’ but remains a reality TV staple.

The Real World never shied away from airing hot-button topics when people were afraid to discuss them. One of the most pivotal people to appear on The Real World was Tami Akbar, now known as Tami Roman. Tami was involved in two critical moments that defined The Real World. First, she shared with her cast mates that, after finding out she was pregnant, decided she was not ready to have a baby and thus decided to have an abortion. Like the predecessor season, The Real World: Los Angeles, had their own Homecoming series, where Tami revealed decades later that it was the best decision at the time. Also in that season, Tami was involved in an incident with David Edwards where he tried to take the blanket off a sleeping Tami. The incident, which violated the safety of certain roommates, ended up with the expulsion of David from the house. As many fans of the show viewed the incident as an assault, Tami and David were able to discuss the aftermath of the incident on The Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles. Like many after her, Tami was able to bring a voice to difficult topics.

‘The Real World’ Is More Than Drinking and Partying

The Real World-Season 32 Cast 2019 MTV
Image from MTV

The Real World has been known to bring the roommates’ real lives into their loft. A handful of cast members were handed unfortunate news while filming as they lost important people in their lives. Jay Mithcell on The Real World: Ex-Plosion and Danny Jamieson on The Real World: Austin both found out that their mother passed away. The struggles of addiction and substance abuse found their way on camera when Ruthie Alcaide on The Real World: Hawaii was sent to rehab during filming, while The Real World: Hollywood‘s Joey Kovar had an intervention from his roommates. Unfortunately, Joey passed away in 2012. The United States was shaken after the terrorist attack on 9/11. Filming was underway on The Real World: Chicago. The cast, who pulled away from television while on the show, were given the opportunity to watch history occur before their eyes. With great shock, the cast was shaken and used this moment in history to bring their Chicago community together. With so many real world moments happening, being able to witness people experience these moments can help others dealing with similar traumas feel seen. As the world goes through a series of unprecedented traumas, The Real World could assist by putting a mirror to how these events are effecting their viewers through the lens of the housemates.

As The Real World grew up between the 1990s and the early 2000s, the housemates veered into focusing on having fun and partying rather than using their platform to educate. Even the show itself seemed to focus more on season twists, with social issues taking a backseat. With the success of the spin-off program, The Challenge, The Real World borrowed themes, including bringing together everything from exes to skeletons, as the focus of the season. Gone were the days of discussions in favor of viral drama that was prominent in the new generation of reality television. There is always a way to blend the past and present, hence the success of the early run of The Real World. Do fans like seeing interpersonal relationships and watching hook up culture blow up in the roommates’ face? Of course! But balancing entertainment and education has been the backbone of The Real World. And should it ever find its way back on screens, encouraging that balance would satisfy fans old and new.

The Real World was not only an important franchise to show how reality television can be a dominating genre on television, but also how it can impact its viewers through its content. After it ended its run on MTV, The Real World attempted a revamp in 2019, but placed it on Facebook Watch. The Real World Homecoming helped bring the nostalgia factor while also reminding viewers how important the platform The Real World created was. The series didn’t blow up on Paramount+ but proved how The Real World matters. Like the kids in the original seasons, there are so many young adults’ voices that deserve to find a platform to bring about the issues still affecting the world today. The Real World is not only a successful intellectual property. It’s forever timeless.

All seasons of The Real World are available to stream on Paramount+.

Watch on Paramount+


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *