Okay, I have a confession to make. I am the only person on Earth who still watches The Real World. And I don’t mean, “Oh, I catch the occasional episode OnDemand when I’m hungover.” No, I see every single episode. The reason why I still subject myself to this drivel is, well, complicated. Part of it is because I’ve been watching since Real World: Seattle, which happened like 20 years ago, and it’s just a part of my routine now. But another reason why I still tune in is because I find the mundanity of The Real World to be weirdly refreshing. Living in a time where every reality show is sensationalized and scripted, I find comfort in knowing that The Real World is as real as it gets. The people they cast on the show are blissfully average. Real salt of the earth folks! They serve up the most bland slice of American pie you’ll ever taste and you know what? I don’t hate it. I enjoy the mediocrity. Everything else in pop culture is so sweet and tart, it’s giving me diabetes! Getting to know the pea brains of someone named “Oxana” from Pennsylvania is a welcome reprieve from the usual dog and pony show that dominates my television screen.
That being said, one thing about the show that really gets my goat is how “LOL, WHATEVER!” everyone is about misogyny. To be fair, I don’t think most of the cast members on The Real World know what misogyny is (“Is it when two people are in a committed relationship?”, Azul, a waitress from Vermont and current cast member of Real World: Serbia, dimly asks), so perhaps that’s why whenever a guy takes an emotional dump on a girl’s face, they just refer to him as a douchebag and move on. But, you see, their ignorance is a problem because practically every season, the producers cast a chauvinistic asshole and a girl with tragic low self-esteem, knowing full well that they’re going to hook up and fuel the drama for the season. Drama, in this case, is emotional abuse at the hands of a closed-off jerk with killer abs.
The Real World: St Thomas recently wrapped and, of course, the season wouldn’t have been complete without an unhealthy relationship between two cast members! This time it happened between Trey, a stereotypical asshole jock, and Laura, a mild-mannered doormat with red hair. The two fell for each other immediately at the start of the season, despite the fact that Trey had a girlfriend back home WHO HE HAD GOTTEN PREGNANT, and they hooked up sporadically throughout the show. Trey made it known to Laura that he had a “situation” back home but Laura didn’t really care because she loved Trey. Meanwhile, Trey was deep-throating the luxury of The Double Standard by having sex with Laura while still in a “sort of” relationship and forbidding his GF back home to date anyone else. What a gem! He can put his dick wherever he wants but the two girls in his life need to be one-penis women in order for him to be interested.
Okay, does all of this sound familiar? I know, I know. A jerk dates a girl with little self-worth and it’s sad. Whatever, whatever. Here’s where I get annoyed though. All of the other roommates, who CLEARLY have never taken a gender studies class at Sarah Lawrence, watch this relationship unfold and are like, “OMG, Laura. You’re so dumb. You’re being played and you don’t even care. What’s wrong with you? You’re making yourself look pathetic!” They’re basically kicking her when she’s already down. Meanwhile, the roommates don’t even bat an eyelash at Trey’s deplorable treatment of women. They just write him off as a typical douchebag and don’t even put him to task for being manipulative, controlling and verbally abusive. “That’s just boys being boys!” It’s Laura who gets blamed. It’s Laura who’s seen as someone who has a faulty character.
I realize I just spent a bunch of time talking about two people on The Real World who you probably don’t even know, so let me make my point. Blaming the woman for getting treated like crap while letting the man get off scot-free isn’t an attitude that’s exclusive to The Real World. It’s everywhere! We expect men to behave like dicks. We expect women to be cut down. We jump for joy when we find a dude who’s “chivalrous.” “Chivalrous,” in many cases, just means, “Oh, he’s not like Jennifer Lopez’s husband in Enough. Good for him!” The bar is set so pathetically low for dudes. “OMG, you didn’t make me feel vaguely like crap today? Looks like I found a REAL man, ladies!”
What disturbs me the most is how we degrade women for being in these relationships in the first place. Somehow, they are the ones responsible for this mess. They are the ones who are, in some way, attracting this behavior. And, of course, there’s definite truth to that. After all, it takes two to tango. This dynamic can’t exist without two people feeding into it. But what bothers me is how unsurprised we are with the men’s behavior. It bothers me that we accept the stereotypical douchebag without ever expecting him to change his behavior. Um, no. He needs to change his ways just as much as the girl needs to work on building her self-esteem. Stop accepting assholes! Stop letting them get away with murder! They’re causing real damage here.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s time I stop watching The Real World.