“The Real World: San Diego” recap: Episode 1

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Once upon a time, 19 years ago, in a faraway land south of Houston Street in Manhattan, seven strangers were brought together in a fancy loft to have their lives taped “to find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.” Coming from disparate backgrounds, these seven young adults examined issues such as race, sexual orientation and other social and cultural differences. The inaugural Real World, Real World: New York, aired in 1992, the year of the Los Angeles Riots, and racial tensions bubbled to the surface in the Real World house, culminating in a heated confrontation between African American cast member Kevin Powell and white southerner Julie Gentry.

Arguably the most memorable season in Real World history was Season 3: Real World San Francisco. HIV positive Pedro Zamora, who had already testified about HIV education before Congress, joined the cast, bringing awareness about HIV and AIDS to a national audience. Shortly after Zamora’s death, which occurred a day after the final episode aired, then President Bill Clinton made a televised address giving recognition to Zamora for his contribution to AIDS education.

Then at some point, The Real World stopped being real and started being ridiculous.

Bedroom cameras were installed in Season 11, Real World: Chicago to record hookups, and the main cast member in Season 12, Real World: Las Vegas was the hot tub, who was a gracious host to several rounds of spit swapping, including a bisexual three way whose aim was to titillate, not educate.. By Season 22, there was no attempt to hide that The Real World had become “eight semi nude kids, a hot tub and a lot of tequila.” The season was set in the spring break capital of the world, Cancun, with an impeccably beautiful cast, including two Hooters waitresses and a former nude model, willing to get crunk, hook up, and throw fire extinguishers off of hotel balconies.

While The Real World changed focus from earnest social commentary to a beer-soaked party hardy good time, it has always included LGBT cast members and been at the forefront of LGBT visibility in the media, from Norman Korpi in Season 1, Beth Anthony in Season 2 all the way to Preston Roberson-Charles in Season 24. Even though The Real World has waded in the same fetid sewage tank as its juicehead progeny Jersey Shore, it has consistently championed LGBT rights. For example, Danny Roberts brought awareness on the now-defunct “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in Season 9, Katelynn Cusanelli came out as transgender in Season 21, and Mike Manning worked with the HRC in Season 23.

This season continues the tradition and includes two LGBT cast members, lesbian Samantha “Sam” McGinn and bisexual Frank Sweeney. Sam’s bio states that she is passionate about gay rights, and just from the first episode it looks like she will be outspoken about her identity as a butch lesbian. It also looks like she will spit a lot of game and possibly get more poonani than any of the guys in the house. Sorry, guys! And Frank? He will have feelings. A lot of them. About everything. Pull out the paper towels and get ready to wipe the floor in the confessional, because Frank is going to cry his way through this season!

Here is the rest of the cast, from the left to the right.

Priscilla, at 19, is the youngest cast member. The Real World is just as old as she is, and someone wearing a suit in TV land finally realized, after all these years that underage drinking is illegal, and she is forbidden to drink on set. This means she will probably be absent from all social activities except to be the designated driver. Priscilla, time to practice pumping gas and parallel parking. Sucks to be you!

Nate is the resident womanizer of the cast. He is the type of guy your mom and Britney Spears warned you about. He also has a nuclear engineering degree, so not only does he split legs, he also splits atoms.

Ashley is the resident blonde. She is also a model. This means she is supposed to be the resident “hot girl.” 

Zach is the resident hot guy. He looks like an Abercrombie and Fitch model, and he shaves his legs like one too.

The Real World always has a normal cast member to give people hope that the future of this country isn‘t completely doomed. This time around, the token normal cast member appears to be Alexandra.

The episode opens with Priscilla and her mom in a car. This is probably the only time Priscilla will be in the passenger seat all season. Priscilla asks her mom if she has ever had sex in her room. Priscilla’s mom answer she had sex in Priscilla’s room while they were living in their old condo. I don’t know about you, but thinking about your parents having sex is like thinking about sticking your head under the rump of an elephant with IBS; those things shouldn‘t happen in this lifetime or the next. My parents never had sex. FedEx sent the stork to Cleveland and dropped me off on the window sill. Priscilla wrinkles her nose, and then her mom asks her whether she’s done it in her bed. Priscilla says no, but she has done it on grandma’s couch. “Grandma’s couch?” asks momma. “Where was grandma?” Filming it to supplement her social security check? Wait, did I just cross a line? Don’t go away! For those who haven’t thrown up in their mouths, Showtime Networks thought of this concept before I did.

Frank and Ashley meet, and Frank looks like he stepped out of a 1980s VH1 special. He says his look is that of a “Puerto Rican cowboy,” but it looks more like Hawaii five DOH! Ashley tells Frank she is a model. “I got into modeling, because I didn’t want to step into a formal job,” she says.

Next, Zach and Sam meet. Zach says he doesn’t know what gender Sam is because it could go either way. Sam rolls in and says “Nice to meet you, bro.” Zach reacts with confusion, which, like Zoolander’s “blue steel,” will be his signature look when it comes to understanding gender expression and sexual orientation.

Nate and Alexandra are the next cast members we meet. Both studied engineering, and Alexandra tells Nate she went to Stanford. “She’s smarter ‘n me,” says Nate.

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