Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thinking about The Real World

I was clued into these reviews of Season One of MTV's The Real World...remember that? The great-grandmom of reality TV? I can't stop reading them.

Now, let me say right off the bat that, like the libbie I am, I used to be contemptuous of reality TV until I figured out the secret to watching it: don't sympathize with anyone on the cast, no matter what. These fools have agreed to make their lives my entertainment, so I am damned well going to gawk and chortle. When Jersey Shore's Snooki got rapped in the face at a bar, I laughed and wished she'd gotten two. When Dr. Zasio on Hoarders tried to connect to poor Arlene, who had been saving her own excrement, I cracked open a root beer and thanked my lucky stars there are people so insane. The cast of a reality show are just jesters who caper for my amusement, and I say, "Dance, monkeys, dance!"

The Real World (at least in Season One) was different. I'll quote the review, which does a better job explaining why:

At some point, the vibe of social experimentation gave way to tawdry cliches, as cast members figured out that the best way to get screen time was to act out—not to sit around having freshman dorm-room-style conversations about race relations.

First, there’s the allegedly underemployed cast, who compared to Snooki and The Situation—not to mention subsequent Real World cast members—seem incredibly ambitious, articulate, and thoughtful. Each and every one has a discernable career goal. Julie, 19, wants to be a dancer; Kevin, 25, is a poet and journalist; Eric, 20, is a model; Heather B., 21, is a rapper with a gold record under her belt; Andre, 21, is in a band; Becky, 24, is a folksy, Suzanne Vega-ish musician; Norm, 24, is an artist. The cast member who most closely approximates the Gen-X stereotype is Andre, who seems drowsy no matter the time of day. Yes, they’re nearly all performers of one sort or another and certainly have ulterior motives for starring in a television show. But in retrospect, it turns out there’s something to be said for ulterior motives. In the grand scheme of things, free publicity seems like a relatively noble reason to open up one’s life to the scrutiny of cameras; in 1992, “reality television star” was not yet a career goal in and of itself.

Indulge me for a second here, but Julie, Kevin, et. al., are defined primarily by their aspirations, whereas today’s Real World cast members are often defined by their pasts. Consider the bios on MTV’s Real World XXV site. Leroy is a self-described ladies’ man who “was 10 years old when he and his sisters were suddenly taken away from their birth mother for her alcoholism and drug abuse.” Nany is a “Hispanic-American sweetheart” who longs to one day meet her father. Nowadays, everyone arrives at the house with their backstory clearly delineated, their psycho-babbly autobiographies down pat. Cast members are never unaware of their own “narrative,” a state of affairs that is the inevitable by-product of two decades of reality television.

This is a remarkably astute comparison of where reality TV began and where it is now. Don't get me wrong; I'm not launching a "in my day things were better rant", because these days I enjoy lots of reality TV. However, where my enjoyment of Real Housewives is purely visceral, whereas my experience of The Real World was more intellectual.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

My life is nearly complete

Saw the Go-Go's in New York last night, and I am still flying high over it. Following a tasty black-and-white milkshake, Dan and I went to Irving Plaza and picked up our fancy VIP badges that gave us access to the meet-and-greet. I should at this point mention that the ticket taker told us bluntly the badges were just for show; an unimpressive white card was the important thing for getting into the event. Ugh. In any case, I was taut as a bowstring, afraid I'd vomit tasty black-and-white milkshake all over the band, which would definitely make the wrong impression. Funny, but wrong.

While waiting for the meet-and-greet, I chatted with a guy down from Boston who had seen my Iridium video. I was excited to learn that although my video hasn't yet gone viral, it might at least come down with a mild head cold.

Meet and greet happened soon after, and there was no vomiting, just autographs and a bit of chit-chat. And pictures. Great googlymooglies, but I was on a cloud. My favorite band of all time. You can see the results above. That pic is kinda stiff though, which is to be expected; to them, I am just Fan #257732. However, when Dan's turn came, I said, "Ooh! This is my boyfriend...can I be in his pic?" Then the five of them broke up laughing and Jane said, without sarcasm, "Adorable lovebugs!" Then I thanked them all profusely, slobbering all over the place, until Dan, mercifully, pushed me out of the room.

After that we went down to the reserved area to watch the show, and I have to admit it was neat to be ushered past the unlucky saps who hadn't paid VIP prices. The unlucky saps didn't seem to care, but I pretended that they glowered enviously. Then the show started and I forgot everything except dancing and singing along. Well, that and the strange biker-looking (but not unattractive) guy who kept kinda scamming on me. When he twirled me around during "Lust to Love" I was laughing and absurdly grateful. When he slung and arm around my neck in a near-headlock I was a bit less grateful, particularly considering that oxygen was fast becoming an issue. Thanks to Dan for rescuing me from his clutches.

Set list (not in this order):

How Much More
Lust to Love
Get Up and Go
Mad About You (from Belinda solo)
Cool Places (Sparks and Jane Wiedlin, with Belinda singing Ron Mael's part)
Our Lips Are Sealed
Fading Fast
The Whole World Lost Its Head
Mother's Little Helper (cover)
This Town
We Got the Beat
Head Over Heels
Fun With Ropes
Skidmarks on My Heart**
Surfing and Spying
Beatnik Beach

The crowd was older, and serious fans who knew not only the lyrics but the harmonies. They were super-enthusiastic, and when Gina Schock stepped out from behind the drums to say a few words she was immediately greeted with 500 people yelling, in perfect unison, "Gi-na! Gi-na!" This could have gone on forever, really; we as an audience were ready to sing along with anything Go-Go's related.

A wonderful night! Given Dan and a picture with the Go-Go's, all I need is a book deal to call my life amazing!

**OK, so Dan winced at this song. I understand it's not exactly poetry, but I like!