April 12th, 2013 | by JAY HORTON Movies & Television | Posted In: The Real World: Portland

The Real World Portland, Ep. 3: The City That Works

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

real world cast
We know, you don't even have a TV. But WW correspondent Jay Horton is enduring and recapping each installment (well, last week was a bit of a hiccup) to assess just how real—and how Portland-y—the housemates get.

Last week, on episode 2 of The Real World, not much of anything happened, tell the truth: pasta at Allure, drinks at CC Slaughters, amuse-bouche of expository revelations.

We learned Marlon, while a Texas Tech linebacker, enjoyed close contact drills with a member of the cheerleading squad. We learned the Big 12 had male cheerleaders. We searched Texas Tech and giggled over mascots Raider Red and the Masked Rider. (We didn’t? That was just me?) We learned that asking new roommates about prior experience with anal sex during introductory dialogues was not only appropriate but potentially vital.

We learned ”semi-professional wakeboarder" does not mean torture hobbyist, though Jordan fits the profile regardless. We watched Jordan pogo upon furniture while demanding that “southern belle” Jessica calculate the minimum gross annual income required to satisfy the American dream. We saw Jordan debate syntactical intricacies of whether he wished the death of “bird ... that’s her actual nickname” Anastasia while tacitly admitting murderous intent. We heard Jordan continually praise a stern paternal role model and the tireless discipline imposed throughout his youth, and we imagined a neverending loop of Sean Hannity blaring at Skinner box left afloat in an 80s suburban bathroom.

We dully noted that “Hooters girl” Averey had taken nearly two episodes to successfully bed “sane, hetero male” Johnny, and, upon discovering that early fan-favorite “Averey’s dog” Daisy habitually defecates in the confessional, we cheered that MTV finally found a deserving replacement for Kurt Loder. Most importantly, we learned to never blur our impressions of the real world and the “Real World” midst dive bar viewing lest resultant article be withheld from view for all time failing massive public outcry (and you wondered why I didn’t post last week). Oh, and Joi, “largely absent” Joi....we wondered when Joi had left our lives.

But then episode 3 arrived.



Showers. Jogs. Shots. Rinse, sigh and repeat. It’s not cabin fever, quite, but a restless anomie grows infectious. The cast has clearly lost all hope that Portland would just play embarkation point to desirable climes, and in all its years, MTV has never quite figured out how to sensationalize torpor. The loft feels more and more like a luxury hotel suite midst disastrous holiday in a drearily deserted small cityscape or a well-appointed internment camp with dramatic confrontations as the forced labor.

Idleness fits certain skill sets, of course. Devil’s plaything Jordan, warming to role of middle-school provocateur, keeps up a steady string of irritation throughout dutiful group pedal to Lucky Lab on the bar stool seats of the, ahem, BrewCycle—a singular swarm of verbal pestilence that almost bests the pairing of craft beer and physical exertion for sheer nausea-inducing pointlessness—and launches himself toward active-if-not-manic blackout at Whiskey Bar. (As with The Office’s treatment of Chili’s, I suppose all product placement is approved so long as the name’s in lights, but much of the fun of this show comes from watching the worst stereotypes of poor behavior at clubs along the Old Town douche circuit so magnificently realized.)

In times past, repeatedly screaming “I’m going to punch her in the face" would at least have earned Jordan a catchphrase, but, these days, even a sexual awakening reveal told as college football-experience-slash-fiction won’t move the Twitter spikes. Indeed, to the extent Marlon’s shrugging disclosure of roughing the backfield earned any cultural traction whatsoever following episode 2, bloggers seemed obliged to note only the small step for mankind and continuing drift into irrelevance for MTV that such widespread apathy represented. At the time, I’d given credit to Marlon’s skillful underplaying and the fact that the onlookers seemed fundamentally incapable of feigning interest, but sudden silence among our hypersexualized extroverts may just have marked a rare moment of shame.

If lurid sexual histories are coin of the realm, ceding best-in-show so soon must have galled a crew trailing such....specialized ambitions, shall we say. Averey’s earlier protestations of a frankly exhausting carnality appears to have been underselling appetites that leave Johnny visibly withering and too frightened or too weary to join the girls on a trip to Fantasy for armaments. (That creeping sense of the macabre is only accentuated by the eternally vacant sidewalks. Are we honestly that unpeopled ’round daytime? Do the film crews prevent pedestrians from crossing cast members’ paths? Or am I just accustomed to Grimm subsidizing the illusion of teeming thoroughfares?)

Recognizing one niche already filled, Anastasia tries her adorably palsied best to fulfill different fantasies of femininity, and the magic of television serendipitously finds her a mate: a laconic hunk of impeccable manners and outsize height who seems to be following improv directions to act like a mid-19th-century homesteader (unless the bit about never eating an orange till the age of 17 was all gallant metaphor). We’ll, alas, never know who Joi was meant to love—my money’s still on lady bike messenger—after the quickest exit in franchise history.

It’s pretty to think Joi was simply too proud to submit to the show’s fictive machinations, but Big Reality weeds out the slightest trace of dignity among contestants with a vetting process that rivals the Secret Service. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but isn’t it possible that producers, worried that an unforeseen sub streak in putative Masshole Johnny might dampen Averey’s crazy for the entirety of filming, simply paid off Joi to bring in next week’s ringer? (Judging from the faux Southern accent pathologically—and poorly—brought to bear during the initial call to her new roommates, she may have been encased in lead vault below Viacom HQ as final option in case of critical lull.)

Of course, rather than risk the backlash of a forcible shakeup, execs may have correctly assumed that Joi would inevitably crack so long as the producers did nothing at all. Ever since the program turned away from the original casting philosophy (creative careerists, driven professionals, social activists) toward current directive (fuckbunnies and the clinically insane), they helped out with a vocation to be shared among folks who’d soon demonstrate breathtaking incompetence in every conceivable facet of the job.

Somewhat a cruel trick to suddenly remove the implicit pledge of hiring assistance in an urban economy that regularly sends doctorates to the bread lines, but nearly all of our heroes welcomed the working week with minimal concern and a process surely honed through repetition back home: Look for low-level service positions (Pizza Schmizza; Frozen Yogurt stand; sadly, the Roxy declined), assume physical beauty will overcome lapses of resume or character (Schmizza oddly open about the reasons why Averey was hired), and wait to fuck up in spectacular fashion (Schmizza disappointingly vague about why Averey and Johnny were not fired after mid-shift bathroom coitus).

All a good lark, in other words, for every Real Worlder but recent graduate Joi. After pounding the pavement for weeks to no avail, she finally called it quits with anticlimactic farewells and cursory explanation of her troubles hunting nonexistent jobs. Jordan, as ever, still tried, though even the mightiest of contrarian instincts faltered with exactly why to stay. Joi may never again have this precise opportunity (and happily so), but his claim that she’d never know Portland rings hollow. As Joi explained to her parents over the phone, choking back frustrated tears, she’d gone to school and tried to make something of her life for more than minimum wage, and, no matter the applicant’s qualifications or career direction, minimum wage jobs were all there were.

If anything, Joi knew Portland too well. Wakeboard be damned, we are all of us semi-professional.

Next week on The Real World: “Hurricane....also her actual nickname” Nia flirts with Marlon, makes out with Jordan, and, presumably, bites Johnny’s head clean off to bathe in the viscera. The girls shop for kevlar scarfs while bemoaning the limited palette of accessorized neckwear. Daisy reworks the second act of her play and thinks about going back to school.
 
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