The Real World (smartly) alienated its original fans by refusing to age with them

In the nostalgia surrounding The Real World‘s 20th anniversary on Monday–a day MTV ignored–one thing that’s pretty clear is that many of us who found the show in our teens now find ourselves not watching the show we once loved.

That the cast members rarely have lives or ambitions outside of the show is now basically a cliche argument; when the show aired its 10th season in 2001, I wrote that “seven strangers come on The Real World to let the tape construct their lives — not to have their lives taped.”

But what hasn’t occurred to me until now is something I explore in The Daily Beast today: the show doesn’t care, and that’s why it’s still around for its 27th season, with a 28th to come. Basically, it insists on being a show that captures the reality of being 18 to 25, and that’s unrecognizable to those of us who came of age with the Internet and reality TV, and who don’t spend our nights in drunken hot tub orgy fights.

Creator Jon Murray acknowledged as much in CNN’s report on the anniversary, which was published after I wrote my piece. He said, “What’s amazing about ‘The Real World’ is that every four years, in a sense, a new audience grows up into it.” He said viewers will say, “‘That Vegas season was the best (yet),’ and they’ve never even heard of that first Vegas season (which premiered in 2002) with Trishelle (Cannatella).”

As disturbing as that is–oh, kids!–that’s the reality of their real world. For better or worse, it’s their show now.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.