correspondent Jay Horton is enduring and recapping each installment (well, last week was a bit of a hiccup) to assess just how realâand how Portland-yâthe housemates get.
The Real World
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 didnât? 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 âsemi-professional wakeboarder" does not mean torture hobbyist, though Jordan fits the profile regardless. We watched Jordan pogo upon furniture while demanding that âsouthern belleâ 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 âbird ... thatâs her actual nicknameâ 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 âHooters girlâ Averey had taken nearly two episodes to successfully bed âsane, hetero maleâ Johnny, and, upon discovering that early fan-favorite âAvereyâs dogâ 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 âReal Worldâ midst dive bar viewing lest resultant article be withheld from view for all time failing massive public outcry (and you wondered why I didnât post last week). Oh, and Joi, âlargely absentâ Joi....we wondered when Joi had left our lives.
But then episode 3 arrived.
Idleness fits certain skill sets, of course. Devilâs 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, BrewCycleâa singular swarm of verbal pestilence that almost bests the pairing of craft beer and physical exertion for sheer nausea-inducing pointlessnessâand launches himself toward active-if-not-manic blackout at Whiskey Bar. (As with The Officeâs treatment of Chiliâs, I suppose all product placement is approved so long as the nameâs 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 âIâm 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 wonât move the Twitter spikes. Indeed, to the extent Marlonâs 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, Iâd given credit to Marlonâs 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. Avereyâs 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 âround daytime? Do the film crews prevent pedestrians from crossing cast membersâ 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). Weâll, alas, never know who Joi was meant to loveâmy moneyâs still on lady bike messengerâafter the quickest exit in franchise history.
Itâs pretty to think Joi was simply too proud to submit to the showâs fictive machinations, but Big Reality weeds out the slightest trace of dignity among contestants with a vetting process that rivals the Secret Service. Maybe itâs the romantic in me, but isnât it possible that producers, worried that an unforeseen sub streak in putative Masshole Johnny might dampen Avereyâs crazy for the entirety of filming, simply paid off Joi to bring in next weekâs ringer? (Judging from the faux Southern accent pathologicallyâand poorlyâbrought 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 whoâd 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 sheâd never know Portland rings hollow. As Joi explained to her parents over the phone, choking back frustrated tears, sheâd gone to school and tried to make something of her life for more than minimum wage, and, no matter the applicantâs 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: âHurricane....also her actual nicknameâ Nia flirts with Marlon, makes out with Jordan, and, presumably, bites Johnnyâs 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.