April 3rd, 2013 | by JAY HORTON Movies & Television | Posted In: Television, The Real World: Portland

The Real World Portland, Ep. 1: Bondage, Burlesque, Banalities

As the venerable institution visits the Rose City, correspondent Jay Horton never stops being polite.

real world portland episode 1
We know, you don't even have a TV. But last week, The Real World: Portland aired its first pitiful episode, and from here out, WW correspondent Jay Horton will endure and recap each installment, assessing just how real—and how Portland-y—the housemates get.

How, precisely, has The Real World managed to avoid Portland for so long? Entering its 28th season (and itself rather testing the outer fringes of fresh-faced immaturity), the program has come to define a child’s garden of grown-up delights—dizzying freedoms! Keys to the loft! Sexual awakenings endlessly launched!— for a generation aglow with vapid entitlement. It’s college without worries of tests, or adulthood absent that messy workaday dreariness. The underlying vision, in other words, promises the same aspirational gloss as 21st-century Portland, and, while these newest émigrés seem less likely to namecheck punk bands or Powell’s, they’re just as eager to embrace our stripper community as any average, carpetbagging latecomer.

Burlesque night at Dante’s provides the initial narrative hook. The iconic rock venue, where were-dragon roundheels danced with fire during Grimm’s first season, has become one of the most notable beneficiaries of the recent surge in local filming, and MTV producers ably capture the more-than-slightly-creepy allure. Eyebrows are raised, threesomes are refused, girls are taken home and then released into the wild. If the resultant exchanges paint the cast members as dimly ignoble, there’s nonetheless a subtle lesson imparted regarding the threats (to self-esteem, at the very least) of blithely following home camera-crew-laden braggarts to the heart of the Pearl.

The loft painstakingly assembled from the fever dreams of suburban adolescents has been detailed precisely as you’d expect. It’s not hard to imagine a certain sort of nascent HGTV envy fueling the franchise’s lingering popularity these days, even more than the eroticized discord of seven strangers who should never share housing with anyone, ever. In the first Real World season, the promise of a subsidized Manhattan apartment felt scant reward for the intrusions on privacy, but the 20-something creative professionals all seemed grudgingly aware their careers would require no small degree of sacrifice. It’s simply neither that difficult nor expensive to live in Portland, but, then again, we offer little opportunity beyond the feigned interest of a global media, whose cameras roll onwards, recording this least real of all possible worlds.
 
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