When Sam McGinn was first cast on The Real World: San Diego, I had some reservations. The 21-year-old from Virginia would be the first ever butch-identifying lesbian in the house, and one of only two non-feminine ones that have been on the show in its 26 seasons. (That’s right — the show is older than Sam herself.)
The Real World has a history of including LGBT housemates, but it isn’t always a positive environment for them, nor a positive depiction of our community. This season, it was largely the Frank show, as the bisexual (later stating his orientation was gay) roommate often flew off the handle and was unable to emotionally commit to a great guy (Michael) or keep peace with all of the roommates at one time. In juxtaposition, though, Sam proved she was one of the smartest and most mature people in the house, and celebrated being gay.
Sam wasn’t the primary focus throughout the season, likely because she wasn’t stirring up drama. But she did shine in a few moments, such as her drag king performance and when she explained to her homophobic roommates why it’s not OK to use violent epithets like “beat the gay” out of someone (as directed toward her), all the while being a good listener and friend. And while her love/sex life was not a part of the show, generally, there were a few times she was spotted with girls, sharing kisses in clubs or on the streets of Pride.
After last night’s finale, The Real World: The S–t They Should Have Shown gave viewers another look at Sam’s “game.” Because, boy, did she have it. With her boyish charm and savvy skateboarder style, Sam picked up the best looking women, but it didn’t ever appear to be more than harmless flirting and make-outs. So she appears to be respectable, too. Although one of her makeouts was with 19-year-old roommate Priscilla — and Priscilla’s mom. Priscilla and her mom also made out, which I’m actually really glad they did not show on an episode. That is not the kind of girl-on-girl visibility I am looking for.
Sam appeared to be level-headed and all of her roommates genuinely seemed to enjoy her, even Zach, the outwardly homophobic football player who refused to support the gay soldiers at Gay Pride. But he is even likely a better person for having been around Sam, as evidenced by the lessening of his homophobic jokes, the presence of Sam’s rainbow flag in their shared room and the respect he showed not only her, but Frank’s boyfriend, Michael, who was much more likable than Frank himself.
For the young crowd who might now only be watching The Real World for the first, second or third season in their lives, Sam was a great person to have included on the show, despite the fact she probably didn’t stir up enough crazy antics for cameras to catch. I’m not surprised — she’s smart and gave us one of the best representations we could have asked for (particularly on a show that encourages the use of alcohol during any group gathering).
As long as The Real World exists, I hope they continue to bring people like Sam into the house, if only to counteract the Franks and Zachs of the world.