Lessons For The Real World

When MTV launched its first season of The Real World in 1992, the young adults cast were eager to learn about themselves and different types of people. Throughout the early seasons, one trait all of the roommates had in common was a desire to experience new things that would help them grow as people.

By The Real World’s twelfth season, filmed in Las Vegas, cast members had stopped seeing the show as an opportunity for self-development. Instead, it was a means to achieve some temporary, low-level fame. Drinking and debauchery took precedence over understanding people of different races and backgrounds. It’s hard to see what any of the cast members from recent seasons actually learned from their experience.

Here’s a list of some of the lessons the cast members from The Real World: Austin should’ve learned (but didn’t) while they shared a loft, and who should’ve learned each lesson:

#1 – Being honest isn’t the same as being mean. (Lacey)
Lacey was always happy to point out her roommates’ flaws, usually to her boyfriend or to a roommate other than the person in question. As the only non-lush in the house, and living away from her boyfriend, it’s easy to see how Lacey felt like an outsider. She belittled her roommates so that she’d feel superior, and then justified her actions by (eventually) telling everyone what she’d said about them behind their backs. Lacey’s defense was that she was just being honest, and that people don’t like to hear the truth about themselves. She’s right; people usually don’t like to hear unsolicited, unconstructive, critical truths.

What’s really unfortunate is that, when the show started, all of the roommates seemed to look up to Lacey. She’s smart and hip, and she’s got a career that she loves. She’s even got a boyfriend (a sweet one) who’s in a wheelchair, something that would drive most women in their early twenties away. Lacey knows that it’s what on the inside of a person that counts. If she believed that about herself, she wouldn’t need to bash other people in order to feel better.

#2 – Everyone has to grow up sometime. (Wes)
Drinking too much and having a crappy work ethic are unappealing habits. Society tolerates these actions from young adults while they are in high school and college, but not beyond that. Time’s running out for Wes. He has said he would like to run his own business. By appearing on TV, he had a great chance to impress potential investors. But Wes squandered his chance at marketability when he treated his documentary filmmaker job only as an impediment to his partying. Because he doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior, it’s going to be a long time before Wes stops acting like a kid and starts acting like an adult.

#3 – Learn the difference between right and wrong. (Johanna)
On the reunion show, Johanna said she learned nothing from her arrest. She brushed off the incident by saying that she only stole a rose. Replace the word rose with football, or necklace, or car, and it’s still the same thing: theft. It’s embarrassing that a college graduate can’t understand the concept of personal property.

What’s more frightening is Johanna’s aspiration to become a social worker. How could someone with such a dysfunctional moral compass give credible guidance? Johanna’s advice to Rachel after her fight with Nehemiah and Wes was to keep her anger in her heart. Bottling up emotions isn’t an acceptable form of anger management. It’s probably best that Johanna pursue another career until she understands more about dealing with emotions. And cops.

#4 – Reading has many merits. (Rachel)
Rachel reminds us that, in order for the average IQ to be 100, somebody has to score below that. It’s time Rachel stopped drinking and turned to reading as her primary leisure time activity. Perhaps some books by Chris Crutcher would help her find better ways to deal with bullies. Maybe some of Maya Angelou’s poems would help her feel strong enough to stand up for herself. If those authors won’t do, the Berenstain Bears have a lot of good books. The books aren’t that long, and there are lots of pictures. They probably even have a book on bed wetting, which is apparently a problem for Rachel when she’s drunk, according to previews for Tuesday night’s clip show, The S@#t They Should Have Shown.

#5 – Don’t live your life in fear. (Danny)
Danny spends every second of the day fearing that the people he loves will abandon him. This fear comes from an obvious source: his mother left the family when Danny was young, during the worst part of her battle with alcoholism. Danny criticized the way editors portrayed his relationship with his mother, claiming that they got along fine. But that doesn’t explain his pathological need to push his girlfriend Melinda away, which sounds a lot like something that the adult child of an alcoholic would do.

Rather than risk Melinda leaving him, Danny dumped her first, and on several occasions. His finest moment came on vacation in Costa Rica, when he dumped Melinda after she admitted that, if they weren’t together, she’d have sex with someone else. Danny must have thought Melinda would’ve entered a convent had she not met him.

According to the roommates, Danny is now taking advantage of his 15 minutes of fame. He’s dropped his old friends and focused on advancing his limited celebrity, including proposing to Melinda on-camera for a previously-taped segment aired during the reunion.

Instead of realizing that he’s on his way to alienating everyone who really cares about him, Danny blames everyone but himself. His problems are never his fault: my roommates are jerks, the editors are out to get me, Melinda’s a slut, and my mom is dead. He has to stop being afraid to look at the role he plays in his own problems before the addictive tendencies that he inherited get the best of him. Giving up alcohol would help, too. Things are going to get worse for him before they get better, no matter what happens, and he’s got to take his lumps like a man. He can only hope that none of those lumps wind up on his face.

#6 – You deserve better. (Melinda)
Some piece of Melinda’s past is missing from the image she presented on The Real World. She left out the part where someone convinced her that she was ugly and unlovable. That would explain why she initially thought Danny wouldn’t be interested in her. And it would explain why she puts up with someone who breaks up with her whenever he drinks too much and who forbids her from going out with her friends.

Melinda’s so brainwashed that she can’t look at Danny’s behavior objectively anymore, siding with him no matter what ludicrous arguments come out of his mouth. Melinda, you don’t need Danny. You can find someone better than him. And since Danny’s face got caved in, someone better looking, too.

#7 – Violence isn’t the answer. (Nehemiah)
Having grown up with a mother who made drugs a priority instead of her son, it’s easy to see why Nehemiah has trouble trusting people. What’s harder to understand is why violence is always his first choice of action. If he’s not punching someone or pushing girls out of his way, he intimidates people by posing as if he is going to hit them. That kind of aggressive posturing isn’t instinctive. It’s learned.

While it’s sad that he had to learn to take care of himself by landing the first punch, it’s still wrong. You can’t hit someone just because they make you mad. And a drunken stupor is no excuse. Just like driving drunk, it means you didn’t care enough about others to keep some measure of self-control.

Nehemiah has some major problems, or else he wouldn’t have sabotaged the opportunities he was given on The Real World. He’s a film student whose job was to make a movie. He was introduced to professionals in the field. But when he should have been home working on the project, Nehemiah went out, drank, and got arrested. He’s violent, irresponsible, and unremorseful. Who’d want to work with someone like that? Nehemiah might want to see a therapist before he gets himself into real trouble.