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Viewer's Vote: Which Character Do YOU Think is Gay?

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MTV.com gives a brief summary of the current season of the Real World. It explains that it was programmed in Denver, Colorado where seven strangers will work with kids who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. This brief synopsis, however, was obviously not going to be enough to attract viewers so they added in a small part to ensure viewers that there will be the expected caddy drama: “However, the true test of their survival skills will come back in the house as hasty hook-ups and deep-rooted conflicts make living together a challenge of sometimes epic proportion�. I wonder if I researched every season's summary, it would say almost the exact same thing?!

The Preview:

The episode I decided to watch and analyze, entitled “Butting In�, began by recapping what happened in the previous episode; It showed a guy and a girl laying in bed, playing footsie and flirting up a storm, talking about how because the guy is gay, has a boyfriend, and they live together, the girl does not want to have sex with him! Wow, this really got me interested.

The Episode:

So as I watched the show, I found out that Brooke, the girl that was in the bed with Davis, the gay guy, is very interested in him. Davis' boyfriend, PJ comes to Denver to visit, and Davis has the idea that they all have a threesome. This causes some drama and Brooke ends up confronting PJ that he is young and naive and should never fully trust anyone, especially Davis. Brooke and Davis end up arguing over the fact that she may have ruined his and PJ's short time together, but they soon resolve it. Anyway, I feel that if I weren't watching this show for a class assignment, it would have been a wasted half hour of my life. What I did get out of it, however, was that the entire episode was based on Davis' sexuality and his relationships with PJ and Brooke. In fact, I'm not sure if I could count how many times the fact that Davis was gay was mentioned in the episode.

Intended Incorporation of Sexuality in the Characters:

Tying into MTV's online summaries, Davis's biography states, “Davis is the typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed frat boy. Or is he? Hailing from the south, his upbringing was steeped in conservative Christianity. There's only one issue...Davis is gay.�

An article entitled “Look at The Real World. There's Always a Gay Teen On There: Sexual citizenship and youth-targeted reality television� pointed out that, “Designed as a social experiment to investigate 'what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real,' the program brings together seven 20-somethings, across different modalities of race, gender, sexuality, class, geography, and nation, to live together for six months, under almost total surveillance. Most of its 14 seasons have featured at least one gay, lesbian, or bisexual character...Reality television's mandate – 'being real' – now requires that lesbians and gay men be woven into the dense, social milieus of each series� (Kachgal, 362).

In “Butting In� in particular, the producers mainly focused on Davis's sexuality and openness of being gay (shots of him acting affectionately with his boyfriend, expressing emotional and physical attraction and dependency, etc.) Being aired on MTV along with many other shows that produce similar images of gay men, young adults are more likely to produce these stereotypes as well. In most contexts on MTV, in order to gain viewers' attention, the featured character/s must be represented as very sexual individuals, when not all homosexual people really are that open. I actually find it kind of funny that the producers feel that they should have at least one gay or bisexual male or female in each season. They use the same technique with different races and genders, which I will discuss as well.

The Audience:

I feel like they try to incorporate the gayness in their characters so much because this show is obviously geared toward a young adult, teenage audience. “With recent polls indicating a marked generational difference in tolerance for lesbian and gay rights, with young people much more supportive, the implications of youth-targeted reality television demands further scrutiny� ( Kachgal, 362).

One can tell that this show is intended for a younger audience not only because of the age of the characters, but by their language, dress, physical and sexual activities and tendencies, and even commercials in between all of the drama that this show creates. A few advertisements included Old Navy, previews for the movie Premonition, Playstation 3, the Megastar tour of the Blue Man Group, and Covergirl makeup.

Intended Incorporation of Race and Gender:

I do not want to focus explicitly on the sexual citizenship of the show, but also the integration of race and gender in the characters. In the Denver season, there are four men and three women. For the most part, the producers try to keep the gender balanced, so they throw in a gay guy.

First, we have Alex, a 22 year-old Caucasian male from Texas. He is described as an over-confident women-loving jock. Next is Brooke, a 24 year-old Southern Caucasian who is purposely described as having “ended a long-term interracial relationship just prior to joining the cast of the Real World�. The second male introduced is Davis, the gay guy aspiring to change his life from his fear of showing the world who he truly is. Then there is Stephen, a 22 year old black male who is, oh no! An extreme Republican who is against gay marriage! Jennifer is a 22 year-old quirky white cheerleader, and Colie is also a 22 year-old white party girl. Finally, to throw in another black guy, we have Tyrie who is an ex gang member making an effort to leave his past behind.

As you can see, race plays a major role when selecting characters for this show. I feel that the producers have generally good intentions of providing a variety of different cultures and races for this show and for viewers to relate with, but another thing I noticed was that every person is almost the exact same age. I think they do this because they want to cause added drama between cast members by having sexual relations with one another and of course they have to be around the same age to do that. I guess young people are beginning to accept homosexuality in their lives, but not any extreme age differences between couples or those who have intimate relations.

I have watched the Real World a few times before, but I definitely have never looked at it with such a critical eye. The first season I watched, I remember thinking how it was really cool that each cast member was so different from one another. I never thought about how the producers purposely designed it to be that way or how each character was about the same age. I don't necessarily think this is a horribly put together show like some of the other shows on MTV, I just wish they didn't put out such a stereotypical image of gay people and incorporate that throughout each season.